Should you have the talk before you tie the knot?

Posted in Credit, Saving

You’ve probably heard the saying – love conquers all, but when it comes to money that’s not quite true. For most Canadians, money is the leading cause of relationship trouble. Some researchers speculate that couples who make less cash are more likely to separate not because of their low-income, but because of all of the stress and skirmishes over money – or lack thereof. Having an open and honest money chat with your other half early on is key to establishing a deeper level of trust in your relationship – especially before you think of walking down the aisle.

I get it – regardless if you’re a new couple or have been committed for years it can be hard to open up your financial life to each other, but it’s an important talk for both your personal and financial futures. Most Canadians actually say they regret not discussing their financial situation with their partner before their marriage. So to avoid future fights, consider discussing the following financial matters before you take the leap:

FAMILY HISTORY

If you’re anything like me, you probably learned most of your money habits from your parents. My dad’s voice still constantly echoes in my head every time I leave the light on in my own house! Go figure. Even if you’ve long left home, your upbringing may impact how you manage your day-to-day finances. If you grew up in a household where money was managed strictly, you may be more tight with money than your soon to be spouse who grew up in a pad where spending was liberal.

DEBT & CREDIT

Chances are if you’re about to get married a home of your own may not be far behind (unless of course you already have one together). With that in mind, a mortgage requires you to have a pretty decent credit score and it may be a good idea to share your credit reports with each other before you tie the knot. Just because your future spouse is raking in the dough doesn’t mean they’re not swimming in a sea of debt either. A recent study found 1 in 3 adults admits to “financial infidelity” – 16 percent saying they haven’t been truthful about debt. Ask away, and do it together – nobody likes unpleasant surprises.

WHO DOES WHAT

The time will soon come when budgets, bills and balances become an everyday thing. So who’s going to take the lead? Or at least who’s going to do what. Take some time to figure out what areas each of you will handle when it comes to your finances, to ensure the bills get paid on time and the lights stay on.

THE MERGE

To combine bank accounts or to keep them separate? Without having an honest discussion, you may find your getting more than you bargained for (think a spouse’s income tied up in outstanding student loans and unpaid taxes). You will have to decide for yourselves whether it makes more sense to open a joint bank account, keep your cash separate or some kind of hybrid arrangement. There are pros and cons to both so consider adding this to your financial to do list.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Having a financial vision of where you want to go is so important – especially as a couple (I’m still learning this). The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a wealth of resources (pardon the pun) for couple’s planning out their financial futures. Consider using their tools to help build a roadmap for this next stage of your relationship.

This may seem overwhelming, especially when you are on the roller-coaster of emotions that can come with making big life decisions. However difficult it may seem, the most important thing to keep in mind is you’re a team.