The Conversations You Must Have About Money Before You Walk Down the Aisle
You’re engaged! Congratulations - this is one of the most wonderful times in your life. But it’s also one of the most important times to talk about your finances. Getting married will change how you spend your money and could affect your long-term financial goals. Make sure you can say ‘I do understand my financial future’ before you walk down the aisle and say the same words to your soon-to-be life partner.
I do, know how much the wedding will cost
The average cost of a wedding in Canada is between $20,000 to $30,000. It’s often the most expensive event you’ll ever plan and it can be a point of contention for couples that don't understand each other’s vision and budget. Find out each other’s priorities. For example, are you having a sit down or buffet meal? What is most important to you - having a great DJ to dance the night away or a superstar photographer that can capture you precious moments? Make a list of all the costs that will go into your big day, including the venue, food, entertainment, flowers, hair, make-up, bridesmaids dresses, groomsmen suits, limo service, etc. Include everything. Make the list as exhaustive as possible. The hard part: decide how much money each of you can afford to contribute and if your families will be pitching in too. Build your dream day from that budget.
I do, know how much your salary is
It is amazing how many people get married and have no idea what their spouse makes. This is the single most important number in your relationship. You can only start to build your budget and debt repayment plan if you know how much money is coming into your home. This is also a good time to talk about investments and how much your spouse-to-be has in RRSPs, TFSAs and savings. It will help you both understand how financially healthy you are as a couple and how likely the dreams you both have for your future can become a reality.
I do, understand your debts
One of the most difficult ideas to swallow is that walking down the aisle means you are walking straight into your new partner’s debts. Don’t hide any debt you have.
First figure out how much, and what kind of debt, each of you is carrying. Is it a lower interest loan in a line of credit or super expensive credit card debt? The amount of debt should be tackled together as it can impact how much you spend on your wedding day. It is hard to justify an expensive wedding if you are thousands of dollars in debt. Map out a debt repayment plan that works for both of you. Ask yourselves, can you consolidate all your loans to a lower interest and pay it off faster or is it better staying where it is? Types of debt includes credit card debt, money you owe to family, student loans, line of credit, and a car lease, just to name a few. I do, know where we are going to live and how much it will cost
Decide on where you’re going to live as husband and wife before you get married. Don’t assume that your spouse is moving into your place or vice versa. If you’re moving in together to a home that already exists, make sure the person moving in understands all the bills associated with owning or renting that home. Also make it a priority to make room for the second person moving in so they feel like it’s their home too and something they want to contribute to financially. If you’re moving to a new place, be realistic when buying your home and calculate your affordability. Just because you qualify at a certain amount doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. You do not want to end up house rich and life poor.
I do, understand my financial responsibility
After you have made up your budget and debt repayment plan you have to decide how it’s all going to come together with the money you are collectively making. Will you have a joint account or have your own accounts from which to pay household bills? This is a personal choice that you both must be comfortable with as the amount each contributes could be different. You are married now so this may not be a situation where you split the cost 50/50 as when you lived with a roommate. It is important to be open and clear about what each can pay and how those payments will be handled. Setting a budget and knowing your priorities as a couple will help you stay within your means and balance your home budget every month.
I do, know how many kids we plan to have and when
Kids bring love, joy and adventure. There is also a cost to consider. It is best to discuss with your partner your vision for the family and how many children that may include as this will affect your finances for many years to come. An important part of the conversation to have is about whether one spouse will stay home while the kids are young. Do your research. Understand the costs of childcare, transportation, before and after school programs as this will help determine which option is best for your individual family.
I do, understand your long-term goals and dreams
All couples dream about growing old together. Make sure you’re both aware of where you see your lives going in the next five years and where you want to be financially at that time. What is most important to you? A bigger house, a luxury car or maybe lots of vacations. It’s important to agree long term where you will be spending your money so you can start planning for it now.
Make sure you can say all of the following before you get married, I do know….
…Exactly how much we intend to spend on our wedding.
…What my spouse’s salary is and their current debts.
…How we will tackle the collective debt.
…Where we will live after we get married.
…How much we will be spending on our home, rent or mortgage.
…My financial responsibility each month.
…The number of kids we plan to have.
…My spouse’s career and life aspirations and they know mine.
…Where we want to be financially in the next five years.
Financial issues are one of the most common reasons that couples split up. Arguments can start with one partner feeling like they’re carrying the financial load to conflicts on how money should be spent or saved. There’s no doubt you will have issues when it comes to money in your relationship, but if you talk about it before hand it will make the resolution in money matters much easier.
ABC Life Literacy
As a national not-for-profit in the literacy field, we envision a Canada where everyone has the literacy skills they need to live a fully engaged life. In 2011, ABC launched Financial Literacy Week - a national campaign to increase the financial literacy and math skills of Canadians through access to tools, resources, community events and celebrations - alongside Founding Sponsor TD Bank Group. For access to tips, resources, and information to help you gain confidence with money and math, visit www.FinancialLiteracyWeek.ca.