ATB Investor Beat

Why families should put conversations about money back on the table

By Chris Turchansky 7 November 2019

I’m no relationship expert, but I’ve been happily married for 20 years. And while I attribute many things to why and how we’ve made it work where many others have not, I’ve also learned that topics like when to move in together, whether or not you want to have children, and whose family you will be having Christmas with are infinitely easier than talking about money. 

Of all of the taboo topics, personal finances might be even more dangerous territory than politics. And rather than get into a heated debate about how they will manage spending, investing and debt, couples might believe it’s safer to avoid the conversation entirely. This outlook may be the reason why there is a belief that Albertan couples are more likely to keep their accounts separate.

In fact, the opposite is true. Financial sharing tends to be more common among older couples but -- and this might be especially useful insight for the newly married -- statistically speaking, those couples who have divorced or separated were more likely to have kept their finances separate. Again, I’m not a relationship expert so I leave it for you to decide whether or not these two things are connected. But I am confident in saying that money can be divisive for couples who avoid talking about it openly.

In addition to being a husband, I’m also a father. And as any parent will tell you, children listen and hear so much more than we realize. So whether or not you talk about money for the sake of your own relationship, you might want to consider discussing finances for the sake of your children and their future relationships. It can be difficult if you came from a family that never talked about money. How do you even start?

Many families, mine included, have adopted an allowance system of spend, save, give. Teach your children to have a savings goal, that spending money is also ok when done responsibly, and that there’s joy in giving. This will give them a healthy perspective when it comes to money, and might make it easier for them when, years down the line, wills and inheritance come into play. By overcoming our apprehension to discuss money with our own family, we might start to reduce the number of will disputes (centering around the distribution of funds) from seven in ten to zero!

All of this being said, Albertans are starting to feel more open about talking about money and asking for professional advice compared to their parents’ generation. This is a positive step in the right direction, and who knows, perhaps it will lead to your very own happily ever after.

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