Sylvie Tremblay

Many advantages to having a “squirm-worthy” chat with spouse, family about money

October 7, 2021

Not everyone is comfortable talking about money with family members – spouses, kids, and so on.

In fact, Kelley Keehn, writing for FP Canada notes that she has always found it interesting that “people naturally retreat when the topic of finances comes up.”

“While it’s perhaps not the most engaging dinner table discussion or a conversation-starter on a date, money is an important subject to be comfortable talking about,” she writes. “No matter our age, salary, social or relationship status, money is an essential part of our lives,” Keehn continues.

She cites a recent national survey by FP Canada, The Discomfort Index, as finding that the topics that make Canadians squirm the most are politics (26 per cent), relationships/sex (24 per cent) and then money – tied with religion – in third place at 23 per cent. By comparison, notes Keehn, only 12 per cent of respondents found talking about their health to be a “taboo” subject.

Strangely, notes Keehn, at a time when women’s earnings now account for 47 per cent of family income, women are “more likely to avoid the topic of money than men,” by a margin of 27 per cent to 18 per cent.

While most Canadians confide in their partners about money, there’s a whopping 40 per cent who won’t, Keehn reports. Only three per cent would talk about money with strangers, two per cent with “hairstylists and estheticians,” and one per cent won’t talk about it to anyone, Keehn adds.

Save with SPP did an interview with Kelley Keehn last year.

So, what can be done to get people talking?

Writing for the Sun Life blog, Sylvie Tremblay suggests that one barrier to money talk might be our level of financial knowledge. “All too often, resistance to talking about money in a real, substantive way stems from a lack of confidence,” she writes. Consulting a financial advisor – a view shared by Keehn – is a great way to educate yourself about the topic.

Another money talk ice-breaker could be picking a financial goal you both are interested and excited about – a major vacation, putting together a down payment, or setting up a registered education savings plan (RESP) for the kids.

Other ideas from Tremblay include making an annual “money talk” appointment with your partner, setting rules about “who is handling what” when it comes to money and bills, and finally, to get started on talking right away.

An article from the Desjardins Financial Security network gives some great ideas about talking money with your adult kids.

The article points out, citing research results reported upon by the New York Times, that 83 per cent of respondents (folks making more than $100,000 per year) said they would NOT disclose their income to their adult kids. Only 17 per cent said they would, the article notes, with the main reason given for a “no” being the belief that the parents’ finances are “none of their (the kids’) business.”

However, the article says, that’s not really the case.  First off, your money may be theirs one day – and data suggests that one-third of inheritors “squander their inheritance shortly after receiving it.” Talking about money with them now, and discussing how to make it last, the article suggests, is helpful.

If you support charities, this is a nice idea to discuss with the kids – perhaps you can help grow their giving values too, the article adds. A money discussion plays a huge part in boosting the financial literacy of your children, the Desjardins article states.

“Parents with a certain degree of wealth have an opportunity to gradually expose their adult children to complex financial concepts such as investments, business ownership or overall financial planning,” the article adds.

Finally, the article suggests, it’s never a bad idea to involve a financial advisor in matters relating to inheritances or “in-life” transfers of wealth to kids, to game plan for any tax issues in advance.

The bottom line here seems to be quite simple – if you aren’t talking money with your spouse, it’s probably time to start. If everyone knows where the money is going and why, you avoid surprises, which people really only like on birthdays and other key holidays. If you are on the same page with spending, you can get on the same page with saving.

Thinking about saving for retirement, for couples and also for individuals, is a key financial consideration. If you have a retirement plan at work, be sure to join it and learn about what features it offers, particularly when it comes to benefits for your survivors. This is a good idea for both partners.

If you are saving on your own, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, marking its 35th year of operations in 2021. The SPP offers you a “do it yourself” pension plan that not only invests your savings, but provides the possibility of a lifetime pension with benefits for your surviving spouse. Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.