TD Bank released the results of its sixth annual Love and Money survey. According to the survey, 1 in 10 American couples were furloughed, lost their job, or had their hours decreased as a result of COVID-19, forcing them to put off certain financial milestones. Despite a sharp decrease in large purchases due to economic uncertainty, the findings revealed that more couples are having conversations about money while they are at home. The survey polled 1,709 U.S. individuals who are married, in a committed relationship or divorced to better understand how they approach finances in their relationships.
Of the couples surveyed, 67% said they are finding it difficult to achieve certain milestones as a result of the pandemic. In fact, despite the booming real estate market, nearly 1 in 4 couples whose jobs were impacted by COVID-19 said that they had to delay purchasing a home until they feel financially ready. The proportion of millennials who are putting off their house purchase is seven times that of baby boomers (30% vs. 4%).
Financial hardships and delays are particularly high among millennial couples, who, according to the survey, also worry about repaying their current debt 1.5 times more than other generations. Millennials also claim that a lack of time to research (19%) and not knowing the appropriate next steps to take as they weather their newfound financial hardship (17%) are additional barriers to reaching financial goals, uncovering a gap when it comes financial understanding and awareness among younger generations.
Despite financial issues presented by the pandemic, the survey revealed that more than two-thirds (68%) of Americans are very or extremely happy in their relationships, with 52% saying they have found it easier to talk about money with their partner. This could explain why Americans are keeping slightly fewer financial secrets from their partners than previous years, with only 11% currently keeping a secret versus 13% in 2019.
“Even with the clear financial setbacks imposed upon Americans by COVID-19, we’re seeing money conversations increasing among couples and the stigma around discussing finances diminishing,” said Mike Kinane, head of Consumer Deposits, Products and Payments at TD Bank. “This silver lining creates a unique opportunity to educate couples about managing their money in the short-term and how they can maintain an open dialogue about finances, better positioning them to revisit their longer-term financial goals when life returns to normal.”
While COVID-19 has prompted American couples to engage in conversations about money with more ease, 86% say they talk about money at least monthly and the discussions aren’t always positive. Among those discussing their finances every month, 30% of those couples admit to having financial arguments.
Prioritizing costs seems to be a particular point of tension, as 44% of couples admit to having disagreements about what expenses constitute “needs” vs. “wants,” with baby boomers more likely to agree (62%) and millennials (50%) least likely to find middle ground.
Another sensitive topic among couples is the perception of financial ownership within relationships. While 62% of men claim their household’s everyday financial decision-making is shared between them and their partner, 61% of women claim they are the sole decision-makers, indicating a lack of alignment on who’s “in charge.”
Most Americans are staying optimistic about the future, with 75% of those who have had their job impacted in 2020 saying their financial confidence has not declined. In fact, 39% of respondents expect to bounce back from financial disruption within a year.
When asked about financial fears as a couple, 19% say they do not have any fears – another sign that Americans seem to remain financially confident. Among other fears, 17% identified not being able to retire (significantly higher among baby boomers at 28%) and 11% were concerned about not being able to provide for their family.
While many remain confident in their financial situations, it’s likely because they acted quickly to curb spending. More than half of American couples across generations admit to having quickly adjusted their budgets and spending habits to offset the impact of the pandemic, with 58% reducing spend on nonessential items, 43% cancelling travel plans and 36% delaying larger purchases. Unless you’re a millennial, that is. 25% of millennial couples surveyed admit to engaging in excessive or frivolous spending behavior over the course of the year, further contributing to their financial setbacks.
“Aligning on a set of goals—especially around sensitive subjects like money— can be challenging when people have differing priorities and perceptions, but the pandemic has made many of these conversations unavoidable for couples and families who have been impacted with job loss or reduced earnings,” said Kinane. “Couples can use today’s financial challenges as a catalyst to discuss near- and long-term financial goals. While debt and bills may have been hard to talk about before, the pandemic has made it easier – and necessary – to have an open conversation on these topics.”
To learn more about the survey data and managing money with a partner, please visit www.TDLoveandMoney.com.
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