Oct 7, 2022
Experts explain how to speak to your partner about finances
Canadians are more concerned now than ever with their personal finances: MNP president
Talking about finances with your significant other in the best of times can be challenging, but living through economic uncertainty may bring additional stress to these conversations.
BNN Bloomberg spoke with financial experts who offered insight on how couples can approach speaking to each other about their financial situation and find strategies for success.
FINDING THE RIGHT TIME
The consensus among money experts is to discuss finances with your partner sooner rather than later. Still, one advisor said the best strategy is to let these talks come up organically.
"Instead of offering a specific timeline, I suggest that couples lean into these pieces of the financial conversation as they naturally arise," Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, a financial expert and host of the Money Confidential Podcast, said.
She explained that conversations about money usually come up organically when couples book a trip or plan on moving in together. However, she said that this doesn't mean that talking about money is off-limits on the first date.
"You can ask someone, even as soon as the first date, what they like to splurge on and what kind of goals they're working towards. This way can feel out your financial compatibility early on," she said.
HANDLING JOINT EXPENSES
At some point in a relationship, couples will likely begin sharing expenses. This setup will look different for everyone, Rodriguez said.
Some couples are comfortable with a 50/50 split, while others prefer to approach expenses in proportion to their income, she explained.
Some ways to track a joint budget can be through an excel spreadsheet, or digital apps that help couples keep a monthly tab, such as Splitwise or Buddy.
It's important to remember that what's financially "fair" when splitting expenses is different for every couple, Rodriguez noted.
"A significant other who was once the breadwinner can lose their job, or someone in the relationship can get promoted. Situations like this mean what's financially fair changes," she explained.
There's also the reality of budgeting for possible pre-existing debt from either partner when committing to a relationship.
One-in-three Canadians (31 per cent) took on debt from a partner when entering a relationship, the latest data from Finder Canada revealed. The average amount of debt inherited in a relationship was $17,417, according to the report.
"It's crucial that couples practice full financial disclosure - with each partner sharing their income streams, debts, assets, etc., prior to a marriage," she said.
If financial circumstances differ significantly between partners, or insecurities about income arise, one advisor said compassion and money allocation can be key to resolution.
"It's not always about how much you make, sometimes it's about how you spend it," Jessica Moorhouse, a money expert and accredited financial counselor, said.
There is a way to make both people feel like they are contributing to the larger financial goals you both share despite a gap in income, she said.
Moorhouse explained that conversations about money can be challenging because people bring their financial trauma into relationships. It's for this reason that she advised each partner to bring compassion to these discussions, and to remember there's a human being on the other end.
There's also the option of seeking external help if couples are having a hard time.
"If you are struggling to find common ground with finances, you can consider bringing in a third party like a financial advisor or even a therapist," Moorhouse said.
One tip she provided was to set aside a specific time and day of the month where finances are discussed. This can look like tracking your financial goals or seeing where things may have gone wrong in that 30-day period.
"Talking about money will always bring ups and downs, but if you keep having the conversation it will get easier," Moorhouse said.