How to Manage Debt as a Couple" />

Use this article to reach out to clients and start a debt-management conversation.

It’s not easy managing your debt, and tackling it as a couple doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it can just add to the headache.

While you and your partner likely agree that retiring debt-free is important, a 2012 Manulife debt survey found that you’re not likely to agree on much else concerning debt.

Most couples can’t agree on who is responsible for taking care of shared debt. And when disagreement comes about, both genders are quick to claim responsibility with slightly over half (56%) of men and a third of women (36%) saying they primarily manage debt.

Conversely, only 10% of women and 4% of men admit their spouse manages their debt. This disparity may reflect a lack of communication, and also points to one of the main reasons homeowners are finding it challenging to become debt-free.

“These results indicate many couples might not be discussing debt with one another,” says Doug Conick, president and CEO of Manulife Bank of Canada.

“In many households, there’s a discrepancy in attitudes, perceptions and expectations between couples with regards to debt,” says Conick. “This is likely because they’re either managing their own personal debt separately, or just aren’t talking enough to one another about finances.”

So, if you’re concerned about looming retirement and your ability to see eye-to-eye with your spouse on debt issues, your best bet is to simply talk about it. Make a joint appointment with a financial advisor to have the discussion, rather than raising your concern during a disagreement over a purchase.

Start by finding common ground. For example, nearly half of those surveyed were willing to cut back on household furnishing and appliances (42%) or on dining out (41%). Your advisor may have other advice you can both agree on as well.

“Given our current low interest-rate environment, an easy way for many homeowners to reduce interest costs might be to simply consolidate their debt at a lower rate,” says Conick.

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Originally published on Advisor.ca