Personal Finance

Men more likely to bring debt into new relationship

Lucy Maher, special to
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In between honeymoon planning, cake tasting and registry scouting, soon-to-be-wed couples would be wise to set aside time to go over their spending habits and individual debt levels before they walk down the aisle.

They may be in for a surprise if they subscribe to traditional gender stereotypes. That's because 42 percent of adult men reported bringing credit card debt to their relationships, but only 29 percent of women did, according to a new NerdWallet survey of over 2,000 adults. The average amount of credit card debt adults reported bringing into their relationships? $4,100.

"That's a significant debt load, enough to put a strain on any relationship," says Kevin Yuann, general manager of credit cards at NerdWallet, in a statement. "Add in the cost of a wedding, student loans and expenses of being a family, you are facing an uphill battle to happily ever after."

Reviewing finances isn't the sexiest to-do, but it's a smart one. That's because 35 percent of couples, who at least partially combine finances, brought credit card debt into their relationships. And 45 percent of millennial adults, commonly defined as those between the ages of 18 and 34, did so.

For millennials, the average debt load doesn't end with plastic. NerdWallet found that 38 percent bring auto loan debt, 36 percent bring student loan debt, and 27 percent bring medical debt into their relationships.

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Of course, this casts a shadow over what should be a joyful time in one's life.

Twenty-five percent of couples with at least one partner bringing credit card debt to the relationship said that it had a negative effect. Sixteen percent said they weren't able to buy a home or go on vacation. Five percent said it almost caused the pair to split.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Jeff Rose, certified financial planner and creator of, said couples should start by reviewing their credit reports.

"It's important each of them has a good understanding of where they are with their credit and financial status," he said. "When it comes to debt, everything needs to be discussed. How much debt do they have, how much are they paying each month, what is the current interest rate, are they still adding on debt? One easy way is to request a free credit report on each and go over it together. You'll quickly get a very thorough understanding of each other's finances and what actions, if any, need to be taken to clean up their credit."

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If one or both partners are bringing credit card debt into the relationship, their first priority should be a plan to pay it down.

"Although it's the most hated 'B' word by many, a budget is essential," Rose said. "If your goal is to pay off debt as fast as possible, you need to get a good understanding of where you're money is going now to see if you can redirect it to paying off your debt. Once you've identified how you're going to pay it off, set a payoff date and write it down, just like you would with any goal. Keep it front of you so you don't forget what you're trying to accomplish to prevent you from adding on more debt with silly purchases."