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Newlyweds Need to Talk About Finances Beyond the Wedding

07/24/2015 05:52 EDT | Updated 07/24/2016 05:59 EDT
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Struggling to come up with a wedding gift idea? Forget the toasters -- Mr. and Mrs. Newlywed would probably get more use out of a bit of financial advice.

Canadians are into the height of wedding season, and while brides and grooms may have carefully budgeted for the wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon, I worry that sometimes financial planning stops once the special day is done.

Financial openness is absolutely critical in a healthy relationship. But despite its importance, many couples are either unprepared or unwilling to talk about money.

Statistics show that finances can cause tremendous strain on relationships. In 2013, finance company MNP conducted a survey and found the following:

• One in four (27 per cent) married and common law Canadians say financial stress is affecting their relationship.

• This number jumps to 41 per cent among younger couples.

• Debt is the cause of relationship strains faced by 20 per cent of Canadian couples.

Debt is a taboo topic, even when it comes to your for-richer-for-poorer partner. I think if Canadians realize the damage that finances can cause to a relationship, they will realize the importance of opening up.

According to pollsters Ipsos Reid, only half of Canadians are completely truthful about their finances, and I'd like that to change -- especially for the brides and grooms of the 2015 wedding season.

Here are some things to think about if you are tying the knot:

Don't commit financial infidelity

Openness and honesty are pillars of any marriage, so why not extend the concept to your finances? Sit down with your partner and hash out your numbers -- what are your combined assets and liabilities? What's your net worth? What about debts? Any trouble with your credit score? If you're going to build a financial life together, you need a good, honest foundation.

Think about bank accounts

You'll be sharing a lot of expenses, so it is probably most convenient to have a joint chequing account for bills and daily spending. Beyond convenience, a joint account will help you avoid any legal inconveniences if the worst should happen and your spouse passes away -- there can be a lot of paperwork involved in accessing a spouse's account. For those who need a bit of financial independence (in case you need some secrecy for buying a birthday present, for example), you and your spouse could have separate savings accounts.

Get on the same page

Just because you think you have sound financial judgement, doesn't mean your spouse will agree. If your financial goals don't line up with your spouse's, it could cause a lot of tension and turmoil. Have a discussion about short-term and long-term goals. Are you saving for a housing down payment? Is a kid on the way? Any thoughts on retirement? Do you need to clear out some debt? You made it this far together -- if it's meant to be, you can find a plan that works for both of you.

Budget

A budget is the road map that will guide you and your spouse to your financial goals. It's critical that you have one, and that you follow it. Follow Consolidated Credit's recommended budgeting percentages, and make adjustments where necessary. Track your spending using a free budgeting app.

Remember that marriage, and newlywed finances, is a work in progress. It will require some give and take and it's always worth revisiting and revising your plans every couple of months.

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