Your Financial Life... as a Couple

Are you saving for a down-payment on a house while your fiancé is planning a major trip? Or do you get frustrated by your future partner’s insistence on sticking to a budget?

Becoming a couple will change your whole life—including your financial life. Talking openly and frequently about money can help you make sure you both agree on your priorities and plans for spending and saving for the future together.

To help you make that transition from two singles to a couple, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) recommends that you have open, honest and frequent communications about money, and agree on financial priorities and goals beforehand. FCAC has produced a “Living as a Couple” life event with tips, tools and resources to help couples make that transition.

From the beginning of their relationship, every couple needs to discuss these seven money topics:

  1. Each partner’s assets and liabilities — What do you own, including savings, property and investments? What debts do you owe, including student loans, car loans, mortgages and credit card accounts?
  2. Your credit history — List not only your debts and credit accounts, but also whether you’ve ever been turned down for a loan or account. Both partners should also check their credit reports and discuss any problems they may have had.
  3. Your priorities — Sit down and set your financial goals together, whether it’s saving for a down-payment on a house, a trip or retirement, to make sure you’re working together.
  4. Your financial personality — Some people find it easy to stick to a budget, while others tend to spend on things they like. Early in your relationship, discuss your approach to budgeting, saving and investing.
  5. Your financial roles — Who is going to pay the monthly bills? Who will monitor spending and saving? Try to divide these tasks equally so you both understand and feel involved in managing your finances.
  6. Monthly cash flow — How much income does each partner bring home every month, after taxes? What are your monthly financial obligations, such as your mobile phone bill, debt repayments or rent? This information is essential for making your budget together. FCAC’s Budget Calculator helps you create a budget and does the calculations for you. Download it from itpaystoknow.gc.ca as a Microsoft Excel file so you can review and update it as your financial situation evolves.
  7. Current financial arrangements — Do you each have a chequing account, savings account and credit cards? Are they all at different banks or financial institutions? Do you have money invested overseas? How much are you now paying in fees, and could you save by combining accounts? Check out FCAC’s page, “How couples arrange their finances”, to explore options that may work for you.

When both partners have a good understanding of each other’s financial situation and personality, you can set priorities and goals together. Decide whether you want to have a joint banking account, and examine your insurance needs as a couple. Your relationship will also affect your taxes: there are spousal and common-law tax credits, and you can often pool your charitable donations, medical and other expenses. See FCAC’s Couples and Taxes Web page for tips and helpful information.

You also need to look at the legal aspects of marriage and cohabitation, and what happens to your joint assets if the relationship ends. FCAC also has information on prenuptial and cohabitation agreements for couples.

Wedding finance

Planning a big wedding or a small gathering of family and close friends? A wedding ceremony and celebration often brings a long list of expenses, and it’s easy to exceed your budget.

To keep track of your wedding spending:

  • Set a budget that you want to spend on your wedding day.
  • Make a wedding budget worksheet. List all the things you want for your special day, and divide up the total budget among them according to your own priorities.
  • Save all your receipts to compare your actual spending to your budget estimates.
  • Track your spending regularly to make sure you stay within your budget.

Managing finances together

Staying on top of your finances lasts far beyond the wedding ceremony. Set time aside each month to discuss your finances and evaluate your budget.

New jobs, educational milestones and children will mean you’ll have to adjust your priorities and budget. FCAC has a range of tools, calculators, publications and other resources that can help you plan, manage and stay in control of your financial life. Visit itpaystoknow.gc.ca to get started.

And keep talking about money!

About FCAC

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is an independent federal government body that oversees consumer protection measures as a regulator in the federally regulated financial sector. We also offer consumer education and financial literacy resources so that Canadians have the information and skills they need to make informed financial decisions and actively participate in the financial marketplace.

The Agency’s materials and hands-on tools are available free of charge in English and French and can be found online. Many publications and tip sheets can also be ordered in a printed format, also free of charge. You can reach FCAC through FCAC’s Consumer Services Centre by calling toll-free 1-866-461-3222 (TTY: 613-947-7771 or 1-866-914-6097) or by visiting our website: itpaystoknow.gc.ca. You can also follow @FCACan on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Facebook.