A matter of love and debt - talking to my partner about money

According to an online survey, one in four (27%) married and common law Canadians say financial stress is affecting their relationship.

The same survey reveals that 20% of Canadian couples are facing relationship strains due to their current debt situation.

When dealing with debt, knowledge is indispensable. According to the survey, 28% Canadian married and common-law couples don't know the difference between a Trustee or a Credit Counsellor.

If you are in those 28%, here is the summary breakdown of their roles:

Bankruptcy Trustee - an Officer of the Department of Justice appointed to represent the debtor's estate in a bankruptcy proceedings. His goal is to evaluate the demands of the debtor and provide recommendations on the distribution of the assets. Bankruptcy Judge is the one who ultimately makes the final decision.

Credit Counsellor - a person who through education, advice and with the use of various tools attempts to decrease and potentially eliminate debt. Some counsellors are representatives of non-profit organizations, while others are for profit and charge fees for their services.

"Talking about your debt with your partner is one thing, dealing with the mess is quite another and that can cause heartache and more stress. Finding the right Trustee or credit counsellor can seem simple but you really have to know what you want in the long term. It can take more than seven years to re-establish your credit score," says Grant Bazian, President, MNP Ltd, based in Edmonton. He stresses that when going through bankruptcy, "a real commitment on behalf of you and your partner" is required.

Other Survey Highlights

  • Younger married and common law Canadians are most likely to say that their current financial situation is affecting their current relationship with their spouse or partner (41%) ahead of middle-aged (28%) and senior Canadians (16%).

  • Of married and common law couples, those with children are more likely than those without kids to say that their current financial situation has affected their relationship with their spouse or partner (35% vs. 23%).

  • Canadians earning lower incomes (less than $40,000 annually) are most likely to say that their current financial situation has affected their relationship with their spouse (39%).

  • Nearly one in five married or common law Canadians (22%) agree that they struggle to make the minimum payments on any credit, loans, or debts they owe, despite 96% of those saying they are aware of how much debt they owe.

  • Two in five couples use credit to pay for normal household expenses. "Dealing with debt can be overwhelming. And this Valentine's Day, when you're getting ready to purchase that gift for your loved one, you may want to think twice as to whether or not you can afford more purchases on your credit card. Is the gift worth the high interest rates and will it bring more joy, or just more stress, to your relationship?" says Bazian.

Background About the Study

This poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid for MNP Ltd. between January 23 and 28, 2013. 1,000 married and common law-living Canadians were surveyed in an online interview. The poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points had all married or common law Canadians been surveyed.

If you feel like financial stress and debt issues are putting strain on your relationships, don't fee alone. As the survey shows, many Canadian couples are in the same boat.

What matters is what you do to resolve the stress, improve your overall financial wellbeing, thus your relationship.

We recommend starting by rewiring your spending habits. Check out our Overhaul Your Financial Behaviour Checklist for actionable steps.

If you are looking to speak with your partner about debt, but are unsure how too approach the topic, complete our Mastering the Art of Difficult Conversations Checklist.