Finances can be a real sticking point amongst couples, causing stress, disputes and even breakups. As a result, many individuals find talking about money uncomfortable and something to be avoided or even lie about. But when it comes to money, usually honesty really is the best policy.
Whether you're with a relatively new or long-time partner, married, engaged or living common law, there’s no better time than now to sit down for a money chat. It can be tough to start the conversation but it’s important to understand how your partner views - and handles - money.
Here are six recommendations to get the two of you started talking about finances in your relationship. You’ll discover where your other half stands on money matters and avoid surprises and conflicts down the road.
- Set up a “money date”: Launching into a serious money discussion with no preparation, notice or context may catch your partner off guard and seem overly critical. Set up a mutually convenient, distraction-free time in advance. Do it early and do it often. Approach talks with a “we” and “us” mindset as opposed to “me” and “you.”
- Talk about long-term goals: Do you both want children? Would you like to retire at age 55, go back to school, buy a cottage or travel the world? Discussing your dreams and life goals will help determine the strategy you need to put in place to achieve what’s most important to you both
- Be honest: Be prepared to talk about your current income, spending habits, debt and savings. The discussion won’t go anywhere unless you’re talking about real numbers, not approximations or best guesses. It can be tough but you’ll both be grateful that you had the courage to share such sensitive - and important - information.
- Discuss household finances: If you’re living together, it’s time to agree on an arrangement for handling budgeting and bills, savings, joint expenses and discretionary spending. If you choose a joint account for all expenses (or just household expenses), how much will each of you contribute, and how often? Will you contribute equally or an amount based on income? When it comes to spending, consider setting a limit above which you must consult each other. And if you have any debt, that’s now a household expense, so it’s time to establish a plan for paying back what’s owed.
- Don’t ignore the inevitable: Nobody likes talking about death, and it may seem decades away, but it’s too important to put off. Communicate how you want your estate to be divided and share intentions for your final plans with your partner. If you don’t already have them in place, prepare wills and powers of attorney to help avoid red tape and difficult decisions for loved ones down the road or even loss of control over where your money and belongings end up.
Working out details may not always be easy or comfortable, but know that help is available if you’re stuck or unsure of your options. Professionals such as a certified financial planner, tax accountant, investment advisor or lawyer that are licensed in your province can offer advice and assistance. Getting on the same money page as your partner is one key to a happy relationship. You’ll have one less secret to keep and gain not only a life partner, but a financial partner too.