When we think about a couple getting married thoughts of romance usually spring to mind. Where did they meet? When did they know they were in love? And how did they get engaged?
But a new survey from the U.S. reveals for most couples it’s not romance that’s getting them to the altar, but the financial stability of the person they’re vowing to spend their life with. The Merrill Edge Report asks the question “Is financial security the new happily ever after?”
In sickness and in wealth
The report by Bank of America Corporation’s Merrill Edge surveyed more than 1000 people. It found 56 per cent of respondents prefer someone who provides financial security compared to 44 per cent who want to be “head over heels,” in love. There was also very little difference between men and women. 54 per cent of men want financial security and 57 per cent of women want the same. The only generation that prizes romance more, are the youngest respondents, the Gen Zs, born after 1996. They choose love 54 per cent of the time.
This is good news
Canadians are waiting longer to get married. The latest data from Statistics Canada shows, the average age of first marriages is 31 for men and 28 for women. The longer you wait to get married, the more likely it is you’ve built up your net worth. If you already own a condo or any real estate, for example, you have a large financial asset at stake. This is true as well for any retirement savings you’ve built up over the years. The survey, as unromantic as it sounds, is actually encouraging and shows we are being more pragmatic about our financial future before we tie the knot.
We are still avoiding the ‘money talk’
If most of us have finances top of mind when we get married, we should all be taking the steps to talk about our individual money situation before the big day. But bringing up this topic can be awkward. The survey found that while we’re looking at our partners for financial security. We are also tight-lipped when it comes to discussing our own finances. Most admit they rarely talk about their debt, their salary, their investments or their spending habits with their soon-to-spouse. That has to change.
How to get started
Ideally you should have the money talk before you get engaged. But at the very least do it before you say ‘I do.’ Make a date with your partner. Ask them to clear their schedule for that time so you can both really focus on what’s important, your collective financial goals. Agree on some questions that need answering, like: How much debt are you in? What do you bring home every month after taxes? Where do you see yourself living in five years? Are you a risk taker or conservative when it comes to investing? These questions will help get the conversation started.
Be open minded
During that initial conversation and during your relationship your partner is going to spend money on something you would not choose for yourself. That doesn’t mean they have made a bad money decision, just one that is not a priority to you. If the spending is within reason and is not putting your household finances in the red, learn to compromise. This doesn’t mean that every purchase they make that’s not in line with your values is ok, but remember you’re still two different people with separate ideas of what value is. By accepting that early on you are bound to have fewer arguments about money in the future. If financial stability is important to you, as it seems to be for the majority of people, the only way to find that is to keep the lines of communication open about your spending and your feelings about theirs.