Just married? Now’s the time to talk money. Okay, maybe you can wait until the honeymoon’s over!
Money is often quoted as the #1 stress factor among Canadians and disagreements over money are cited as leading cause of divorce. That’s why it’s so important for newly married couples to talk about money in order to plan for a future together.
Hopefully you and your partner have already shared your financial situation with each other – this is critical to avoiding any unpleasant surprises. For example, failure to disclose all of your debts could make for an awkward discussion when it reaches credit check time for a mortgage and one person’s score threatens to derail the loan.
Here are five tips for newlyweds when it comes to money:
1. Be involved (both of you!)
There’s often a division of labour in a relationship, with one person being in charge of the bank accounts, bills and investments. However, it’s important for both partners to be involved and talk regularly about your finances to ensure you’re working together toward the same goal. Talking about who is responsible for what and agreeing on your goals (and revisiting them) is a good idea.
2. Get your accounts organized
Should you combine bank accounts or keep them separate? That depends on your particular situation. How do you and your partner’s money personas align? Is one of you a spender and one of you a saver? Are you both comfortable merging finances? You may decide not to consolidate accounts, or to set up a joint account you both contribute to (in addition to your own accounts for personal spending) for shared expenses, such as housing, food or an emergency fund. Here’s an inside look at how four couples manage their money.
3. Tackle your debt together
Often one person comes into a marriage with more debt than the other. If one of you has a poor credit history or a large debt load, it can affect your chances of obtaining credit in the future as a couple, especially if you want to buy a home and need a mortgage. Since you will probably be applying jointly for a mortgage, paying down the debt together might be a good idea.
You need to have an explicit plan for when and how debt will be paid, so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. If the plan isn’t explicit, it’s likely that each of you will create your own plan and this may not be the most efficient way of reaching your financial objectives. Plan to pay debts with the highest interest rate first.
4. Review your insurance coverage
Before or soon after you get married, you should spend some time to review, update and, in some cases, purchase different types of insurance, including life insurance (to help protect your loved ones), health insurance, and short and long-term disability insurance. Some insurance coverage may be provided by your employer. If you are both working, check your work plans as you may be able to reduce costs and avoid redundant coverage.
5. Create a will and update your beneficiaries
Your will is the most important legal document in your estate. It establishes your wishes with respect to the distribution of your estate and provides direction on how they should be carried out after your death. Even if you already have a will, you should update it when you get married. Dying without a will can wreak financial havoc on surviving family members. Learn more about why you need a will and how to get started.
You should also consider updating the beneficiary on your insurance policies, RRSPs, TFSAs, pension and other accounts. There are certain tax advantages, such as spousal rollovers and bypassing probate fees, that come with proper preparation and documenting the right beneficiary.
As always, we recommend that you talk to your financial institution to get more specific advice. You can talk to a financial planner at Vancity about options relating to your specific situation. Not a Vancity member? Join us.