Money and getting married
If your relationship is getting to the point where you’re discussing marriage, you probably don’t want to hear these statistics:
- Various sources suggest money issues are the third leading cause of divorce
- According to Rates.ca, 14% of married Canadians and 24% of engaged Canadians are hiding a financial secret from their partner
Getting on the same page as your partner financially can be essential to the success of your long-term relationship.
Why finances are important to your marriage
It’s important that you both agree on these and other financial goals, and how you’ll achieve them.
It’s also important you consider the smaller financial decisions. Who’ll pay the bills each month? And will you both be open and honest with each other about your spending?
With so many people getting divorced because of money issues, coming to agreement on your finances might be one way to help ensure your relationship is a long and healthy one.
How different types of relationships can impact your finances
Choosing between marriage or a common-law relationship can affect your finances.
Generally, you have more rights and responsibilities with marriage. If you’re not married, there are some rights you don’t get to enjoy regardless of how long you’ve been living common-law. If you’re just engaged to be married, you have no special legal status.
Married couples and common-law partners have different rights to:
- Debts and property
- The family home
Depending on your type of relationship, if it ends, different laws may apply when dividing shared property and assets. It’s important to speak to a lawyer or a legal professional to understand these differences.
The types of relationships and corresponding legal rights can vary depending on the province where you live. You may decide to sign an agreement with your partner. A lawyer (or notary in Quebec and British Columbia) can prepare agreements for you. Each partner should get their own legal advice before signing these agreements.
Discussing finances with your partner
Having the money talk with your partner and asking the tough financial questions before you marry can be difficult. But there are ways to make it easier.
- Be honest with yourself and your partner about your financial situation, your debt and your relationship with money.
- Schedule your conversation so you’re both prepared for it. And remember, discussing your finances isn’t a 1-time event. You should revisit them regularly to see how you’re achieving your goals.
- Understand your differences – Some people are natural savers and some are spenders. Try to understand why your partner looks at money the way they do.
- Take a financial inventory – List income, debt, bank accounts, retirement savings and other assets you’re both bringing to the relationship. Creating an honest balance sheet can help you clearly define your goals later and avoid surprises.
- Divulge your credit score to each other – According to Equifax.ca, credit scores from 660 to 724 are considered good, 725 to 759 very good, and 760 to 900 excellent. Scores below 660 may be less likely to qualify for better loan terms. Score below 560 may have trouble getting credit or qualifying for better loan terms.
- Identify your financial goals as a couple for the first year and beyond. This could include:
- Your wedding budget
- Buying a home
- Starting a family
- Saving for a honeymoon/travel/vacation
- Building an emergency fund
- Saving for retirement
Ways to manage your money as a couple
There are strategies you can use to make dealing with your finances as a couple easier:
- Spending guidelines – Agree with your spouse on your financial priorities and rules for tracking regular and unnecessary spending.
- Get a joint account – Even if you’re not ready to completely combine your money, it’s still good to have at least 1 joint account between the 2 of you to pay regular expenses.
- Make a budget and track spending – Creating a budget will help you know how much you can spend. Tracking how much you do spend keeps you both accountable and lets you know how you’re doing. You can do this using a computer spreadsheet or an app.
- Determine your financial roles – Based on each partner’s strength, decide who’ll pay bills, do taxes, do the investing, etc.
- Consider a prenuptial agreement – Also known as a prenup is a legal document that determines how assets will be divided if they divorce. Partners who come to the marriage with a lot of wealth or a lot of debt may choose a prenup to protect themselves or their partner. Prenups are becoming more common as the average age of marriage in Canada increases and individuals accumulate more assets and debt before they say “I do”. Consult with a lawyer to determine if a prenup is right for your situation.
- Consult with an advisor – An advisor can help you create a budget, try to solve debt concerns, and identify goals and provide saving and investing solutions such as spousal registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs).
Once you’re married, you have someone else who may be dependent on you financially. An estate plan that includes a will ensures your assets go where you want them to go once you’ve passed.
If you’re remarrying, you may wish to revise your will as a result of your new family. An advisor can help you ensure your beneficiaries are up to date.
An advisor can also help you with the appropriate life insurance coverage, another way to protect your family from financial hardship should you die unexpectedly.