Study: Couples continue to struggle over money

A yearly credit conference has provided survey findings that show that couples continue to struggle over control of the household finances.

The findings came from a Torque Customer Strategy conducted on behalf of Credit Canada, a non-profit charitable service, and Capital One Canada, a division of Capital One Bank, as part of the national financial literacy initiative, Credit Education Week 2009. The survey was completed online by couples between Sept. 7-14, 2009. A grand total of 1,656 people participated, meaning 828 couples, from four major regions of Canada.

Credit Education Week 2009 was held from Nov. 2-6 to assist Canadians with financial management skills. This was the third year running for the initiative, with support from financial service leaders, consumer and advocacy groups, community organizations and government departments.

The survey's theme was "The Effect of the Economic Recession on Canadians and their Relationships."

The underlying points of the survey were that the recession is having a debilitating effect on Canadian couples. Twenty per cent of people have suddenly found themselves a primary breadwinner in the past 12 months.

Women particularly are concerned that being a main breadwinner is negatively impacting their relationships with their spouses.

Couples confirm that the economic downturn has added more stress and conflict to financial planning. Half of those couples claim that as a result of the recession and their inability to stick to a budget, they have been kept awake at night.

Canadians are anxious about their financial situations. Those who are now the new breadwinner of the family, are being kept awake at night over worrying about whether the money they bring in will be enough to pay the expenses.

A whopping one third of Canadians (37 per cent) have had a sleepless night over financial issues. Of those people, 26 per cent have not reduced their spending due to the recession.

Eighty-six per cent of couples are struggling and arguing extensively over financial issues.

Spending seems a more contentious issue than debt, causing concern that it may make the financial situation worse. Forty-eight per cent of couples argue about spending, as compared to the the 24 per cent that argue over debt.

More findings from the survey conclude that money is the issue that is fought over more than sex, chores or children. Couples also can't decide which partner really controls the purse strings. Surprisingly, only 6 per cent of those couples say their relationship is in trouble over financial issues. The 53 per cent who realistically believe their relationship is in trouble have seen a marriage counsellor.

The survey has also concluded that there is a gender gap over differences in money management.

Canadian couples are aware that men and women view financial issues differently. Men and women have differing attitudes on which is most important -- retirement funds or education for the children -- and these issues keep them awake at night.

Seventy-five per cent of women in families are the main ones who teach children about money.

As the recession impacts careers, women are often finding themselves the sole breadwinners of the family. While they feel this is negatively impacting their relationship with their spouses, men are less inclined to have a problem with this issue.

Deception has also been found between partners. Men and women are not only hiding large expenditures from each other, they are also lying about how much debt they already have.

A vast number of couples are not sitting down for a financial chat before entering into a partnership. The person who is not controlling the money is more likely to hide debt from their spouse (55 per cent).

A large communication gap has also been found from the results of the survey. Couples are not discussing money before they enter into their partnership. These couples are 66 per cent more likely to need to see a counsellor about financial issues.

For those couples who think their finances are on the brink of disaster, 40 per cent believe that their spouses are not open to discussing money issues.

It has been found that couples are aware of the differences in worries about money management and are accepting of this.

Couples are aware of key issues over retirement. Nearly two out of three say they will not be able to retire when they wish to. Couples who are aware of this issue have reduced spending due to the recession. While all couples are worried about mortgage issues, few are concerned.

The survey also found that the majority of Canadian couples share equal responsibility for the household finances.

Lack of financial education is rampant through the generations. Less than half (47 per cent) say that they received a basic money chat when they grew up.

A large amount of Canadians are proceeding without a budget.

Children increase financial anxiety and, as a result, people are worried about retiring when they wish to. Couples with children are more likely to hide debt from each other.

The About.com financial section recommends that each partner should hold at least one credit card in their own name, in order to build a separate credit history. That way, if something happens to one partner, the other will already have a solo credit history established.

Written by Melanie Dixon

Published November 30, 2009

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