Financial stress takes heavy toll on couples

Money might tear you apart.

TORONTO – It may not be romantic, but couples who avoid talking about money problems may eventually see the financial strain effect their relationship, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by Ipsos Reid for Calgary-based accounting firm MNP Ltd., found that 20 per cent of Canadians polled who were married or common-law say their relationship problems are due to their current debt situations. And 27 per cent say financial stress has left a negative impact on their relationships.

“The critical thing is what is actually causing the riff in their relationship, and they say it is actually financial (problems),” said Grant Bazian, president and CEO of MNP.

The study also found that younger married couples and those in common-law partnerships were most likely to say money was affecting their relationships (41 per cent) compared with those who were middle-aged (28 per cent) and seniors (16 per cent).

Those with children were also more likely (35 per cent) than those without (23 per cent) to say their relationships were strained by finances.

Twenty-two per cent also reported that they found it difficult to make the minimum payments on their debts, loans and credit cards even though the vast majority (96 per cent) say they are aware of how much money they owe.

According to the last calculation from Statistics Canada, the average household owes 165 per cent more than it earns in annual disposable income — meaning an average family with $100,000 annual disposable income owes $165,000.

Bazian says sharing with your spouse is key if you don’t want financial stresses to affect your relationship.

“It’s all about communication,” he said. “It’s something you wouldn’t want to hide — especially if the debt is joint.”

The poll also found that those who lived in Atlantic Canada were most likely (32 per cent) to say they struggled to make their minimum monthly debt repayments, followed by Ontarians (25 per cent), Albertans (22 per cent), B.C. residents (18 per cent), Quebecers (18 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents (15 per cent).

“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,” said Bazian in a release.

“Is the gift worth the high interest rates and will it bring more joy, or just more stress, to your relationship?”

The survey results are from an Ipsos Reid online poll of 1,000 married and common-law living Canadians conducted between January 23 to 29.