There are few adventures in life more meaningful than falling in love and getting to know your romantic partner. Couples talk deep into the night, go on long walks, dissect their previous relationships, and fill each other in on where they grew up and what they studied in school, while sharing their dreams for the future.
But when, exactly, do you ask your new love about their credit card debt or how they plan to save for retirement?
Any couple planning to share their lives should make a point of getting to know each other financially, as well as romantically. This process will not only lay the groundwork for milestones like home ownership and having kids, but it has also been shown to diffuse a major source of marital tension.
In fact, research has found a link between financial transparency and happy, successful relationships.
A recent poll conducted by Leger for the FP Canada found that couples that share details about their personal finances argue significantly less about money than those who are less transparent (58 per cent versus 30 per cent).
Of those who share their finances – about 61 per cent of Canadian couples – 82 per cent said they knew about their partner’s finances before making the decision to merge their bank accounts.
Yet, the Leger study found that only about half of Canadians, or 54 per cent, talk to their partners about personal finances, and seven per cent admit to lying to a spouse or partner about money matters.
Ms. Thompson, the former co-anchor of Investment Television, said that many younger couples caught up in the rosy glow of planning their nuptials often believe that “things will look after themselves” after the wedding.
“The fact is, they won’t,” she said.
Beginning a marriage should be a happy occasion, she said, and things will go smoother for couples who get the “money talk” out of the way early.
To start, Ms. Thompson says couples have to figure out the division of labour when it comes to financial matters: who will balance the chequebook, pay the bills and manage accounts?
Couples planning to merge their assets should also discuss their debts, and outline their hopes related to children, home ownership, career trajectories and travel.
They should also make a will, secure life insurance and put in place adequate savings mechanisms to cover their future needs.
And, like a good marriage, a relationship with a financial planner should be built on trust and a shared vision.
Of course, relationships don’t always work out as planned, and Ms. Thompson also works with clients entering their second or third marriage. In those cases, a “getting to know you period” is equally beneficial, especially as these relationships often come with added considerations.
“Financial planners remain carefully neutral about romantic relationships,” said Ms. Thompson. “But we have a lot to say about the financial traps and pitfalls to watch for in complicated blended or stepfamily arrangements when it comes to remarriage.”
The precise financial questions you and your loved ones confront will vary based on the complexity of your situation. But no matter the couple, the critical lesson is the same: without upfront transparency and a sound financial plan, even our most straightforward financial goals can become difficult to reach.
As with financial success, strong marriages don’t happen by chance… they, too, take planning.
To find a CFP professional in your area that will help guide you financially, use our Find Your Planner tool.
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