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Talk money before getting married

by Wayne Cheveldayoff, 2005-11-03

If you are thinking of getting married, you should first see a financial advisor and initiate a discussion with your potential spouse about how money and investments will be handled in the relationship.

By talking it out before the wedding, you have a better chance of avoiding money triggered marital disagreements, which a recent survey found were quite frequent and also damaging to other parts of a couple’s relationship.

And what you learn about your potential spouse during the discussion could also be helpful in determining whether you want to make a long-term commitment.

The hard experience of Canadian couples, as revealed in the Investors Group survey, clearly shows that money spats are hardly the route to sustained romance and happiness.

A quarter of adults in the survey (1,000 Canadians aged 18 and over) described their
disagreements with their partners about finances as severe.

Almost an equal portion (23 per cent) said their financial disagreements affected other
aspects of their relationship. At 31 per cent, British Columbians were the most likely to say that money issues had affected their relationship.

In fact, the survey results indicate that even mild and infrequent disagreements about money have had an affect on the relationship between spouses.

More than half (53 per cent) of those who said a disagreement about money has
impacted other aspects of their relationship also said the disagreements were
mild and two-thirds (72 per cent) said they were infrequent.

It’s obvious from the survey results that having a clear, agreed-upon financial plan from the start could help prevent problems in the subsequent marriage.

In effect, money talk is as important as pillow talk. And a financial plan should rank as high as choosing rings and the invitation list before the wedding.

A good financial plan would definitely sort out how decisions would be made about what to spend money on.

The survey found that the most likely source of marital spats was spending – both in general and on specific items.

Some personalities are geared to spend like there is no tomorrow, or are impulse buyers. You’ll want to know before getting hitched if your potential spouse is that way.

In agreeing to a budget plan, couples should consider setting aside a small percentage of income for complete control by each individual – something that would make it easier to accept joint control over the bulk of it.

Sticking to a plan is essential. If one goes off and buys something that is not within the budget, it could create resentment and distrust.

In today’s job market, it would also make sense to set aside a sizeable emergency fund so that the family’s lifestyle can survive the inevitable brief periods between jobs. A large cash cushion can in such circumstances relieve significant stress, something that always has ramifications in a relationship.

If you have substantial assets, are getting financial help, like the downpayment for a house, from your parents or are expecting an inheritance in the future, you should consider a pre-wedding trip to a lawyer to work up a marriage contract (pre-nuptial agreement).

In most provinces, normally the savings and property accumulated during a marriage are equally shared if you get divorced. If you want to make sure you keep assets brought into the marriage or subsequently inherited for yourself in those circumstances, you will have to protect it in a marriage contract.

Of course, marriage contracts must be signed before the wedding, so that is another reason to start talking money well before the event.

It is quite common to think that love and compatibility, or finding a soul mate, are the keys to marital bliss. And they surely are important.

But as the Investors Group survey indicates, a lack of agreement on money can be a spoiler. Don’t let it be that way for you. Sort out the money stuff before getting married.

Wayne Cheveldayoff is a former investment advisor and professional financial planner. He is currently specializing in financial communications and investor relations at Wertheim + Co. in Toronto. His columns are archived at and he can be contacted at

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©2005 Wayne Cheveldayoff