Couples and financial strain

While money certainly isn’t everything, it is still as critical to thriving and surviving now as it has always been. It can also be a major cause of tension and anxiety in romantic relationships. This can be especially the case if both parties in the relationship have differing or incompatible views on spending, saving and reducing debt.

It can’t be denied that money woes can have an adverse impact on a relationship and may, if problems aren’t addressed properly and decisively, contribute to serious marital discord. In fact, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis recently mentioned money issues as one of the top three primary reasons that couples file for divorce (22%). According to the Divorce Fact Sheet 2016 by the Feldstein Family Law Group, meanwhile, 33% of first marriages in Canada end in divorce, and 16% of people divorce more than once. Among the reasons for divorce are financial issues such as high debt loads.

Another troubling issue when it comes to couples and financial issues is that couples are often not as honest or as upfront about their finances with their significant others as they ought to be. A 2018 Manulife survey commissioned by Ipsos, for instance, finds that two out of every 10 couples in Canada acknowledge that they haven’t informed their partners about how much debt they have accumulated. As well, in excess of one in nine people acknowledge that they have hidden the cost of a big purchase from someone they love. And one-third of people admit that finances caused a lot of problems in their relationships. But while most of the couples that took part in the survey say they discuss finances with their spouses regularly, approximately 50% of them add that these talks often increase rather than decrease their stress levels.

How to Handle Money Issues as a Couple

It goes without saying that being in a relationship does not nullify autonomy, so both people in the relationship should a certain level of freedom in regards to purchases. However, that doesn’t mean that they can be secretive and dishonest. In fact, couples should engage in honest and constructive two-way discussions about finances, loans, and debt. For example, couples might decide who should be chiefly responsible for handling family finances, based on personal skill sets. While one party might be responsible for handling the money, this person should keep the other party in the loop and up to date on the finances. In other words, it should be a partnership.

With this in mind, the following recommendations can help couples to work together to build a strong financial future.

Joint and Separate

  • Couples should have three accounts – individual ones for one another and a third account that they own jointly.
  • It’s also important that couples have their own credit cards, which will allow them to build their own credit rating. This will ensure that both members of the couple are not penalized if one of them has financial problems.

Keep on Top of Things

  • Online banking is a must because it can help both parties in a couple to keep on top of what’s going into the account, what’s coming out of the account and more. If there are loans that need to be paid off, it’s important to be able to track payments made. If there are investments that need to be made, it’s a smart idea to monitor those as well.

Budget as a Team & Work as a Team

  • It’s important to work out a realistic budget as a couple. There are useful online resources that can help with the ins and outs of preparing a budget.
  • Work out financial goals and objectives as a couple, and ensure that decisions that are made reflect what both parties want rather than what only one party wants.
  • Don’t be a silent partner. Both parties have a stake in the family’s finances, so it’s counterintuitive to for one member to adopt a hands-off approach to finances.
  • Keep one another accountable by staying on top of what each other spends individually as well as what the couple spends jointly. If there are problems that can’t be resolved through discussions, seek professional guidance.
  • Discuss major purchases before making them, and determine what constitutes a major purchase.

Tackle Problems – Not One Another

  • When it comes to tackling financial problems, avoid resorting to ad hominem attacks that unfairly target individuals rather than the problems to be resolved. If professional help is needed, so be it.
  • Don’t unnecessarily discuss financial issues with anyone other than the other party in the couple – unless both parties agree to discuss the matter with a professional.

Plan for the Future

  • During discussions on finances, couples in Canada should make time to talk about what steps to take if either party gets a sizeable inheritance or if the family comes by a large chunk of money through some other means. It’s important that these matters be decided mutually so that both parties have a say in how the money is invested, saved and spent.
  • To whatever extent it is appropriate, involve children in the money discussions. Kids obviously don’t need to be involved to the same extent as their parents, but financial literacy can be taught by letting children take part in things like budgeting and saving.

Keep Talking

A lot of the problems that impact couples, whether it relates to debt or loans or other financial issues, come down to a lack of proper communication. It’s important that couples deal with one another openly and honestly so that both parties are on the same page. Many a relationship has been ruined by money problems, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The aforementioned tips will, if adhered to, help couples in Canada to develop a healthy respect not only for one another, but also for their finances. This will help to build strong relationships and strong finances.