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by Janet Doyle
After 20 years of helping people address their financial difficulties, we’ve seen a significant number of clients that have experienced marital breakup over money issues. While they may make the promise “for richer or for poorer”, finances are one of the top reasons couples seek marital counseling or divorce.
If you’re having arguments with your partner about money, it’s a good idea to get a handle on it sooner than later. Here are the most common sources of conflict over money in a relationship and some strategies for how to approach them with your partner:
With the average Canadian carrying more debt than any other time in Canadian history, it’s likely that by the time a couple solidifies a relationship, each partner has had life experiences and accompanying expenditures and most likely accumulated debt. One or both partners may have bad credit, which can be embarrassing and vulnerable to bring to a new partner. Although debt is common, most Canadians aren’t comfortable talking about it, which is why most relationships start off on the wrong financial foot. If you’re serious about moving forward with a new or existing partner, set aside time to discuss your finances and any debt you may be bringing into the new relationship, as well as being open about financial mistakes you’ve made and lessons you’ve learned.
Depending on the family dynamics you grew up in and your own experience with money as a child, money could have a vastly different meaning to you than it does your partner. For instance, one person may see money as time, whereas the other could view money as security. Many times, money plays into a power dynamic in a relationship; if one partner makes more than the other it can set the stages for an unbalanced power dynamic. One partner may take joy in spending, where another feels the need to give and help out friends and family.
Depending on your styles, one may be a spender and one may be a saver, so it’s important to identify your own patterns and attitudes towards money so you can identify potential areas of conflict ahead of time. To get started, ask yourself
- Does money bring up feelings of guilt, worry, anger, sadness, love, or joy?
- Did your parents fight about money, use it to show love, or to control people?
- How do you decide on how or when to spend money?
Talk about your own experience with your partner to develop a better understanding of your differences and what you should talk about when planning your joint financial future.
If you’re marrying later in life or after a divorce, you may have existing financial arrangements in regard to children, assets, investments, and property. It can be harder to merge finances with the additional complications that come from life experience, but it’s best to be open and honest about financial arrangements from the beginning. In particular, how will expenses regarding children from a previous marriage be managed such as everyday expenses, child support, and school tuition? Ensure there is a formal agreement in place with any ex-spouses. Estate planning is a crucial part of planning for the children, so wills, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and any investments will need to be planned and discussed to ensure there are no lingering surprises if anything happens.
Like any team, you should discuss your financial goals together and make decisions regarding the financial future of your family and eventually, retirement. It can be hard to come to an agreement when you may have vastly different goals and money management styles.
Track how much you are spending and discuss financial priorities. Go over debts, expenses bills, savings, emergency funds, and handle each issue as a couple. You should be prepared to have some difficult conversations and come into the situation with understanding for your partner. You may disagree over spending habits, but ultimately
Common priorities for most couples are:
Paying down debt
- Improving credit scores
- Home purchase and renovations
- Child expenses
- Savings for children, retirement, vacations, and emergency funds.
Ensure you aren’t keeping any financial secrets, which are cause a lot of issues and will get in the way of achieving your goals.
Designate who will be responsible for managing money, be responsible for making bill payments on time, or automate payments using a joint account. It’s a good idea to meet on a regular basis to review money management to make any necessary adjustments as you continue to work towards your goals.
If you find that you are having issues managing money, overdue bills, and debt stress that is affecting your relationship and causing fights with your spouse, you may want to consider your options for debt relief. Contact Doyle Salewski to book a free consultation for yourself and your partner.