Taking back control together
That’s not to underestimate how challenging these conversations may be. A whopping 84 per cent of Canadians reported in a Bromwich + Smith survey that they were stressed about inflation and the rising cost of living at the start of 2022.
And 48 per cent were more worried about money in the wake of the Omicron variant than back in March 2020.
While couples have no control over COVID or economic policy, there are some things they can do together to reduce the stress of those external factors. Krista Aliga, the virtual program manager at Personal Capital and a certified financial planner, says just having a conversation is a great first step.
“The more you're open to having these conversations, especially in a non-judgmental way... (the more you can) help address exactly what the stress is and how (you) can move forward with it,” says Aliga.
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The money taboo
As the Personal Capital survey shows, some are finding themselves more impacted by the stress than others.
“With the layoffs that we saw right away, and some job instability in certain industries, that can certainly be a huge stressor for someone who’s just starting out,” says Aliga.
As with many relationship issues, it comes down to communication, which the survey also revealed is a problem for younger couples.
“There's still this taboo around dealing with money — more so now than sex,” says Sofin.
Being evasive or avoidant when it comes to money starts early in relationships, when people put their best foot forward, spending more cash than they should to impress the object of their affection.
“There’s so much posturing around money,” says Sofin. “And it’s so tied into seeking a mate … it’s all about, ‘How much money do you make? Can you afford to have a family?’”
Problems begin to appear when you get close enough to your partner for the facade to drop, but honest communication doesn’t follow. According to Personal Capital, 58 per cent of people would end a relationship if their partner was being dishonest about money.
These conversations don’t have to be complicated
As a couples therapist, sex and money are the two biggest issues Sofin deals with. But in his sessions, financial issues are much harder to resolve.
“It's amazing … sex, I can deal with in the hour,” says Sofin. “Money and how you're trying to deal with that? It's too complicated. And there's so many layers to it.”
But knowing the weight of the topic doesn’t mean the conversations you have with your partner about money have to be heavy. In fact, Aliga recommends doing your best to keep it light.
“You don't have to sit down with an Excel spreadsheet by any means … that would be, you know, a very intimidating way to start it,” she says.
Instead, she suggests going on a coffee date or maybe a walk.
“Keep it more conversational — you want your partner's input just as much as you want to share yours.”
Creating a comfortable setting will help break down those barriers and help make your partner feel they can be transparent and honest about their feelings, Aliga says.
And in the simple act of sharing the stress you’re feeling, she adds, you may suddenly find something to help you carry that stress.
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