(Special) - Honesty is one of the cornerstones of building a solid relationship, but Canadian couples do not always practice financial fidelity in marriage and often keep secrets from their partners about their spending in the past and present.
Research from TD Canada Trust shows that 22 per cent of Canadian couples admit they are not always 100 per cent honest with their partner about their spending and savings habits.
Another study by Winnipeg-based Investors Group shows that 18 per cent of Canadians have kept a secret from their partner about how much money they have spent, saved or hidden.
Thirteen per cent of females admitted to secret spending compared to only six per cent of males. When faced with uncomfortable news of finding out that their partner spent too much on an item, 18 per cent chose to ignore it while only six per cent confronted the partner and suggested they return the item. Almost 60 per cent brought it to the spouse's attention and expressed their genuine concern.
"Financial baggage is not uncommon," says John Tracy, a senior vice president with TD Canada Trust. "Opening up about finances can be hard, especially at the start of a new relationship, but it is vital couples have honest conversations in order to build a solid financial future together."
Dating expert Christine Hart says couples need to be honest about any baggage - financial or otherwise - that they bring into a relationship. Open communication is critical in determining compatibility with a potential partner.
"Going through a recent credit card statement over cocktails is certainly not the most romantic way to approach a first date, but avoiding tough money topics altogether can be dangerous," Hart says. "As the relationship grows, so too should the conversations about future goals and finances."
In fact, a study by BMO wealth planning group has found that 62 per cent of married Canadians wish they had spent more time discussing their financial situation and plans for the future with their partner before getting married even though 98 per cent said they believe it's important to be on the same page with their partner regarding their investment goals and financial planning.
"Having an open dialogue early on that addresses key issues such as how bill payments will be divided and identifying short- and long-term goals can go a long way toward ensuring that you and your spouse will have a prosperous financial future," says Caroline Dabu, vice president and head of BMO wealth planning group.
The topic of money generally comes up in conversation around the third date, Hart says. By the sixth date couples should have an informal conversation to assess their date's financial personality - are they a penny (now a nickel in Canada) pincher, shopaholic, risk taker or security seeker.
When to have a deeper discussion depends on the couple, their age and the nature of their relationship, but they shouldn't wait until they are signing a lease or picking an engagement ring before having one.
"Values about money are far more important than what exists in someone's bank account," says Hart. "If there is an issue, start with a compliment and try to track the issue back to values instead of criticizing, patronizing or blaming each other."
At some point or other couples say "I do" to joint finances in some capacity when they move in together. "Combining finances requires complete openness," Hart says. "Couples shouldn't hide debts or spending splurges from each other or it will create a lack of trust which can trickle into other areas of the relationship."
Tracy recommends having a formal conversation to set ground rules and develop a joint financial plan.
"There are many benefits to joint finances but it's also important that couples set personal financial goals outside those they have with their partner," Tracy says. "Many couples share a joint bank account to pay household bills, but establishing a second bank account, such as a high interest savings account, can provide a sense of autonomy and responsibility when it comes to saving."
Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.
Copyright 2013 Talbot Boggs
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