Real Canadian couples discuss the importance of financial transparency in a relationship.
We all know that communication is key to a happy and healthy relationship, but when it comes to talking about money with our partner, some of us would rather get a root canal.
Considering that 3 in 10 couples in Canada claim debt to be the root cause of their relationship troubles, maybe we should be talking about it just a little bit more.
Whether you’re a long-term couple, in the honeymoon phase or just a step removed from Bumble, here are some tried and true pieces of advice from three real Canadian couples on debt, finances and how to have the “money talk.”
Alexandra and Ryder: Talk openly—and often
Alexandra (left) and Ryder (right) first had the money talk in preparation for a cross-country adventure.
For Alexandra and Ryder, a married couple, the talk came slowly—over the course of a year and a half—after they decided to live together.
“We had decided to retrofit an old-school bus and travel Canada for a year,” Alexandra says. “Leading up to that trip is when we really started to integrate our finances and share a lot of costs.”
“That trip took us to our first (and only) ‘maxed-out’ moment,” Ryder adds. “I think that was probably when we had to get serious about balancing the budget.”
Even though it was an admittedly stressful subject, the couple’s honest conversation about money proved to be beneficial for their relationship. Their biggest advice? Be compassionate.
For many people, money can be tied to self-worth—making financial discussions an emotionally taxing experience. Plus, “it can be a lot easier to see your partner’s poor habits than your own,” as Alexandra explains.
The solution? Develop a strategy together as early in the relationship as possible and reward yourself with a little treat—such as going out for a great meal or buying a fun item for your home—when you hit your financial goals.
“Things are only going to get more complex, and whatever your issues are individually, it’s easier to solve them together,” Ryder says.
Katie and Brian: Be honest to prevent financial anxiety
Katie (left) and Brian (right) view talking about money as the best way to reduce financial stress.
Katie and Brian, a common law couple, are also advocates for honest conversations and getting the money talk out of the way early, especially if you’re committed and making plans for a significant purchase such as a house.
“We were both very open to the talk. We knew early on in the relationship about each other’s finances, like who was better at saving, and we got a general idea of each other’s debts,” Brian shares.
The couple also knows how money stress can directly impact mental health. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Manulife and Ipsos Public Affairs, 4 in 10 Canadians admit that money has a negative impact on their mental health.
“Katie struggles more with her mental health when she starts stressing about any potential debt,” Brian says.
“But we have a plan. And that helps ease [the anxiety],” Katie adds. “If or when we enter into more debt, we know to make sure the other person is aware and to help each other in any way we can financially to pay it off.”
Katie and Brian’s advice? Don’t omit anything. Don’t hide any purchases from your partner, and if you’re feeling anxious about your finances, tell them. One uncomfortable conversation now could save you a lot of stress in the long run.
Brad and Alice: Accept one another’s spending habits
Brad (left) and Alice (right) think it’s important to know your partner’s spending habits early on.
Brad and Alice, a common law couple, know that they have different spending habits, but they have an understanding grounded in open communication so that neither of them feels guilt, shame or anxiety about money.
“Since the start [of our relationship], we’ve always casually talked about our different spending patterns and finances,” says Alice. “I think it helped because it managed expectations.”
For instance, Brad’s spending habits revolve around entertainment (such as going out with friends), whereas Alice’s revolve around clothing and other retail purchases. But the pair agree that even if the things that you prefer to spend a little extra on differ from what your partner does, it’s better to be completely transparent than to cover your tracks.
“Be honest and up front. This is a person you might spend the rest of your life with,” says Alice, “and to hide any debt or spending from them is not going to go over well when they find out later.”
If you want to take the money talk to the next level, arrange a meeting with a financial advisor you trust—such as one of the experts at Manulife. An advisor can help you and your partner continue to build a healthy financial future, which includes the best options for dealing with debt.
Tools like the Manulife One all-in-one account help you consolidate your debt with your income and savings to pay the least amount of interest. Alternatively, the Advantage Account combines a high interest rate with unlimited transactions to help take some of the stress out of banking. Both of these options allow you and your partner to combine your finances in a way that’s flexible, transparent and saves you money—making the money talk a piece of cake.