Debt and marriage

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Pretoria - Getting married is one of the happiest experiences in a couple’s life, with the excitement of a new life together and looking forward to the good times ahead. 

Of course there will be times of disagreement, but a remarkable few expect these disagreements to revolve around money, even though money is known to be one of the biggest factors in divorce. It is true that not all marriages end in divorce, but the tension caused by money problems can kill the last bit of happiness they once dreamt about.

“Communication is a big culprit as many couples do not discuss their financial baggage with their new spouses,” says Neil Roets, CEO of national debt counselling company Debt Rescue. “Once these issues – past, present and future – come out of the woodwork, the arguments can be crippling to a marriage.”  

Often one of the spouses have more debt than the other, or one might even be debt free. This inherited debt can drive a wedge between them. Some would argue that the debt of the spouse should not become the other’s responsibility, but the fact remains that when you get married it becomes a joint household and the expenses of one directly impacts the joint household expenses and the available cash flow.

This not only applies to new couples. It is unfortunate that even those married for many years don’t always communicate about money and debt. 

Spouses often don’t know about each other’s finances and can be caught off guard when one eventually declares his/her financial problems. Studies indicate that money causes approximately 70% of friction between couples, which revolves around spending (55%), saving (37%), deceit (21%) and exclusions from purchasing decisions (11%).

It is essential in a marriage that spouses should be on the same page when it comes to money and money issues. “To get on this page, together, it's important for spouses to budget together and make sure that they put enough money aside for each other to spend freely,” explains Roets. 

“Saving is important and they should attempt to have enough capital for 3 – 6 months’ household expenses, while also saving towards retirement." 

Discussing debt might not be the most desirable of topics, but it is a necessary topic to ensure a happy marriage. Some spouses avoid discussing money problems due to a fear of being lectured and the shame of having to admit that they ‘failed’ financially. 

“Rather than a head-in-the-sand approach, it is important to ensure that you discuss these financial failings and together work on a plan to take charge and fix them,” says Roets.   

You can seek help if you discuss your financial problems in time. The truth is that if one spouse is in financial trouble, the other is directly impacted and it renders the household as a whole financially crippled. If you or your spouse are over-indebted, you can easily get assistance by making contact with one of the expert debt counsellors at Debt Rescue.

* Add your voice by sharing your debt  experiences, debt-busting tips and insights. Have a question? Ask our experts.

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