7 ways to avoid financial problems in marriage

It’s not unusual to see several relationship finance polls posted in February around Valentine’s Day. This year,a survey by GOBankingRates.com found that overspending, being secretive about finances and having too much debt were the biggest financial problems in relationships. One marriage counsellor in Calgary even went as far as to say that money is the leading cause of divorce.

But for many couples, talking about money is seen as taboo. A BDO Canada poll from last year found that the top reason Canadians aren’t truthful about finances is to protect their loved ones from stress or worry. But once those white lies are revealed, it can potentially be a deal-breaker. In the GOBankingRates poll, nearly 36 per cent of respondents said being secretive about money could end a relationship—just ahead of those (32.6 per cent) who mentioned too much debt as a relationship killer.

Considering these financial problems in marriage, what can Canadians do to keep their partners in the loop?

  1. Talk it over early on. Another February poll found that 71 per cent of respondents think financial talks should happen early in relationships, within the first few months of dating. While it’s probably not something to bring up on a first date, if there are signs that a relationship could become serious, it might be time to start talking dollars and cents.
  1. Have a “financial date night.” It doesn’t have to be on the third date, but at some point, instead of dinner and a movie, you can ask your partner key financial questions like “How big is your debt?” and “Do you see yourself as a saver or a spender?”
  1. Know each other’s debt numbers. Credit scores, credit card debt, student loans and any lines of credit. You’ll want to know all of your partner’s financial secrets before taking the plunge.
  1. Use a debt calculator. If you’re in a relationship with someone in debt, you’ll want to figure out how much you both owe and how long it could take to pay off. An online debt calculator can help determine how many months you would need to become debt free.
  1. Plan to pay off student loans. 64 per cent of millennials would rather date a college grad with student loan debt than someone who doesn’t have a degree. That means learning to live with a large amount of debt, even before you factor in mortgages, car payments…not to mention the cost of a wedding! Your best bet is to contact the National Student Loans Service Centre to work out a loan repayment schedule and seek out repayment assistance from the government if necessary.
  1. Set up a joint account. The best way to encourage financial honesty in a relationship is by sharing information. While couples often open joint accounts, at the very least, it would be helpful to share your account number and password with your partner so you can encourage each other to save money and pay down debt.
  1. Track your budget together. Whether you use a budgeting app such as Mint, an online budgeting tool, or even a piece of paper on the fridge, you’ll want to maintain a monthly budget that you both can easily access.

While this might seem like a lot to unload on your partner, you shouldn’t let debt cause financial problems in marriage. As one researcher put it, “if you have a strong relationship, you should be able to overcome financial difficulty, so long as your partner … is working toward a solution.”

How do you discuss finances in your relationship? Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #BDOdebthelp #LetsTalkDebt