In the haze of wedding planning or the emotional heat of committing to a partner you love, there’s one subject that often goes untouched—financial management as a unit. Tying the knot or signing the joint lease both come with big money consequences. According to a CIBC poll done earlier this year, 99% of about-to-get hitched Canadians think it’s important to discuss money management, but only 35% have had this discussion. “The disconnect is obvious,” says Rona Birenbaum, a certified financial planner with Caring for Clients in Toronto. “Knowing something is important to talk about doesn’t mean you’ll do it.” Here’s how to get the all-important money talk started with your partner and what it should cover.
Talk to a third party
Set up a meeting with a fee-for-service planner to help get the discussion started. A planner will be able to mediate the talk so it doesn’t simply become one partner pointing a finger. Discuss your life goals and priorities and, remember, they don’t have to be strictly money-related, says certified financial planner Jason Heath. Do you both want to retire at age 55 or take an awesome vacation every year and retire later? If your expectations aren’t aligned, that can be a deal-breaker.
Full disclosure is imperative, says Birenbaum. To start, filling in a simple net worth worksheet that you find online can be enough to get it all out on the table. Get an accurate credit report and share that with your future life partner, too. If scores for both of you aren’t that great, then ensure that improving them is part of your joint financial goals. “All young couples in love want to get naked, so they should do it this way too,” says Birenbaum.
Sign a prenup?
Getting a prenup is a must for older couples who may be entering second marriages and have more assets, says Heath. In Ontario, where he practices, there aren’t division-of-asset rules for everything, which could make for confusion and expensive divorce proceedings. It’s best to make decisions when level-headed and before the emotion and anger of a relationship breakdown hits. “It’s cynical but it’s a good idea,” says Heath. “I’ve seen very few cordial separations.”