By being proactive and prepared when it comes to their financial futures, couples can avoid conflicts that put undue stress on their relationships. To get in-depth advice on how to make the money talk happen, we spoke with Cynthia Kett, a chartered accountant and certified financial planner with the firm Stewart and Kett Financial Advisors. She shared some of the biggest financial pitfalls to avoid once you tie the knot.
Mistake #1: Not having goals and plans
Every couple should be in sync as far as life goals are concerned, and it is important to get on the same page before making the big commitment, Kett says. Major goals typically range from having children to purchasing a new car or home, all of which can be expensive. "You want to prioritize them, set a time frame and identify some of the costs that might be involved with those particular goals, and then develop a financial plan to achieve those goals," she explains.
Mistake #2: Not asking for qualified help
In this age when everything is only a quick Google search away, it can be easy to get lost in piles of information. While some of it is useful, it can be helpful to have a professional point you in the right direction. "The reason professional advice is really important by the time you start to accumulate savings and investments is because different recommendations apply in different situations," says Kett.
She suggests couples look for a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), if they feel they need help, or check out the Financial Planning Standards Council website (https://www.fpsc.ca) where they can find a CFP and begin working on organizing their finances.
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Mistake #3: Not being upfront about your financial baggage
Honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to your finances. Any major debts or wealth that you are bringing into the relationship should be discussed before walking down the aisle.
"Full disclosure of finances enhances trust, and if you don't have trust going into the marriage, you're really in trouble," says Kett. Discussing your finances can serve as a great test for how you will deal with problems as a couple in the future. "If you can't discuss tough issues when things are going really well, then how do you think it's going to go when things aren't going so well?" asks Kett.
Mistake #4: Relying on one spouse to handle the finances
Many relationships have one person who is the money manager of the family. Some spouses are quite happy to hand over the task of managing the finances to their partners, but this may not be the best idea. If you're not comfortable with money or organizing finances, you should get comfortable, Kett advises.
"I think there's got to be some joint responsibility, even if one spouse takes the lead on it," she says. "You want to be in a position to ask the right questions about your finances." You should also know enough to understand what you are being told by your spouse or financial advisor.
Mistake #5: Putting all your eggs in one basket
Although accounts may differ from couple to couple, it is a good idea to maintain one account and credit card per spouse in addition to a joint account. By keeping separate cards, you can continue to build your own credit rating, Kett explains. The separate accounts also help spouses maintain a bit of individuality, as well as a safety net in the event that things go wrong.
When it comes to building a financially secure future as a couple, the main point to keep in mind is to be proactive and get educated about money. By working together and keeping yourself informed, you can avoid many of the financial pitfalls that new couples often face.
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