The combination of cash and commitment can pose major challenges, whether it's your first trip down the aisle or your third. Here are a few points to consider before you tie the knot.
Ah, marriage! It goes together with love like the proverbial horse and carriage. But sometimes our fortunes take a turn, and we end up divorced or widowed, and back to managing our finances single-handedly. But Canadians are an optimistic bunch—according to Statistics Canada, 43 percent of divorced Canadians and 16 percent of those widowed will remarry. Here’s how to make sure you’re going into a new relationship with the best financial plan possible.
1. Talk about your history
Before you say “I do,” talk with your spouse-to-be about money. Think of it like an iceberg— what other people see is how you spend your cash, but there’s interesting (and sometimes juicy) stuff under the surface, and it’s what drives your behaviours and attitudes around money. You owe it to yourself and your partner to discuss all of it. One example is how your family dealt with money. This information likely impacts your financial values and beliefs. You should also discuss how money was managed in your previous relationships. Who handled the dough? What worked, and what didn’t? Also talk about your financial goals for this marriage. How do you want to spend the rest of your life? What are the financial implications of your wants and needs?
2. What's mine? What's yours? What's ours?
As you plan out your future, consider what belongs to whom. If you have assets and retirement savings, do these become joint property after your vows? If you have debt, who carries it once you’re married? And if you have children, what happens if you pass away first? Do your children receive what you had before the marriage? Are they beneficiaries to any insurance policies? Does your new spouse get everything? While this may not be the most comfortable conversation, it is a crucial one. By having this meeting and setting expectations for handling money, assets, liabilities and estate planning as a couple, you’re saving yourself considerable grief, angst and money.
3. Stand Strong
In making the decision to tie the knot, you and your spouse are committing to moving forward together with an undividable, united front. You are pledging to make decisions together and put each other before all others (even adult children). If you and your betrothed are struggling to have the money conversation, consider seeking some help from a non-profit credit counsellor. These professionals can help you create a meaningful and manageable budget and help you talk through some potentially big money pitfalls so you can relax and reap the rewards of your well-deserved, new-found happiness.
Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy is Director of Education and Community Awareness at the Credit Counselling Society.