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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


To share or not to share a bank account isn’t the question.

For the most part, Canadians feel comfortable sharing their whole financial picture with their spouse –   nine in 10, according to a new survey by Manulife Bank. However, as debt levels mount and with almost half (45 per cent) of respondents saying their spending is increasing faster than their income, it doesn’t surprise me that some Canadians aren’t interested in co-mingling their assets.

According to the Manulife Bank Debt Survey, which surveyed 2,001 Canadians between ages 20 and 69 with household income of more than $40,000, 21 per cent of those who do not combine finances are not considering it. Why?

Forty-one per cent cited ideology and nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) said they mutually agree financial autonomy is important.  In addition, nine per cent cited their partner’s shopping addiction and three per cent highlighted their partner’s addiction to drugs and/or alcohol as the reason to keep finances separate.  

For many, including myself, the topic of money can be a sensitive one and is often a contributor to stress if couples don’t have a similar money mindset.

Whether you have a separate bank account or joint accounts, or even consider combining individual and joint accounts, isn’t really the issue for me. The real issue is to find a system that works for you as a couple. If you both agree to complete financial independence and it works for you – great. If you don’t want to feel you have to account for every dime you spend, I get it. However, I do think as a couple you are in this relationship emotionally and financially.

If you feel you aren’t financially aligned with your spouse, it may be time to redo your financial vows. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Establish financial goals together. Short term goals which can include paying off debt, medium term goal which may include buying a home. And longer-term goals such as retirement planning
  • Frequently discuss your financial life and agree to spending and savings goals
  • Expenses like the mortgage, utility bills, car payments and so on can come out of the joint account. Variables including RRSPs and charitable donations might be referred to an accountant to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck. What’s left in the individual account can be spent as you please
  • Everyone should have their own credit rating and credit card

I believe it is so important to honestly discuss your spending habits and expectations. I’ve seen it all too often when one partner just doesn’t want to pull their financial weight in the household. Problems can also arise when one partner feels they have to ask for money, especially after a couple decides to have one parent stay at home.

This isn’t about who brings how much money into the household. It’s about respect. No one wants to be a slave to a budget or feel they have less financial say in a relationship. You decided to build your life together, that, in my opinion, includes your financial life.

So here are a few more things to consider:

  • Change your beneficiaries
  • Review your insurance policies for under coverage or duplicate coverage
  • Make a will or update your existing will

No wants to become a marital statistic and this is just a start to eliminating money issues as a source of stress.