The importance of couples setting financial goals
There’s a reason why wedding vows have traditionally included the words “for richer or poorer”. How well you manage money together can be a factor in how successful your marriage will be.
Having an open discussion
When it comes to the 2 of you talking about money, there should be no secrets. Talk about your financial successes and mistakes and your habits. Your partner should know your credit score and how much debt and savings you’re bringing into the relationship.
When you’re honest and open about money, it can create trust in other aspects of your relationship.
Create goals together
Instead of stressing about making your financial goals, think about how fun and exciting it could be to map-out your future as a couple. It’s your chance to dream big and figure out how to make them come true.
You can use technology to help create your goals (planning software or app), set milestones and schedule check-ins and reminders to keep you on track.
Start by agreeing to common goals and big-ticket goals first. Write them down and keep them visible so they remain top-of-mind. You can agree-to-disagree on small stuff that might not impact the big picture.
Some of the goals you can consider include:
- Getting out of debt
- Saving to pay for your wedding
- Saving to purchase a home
- Saving for a child’s education
- Saving for a larger purchase (car, vacation, etc.)
- Saving for your retirement
- Creating a budget and living within what you can afford
Establish saving and investing priorities
Some couples blend their finances, while other choose to keep them separate. Having at least 1 combined account may make it easier to pay common bills.
Whatever you choose, you need to figure out who can contribute to what, who will pay the bills and whether the remaining money can be used to save or invest.
Decide if both partners will invest and what accounts will contribute to your investments. As well, determine how much of your leftover income you can put away and what goals you’ll be saving for in what order.
You’ll also need to choose what kind of investments you’ll use. You should do this with the help of an advisor to help ensure your risk tolerance and type of investment matches the goal.
Protect your family financially
This should be a major goal and priority.
The proper life insurance, critical illness insurance and disability insurance can help in case the unexpected happens. If you don’t have it through an employer, you may also wish to consider health and dental insurance.
It should also be a goal to have an emergency fund. This is money to cover 3 to 6 months expenses if you experience job loss or a large, unexpected expense, without putting it on your credit card or withdrawing money from another savings goal.
You should also do some basic estate planning such as updating the beneficiaries on your financial accounts and creating wills and living wills.
You can divide your goals by how long you want to take to complete them.
Some of your short-term goals (less than 5 years to achieve) can include:
Getting out of debt
Set aside part of your earnings to pay off whatever debts you have and get rid of things or habits that get you into debt.
Improving credit scores
The best way to do this is to borrow small sums of money, either with your credit card or a personal loan, and pay it back on time.
Consider automatic withdrawals from your paycheque or your chequing account so savings becomes a priority.
Set aside a specific monthly amount for things like entertainment and when you’ve spent that amount within a month, you can spend no more. Stick to a budget on how much you spend on clothes, vacations, etc. Stop monthly subscriptions you’re no longer using or that you’re no longer getting good value for.
These goals will likely take 5 years or longer to accomplish. They often include:
Saving to purchase a home
This can include saving an amount over time for a down payment or saving amounts to pay down your mortgage.
Saving for a child’s education
This can include a registered education savings plan or other means.
Saving for retirement
To properly do this, you should complete a retirement plan with an advisor who can help you determine how much money you should have set aside to retire and how much you need to save each month to achieve that.
Financial behaviour goals
By embracing better financial behaviours, you can improve your chance to make your financial goals come true. Some of your behaviour goals can include:
- Setting up SMART goals – SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and attached to time. Goals that include all 5 of these parameters are easier to hit.
- Making a budget and sticking to it – Having a budget helps ensure you don’t spend more money than you have coming in. Add up all your expenses then subtract your income. If you have money left over, then you can earmark that for savings. If not, you need to figure out ways to spend less or make more money.
Working with an advisor
While advisors aren’t marriage counsellors, working with one might be one way to help keep the financial part of your relationship healthy. An advisor can:
- Help you create a budget
- Help you establish and prioritize your financial goals and provide you with a solid plan to achieve them
- Help you stay on track with regular reviews and reminders
- Provide strategies to manage debt
- Help you adjust your budget, goals and strategies as your life changes