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Sexually transmitted debt
America's almost trillion dollar debt problem.
When you start dating someone, the number of people your partner has slept with is not the only number you should be worried about.
Sexually transmitted debt is an increasing problem for many Americans, with 1 in 6 contracting it from their partners, according to the latest findings from finder.com.
Our recent study revealed that approximately 15.7% of the adult population — or some 39.8 million Americans — has some form of sexually transmitted debt. To put that number into perspective, the most pervasive of all reportable STDs is chlamydia, affecting roughly 1.5 million Americans, according to CDC data. That means debt is by far the most prevalent sexually transmitted “disease” in America.
What’s the total of this sexually transmitted debt?
On average, the numbers shake out to $23,238 in debt per American contracted as a result of a romantic relationship. Staying with our subtle (wink!) analogy, sexually transmitted infections account for roughly $16 billion in health care costs annually, whereas American adults share a ludicrous $921 billion in accrued debt from those who don’t practice safe spending.
The ties that bind: 33% of Americans say “I do” to debt
As it stands, the most common way to catch somebody else’s debt is to marry them. Of those surveyed, 33% say they took on their partner’s debt at the wedding altar, closely followed by those who say purchases were made in their name (31%) or through a joint account (21%).
Plastic is king
The most common type of debt we take on from our partners is the trusty credit card, with 50% of respondents saying they paid off their partner’s credit cards. Auto loans (24%) and student loans (20%) aren’t far behind. Other debts incurred included borrowing medical bills, personal loans and money owed to friends and family.
House of the rising debt
While only anout 14% of Americans took on their partner’s mortgages, it’s unsurprisingly the largest figure transmitted from one partner to the other — and by a decent margin: $68,447 on average. That amount drops for the next expensive on our list, auto loans at $49,342, followed by home equity loans at $46,300.
Generations of debt
Infection through matrimony is the No. 1 way to transmit debt across the generations, with roughly 29% of Gen Ys, 34% of Gen Xers and 35% of baby boomers saying they took on a partner’s or ex-partner’s IOUs after saying “I do.”
Then there’s the other side of marriage: divorce. Debt divvied up in divorce settlements affected roughly 9% of Gen Ys, 21% of Gen Xers and 27% of boomers. (Hang in there Boomers!)
Men and women: Who’s infecting whom?
Overall women were more likely to take on their partner’s debt, with roughly 53% accepting their significant other’s debt versus 47% of men. However, the amount of debt women are taking on is roughly half of what men are, with the average man assuming roughly $31,740 of debt versus the average woman who is taking on $15,681 of debt.
While women are more likely than men to contract debt due to purchases made in their name — roughly 36% of women versus 26% of men — men are more likely than women to take on debt due to marriage: 34% of men compared with 32% of women.
Interestingly, we see the overall gender gap reflected in our findings, with women more likely to take on their partner’s debt in four out of seven scenarios.
An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure
Like with any other STD, the best way to protect yourself against transmitted debt is to start an open conversation with your partner:
- Have “the talk.” Crucial to any good relationship is talking honestly about your finances. Get an idea of the types of debt your partner carries for insight into how fiscally responsible they are. Many of us still have student loans to pay off, but an aging personal loan for a jet-ski bought a decade ago could be a red flag.
Use protection for plastic. There’s no condom equivalent for debt. Still, you can get control of your finances and protect yourself from credit card debt with responsible spending.
Drastic measures include cutting up your cards or freezing them in ice. Or take only cash to avoid the temptation to swipe at 2 a.m. on a Friday night.
- Develop a treatment plan. Your or your partner’s debt isn’t a terminal illness. Your first step toward a cure is working out together how to do away with the debt. Consider tactics to pay it off quickly or over time.
Ask the experts…
One of the most important ingredients in any healthy relationship is honesty. If you are beginning to date someone and you are falling for them and see a future with them, it’s best to come forward earlier rather than later and be truthful. My suggestion is that you explain to your partner that you have an issue with debt. Tell him/her how it happened, and more importantly, tell him/her what you learned from the experience and what you are doing to handle the issue. To err is human. We all have a past and we’ve all made mistakes.
Debt is part of life and many people have it. There is no reason to have shame – shame only makes one hide or be dishonest. Own your debt and figure out how to manage it. Also, figure out why it occurred in the first place and make a plan to minimize future debt. Understanding your finances is a powerful feeling and will build self-esteem and confidence.
That they shouldn’t do it [take on a partner’s debt], if at all possible! There is no real reason that I can see to do this- and when I have seen it happen, it results in resentment, frustration, and often the demise of the relationship. Credit, debt and spending are very personal things, and should only be mixed after careful and deliberate communications.
Again, resentment, anger, overwhelm, frustration and in the end, a high possibility of loss of respect for the partner [impacts of taking on a partner’s debt]. Finances are the number one cause of break up and divorce, because of the emotions surrounding them. Taking on your partner’s debt is a fast road to break up.
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