Couples Avoiding Debt Relief and Planning Discussions

Financial discussions

Debt Relief, couplesCouples need to make debt relief a priority discussion when considering marriage. A new national survey for Fidelity Investments is showing some interesting results. Many couples aren’t in agreement on basic financial issues and don’t even discuss finances in any depth. Here are some of the topics those questioned stated they didn’t cover with their significant other:

  • When is each person planning on retiring?
  • How much money do they need to save to retire on time?
  • What types of debt will be considered priorities to pay off?
  • How much insurance coverage is each expecting to have?
  • What budget will they follow and for how long?

Oddly enough the same poll was given two years ago and there has been a general decline in communication, although the economy has drastically turned for the worse. For example, two years ago 79percent of couples stated they didn’t agree on retirement plans, including the time to retire or if they would continue to work after retirement.  This year’s survey showed that same number is up to 82 percent. Other numbers in the most recent survey follow suit.

An expert predicted the results

Nicholas Yrizarry, a financial adviser in Virginia, stated that he thinks the results of the most recent survey are accurate and logical. His belief is that the recession has pushed people to focus on “putting out fires, dealing with debt relief, worrying about interest rates, credit card debt, over-mortgaged homes and job insecurity.”

Although reason suggests they should be making financial discussions a priority, most aren’t. Yrizarry added, “You’d think it should raise some eyebrows, and they would say we’d better start thinking about this, but actually they just shelve it even further, defer the inevitable.”

The survey

The 2009 survey shows that only  45 percent of couples make decisions together on daily household management of finances like budgeting and expense payments.  The norm is for one person to take the helm at finances.  Amy Gunnerson of Pittsburgh, Penn., a agreed with her husband that she would pay bills. “My husband doesn’t want a part in the daily decision making. He’d rather focus on work, while I decide what the priorities are. …It works for us.”

President of Barber Financial Dean Barber said this is typical of families because normally one spouse is “adamant” about finances while the other “really could care less. … It makes it very difficult, though, and puts a lot of stress on a marriage.” Experts agree that this isn’t the most beneficial way to handle life because when one person has different expectations, there could be potential problems.   Also, if the family dynamic changes, say with divorce or death, the financially passive spouse is left in the dark.

Discussions about retirement are also put on hold by 62 percent of couples.  Again, this could potentially cause problems if one plans on retiring early, but there aren’t enough finances to maintain their lifestyles.  Financial Planner David Summerhill of Summerhill & Franke stated, “Retirement planning isn’t just about an amount of money. It’s about having an age when the retirement is going to happen for each person, having a plan to make it happen and having a contingency plan if it doesn’t.”

Financial discussions

One of the most surprising results of this year’s survey is that only 15 percent of all couples believe they could handle full responsibility for household finances if necessary.  With these kinds of numbers it’s imperative couples begin having dialogues about finances.  Retirement planning, debt relief, savings goals and investing options are all topics that need to be discussed and decided up on periodically throughout a marriage.

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