marriage finances

Money clearly plays a significant role in marriage and is the number one issue married couples fight about. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce which is why it’s so important that you address problems that arise.

There’s no one right way to run your household finances. Some couples have separate accounts, some joint, and some work out a combination. But whatever way you decide to manage your money – having good lines of communication is paramount.

In today’s podcast, Licensed Insolvency Trustee Derek Chase discusses how financial stress affects relationships. 

  • What are the warning signs that there may be trouble ahead
  • How financial counselling can be used as a teachable moment for everyone in the family
  • Practical advice around talking about money
  • Bringing the whole family into the conversation about their needs versus wants

If you are having issues with your marriage finances or dealing with unmanageable debt that’s affecting your relationship, it may be time to reach out to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. They are federally regulated and are the only debt professionals with access to all debt relief options.

Wayne  0:04  

Welcome to the Debt Matters podcast where we help Canadians find solutions to their debt with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada. My name is Wayne Kay and in today’s show, we’re going to be talking about the financial stress on families and couples and how it affects relationships. And we’re hoping we can help you avoid some of that stress. 

My guest today, Derek Chase from Derek Chase & Associates in Campbell River BC. Derek, thanks very much for being here today.

Derek Chase  0:35  

Are you welcome, Wayne. I’m really looking forward to this.

Wayne  0:37  

This is a great one, because I know that you have people come into your office all the time. And when they have financial stress – there’s relationship problems with that, right?

Derek Chase  0:48  

Oh, absolutely, like that on so many different levels. There’s relationship difficulties when money becomes involved. And it’s often a real success story that we can help repair some of those and get people on a good path. But there’s no doubt about it. It affects relationships,

Wayne  1:06  

I think it’s one of the top things for divorces actually –  money problems.

Derek Chase  1:12  

I would agree, fighting over money can lead to separation and divorce, which spirals into more financial problems and it’s a hard thing to change around. It’s better to stop it before it happens and get that relationship going in a good direction when it comes to money. 

Wayne  1:35  

So I think we need people to know that it’s often not the relationship, it’s the money. So how do you even start on that topic?

Derek Chase  1:42  

Well, I think in any relationship you find this stress building when the topic isn’t addressed. And when you’re not communicating or talking about the topic, then the pressure just slowly starts to build until it boils over. Then you get some sort of incident or confrontation or arguments that probably could have been avoided. Or there’s a good chance it could have been avoided if people were just open to talking about it in advance or much earlier, to get the issues out on the table and just talk through it. So that’s in general, what I would see is that the issues just fester. And then all of a sudden, it’s gotten to a point where it’s very heated, and you know, problems can happen.

Wayne  2:41  

And there would be anger, as well, I’m sure from a one on one or one of the parties towards the other. Maybe somebody made some bad financial decisions, or was spending and not paying attention to where that money was coming from or going. So you have to deal with all those emotions. What’s that like when you have a couple come in for the very first time? You offer them some advice on how they can take care of this debt? Have you seen couples connect? 

Derek Chase  3:11  

We have for sure. We like to say we’re in the pressure relief business. To see people come in with so much pressure on them and so much stress and obvious relationship challenges – and then we’re able to sort of give them information as to how they can move forward through that setting. There’s often reconciliation there. And there’s often within a household where there’s dependence, there’s some very teachable moments that the family can kind of come together and say, hey, look, we’re in this, we’re in this predicament, and we all need to pitch in to, to get through it. 

And, there’s been some remarkable settings where different members of the family have done what it took to help and so that there can be a real good story coming out of it. But on the other hand, sometimes if it’s gone too far, then yes that financial stress and difficulties –  the damage has been done.

Wayne  4:22  

So why don’t we talk about some of those teachable moments? What would those look like?

Derek Chase  4:27  

Well, I think that so often in a in a setting that one person in a household takes on the responsibility for dealing with the finances and I’ve heard settings where one person in a marriage says Well, I just make the money and I give it to the other person to take care of and and there’s not a lot of communication there. There’s not a lot of understanding as to what the expenses are or where that money’s going. 

So as we get into some financial counseling, and we’re talking about just communicating where and what the income is and where that money is going –  that people share the responsibility a little bit better or at least communicate the results or what’s happened every month so that there can be just a new level of communication between people and that’s so satisfying to see. It’s a different level of relationship. I think when you’re more open to communicating, I think that spills over into other people, other areas of people’s lives as well. So overall, the relationship would be healthier.

Wayne  5:44  

So one couple likes to spend, one likes to save –  probably causes a lot of arguments within relationships. Should you have everything going into one account? Should you keep things separate? How does that look and what’s your advice on that topic?

Derek Chase  6:02  

That’s a tough one. I have seen both of those settings where people would say – we each have our own account, and we each kick in X amount of dollars for common expenses. And other times people put it all into a joint account. That’s a very personal decision. I think sometimes people bring some difficulties from prior relationships into their current relationship, and they don’t want to experience being blindsided again, so to speak. They want to make sure they can take care of themselves. 

But I think at the end of the day, if you are both active in talking about what’s happening and looking at the numbers and just having that awareness, then I personally don’t see anything wrong with having funds commingled. I think that if you’re in a relationship, that’s part of the relationship, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Wayne  7:10  

Well yes, but you see what happens when everything goes sideways. So do we see things go sideways more with commingled accounts or separate? I think maybe here’s the answer that I’m answering my own question. You mentioned that both parties need to be paying attention to what’s happening financially and communicate about it.

Derek Chase  7:35  

There could be some warning signs there. Like if the incomes are healthy, and there’s no money saved, well, where’s it going? Or, if one person is handling all the mail that’s coming in, and the other person never sees the statements or the credit card bill? You know, that’s a bit of a warning flag, a big warning flag to me, actually, because there could be some things going sideways on those credit cards that one person doesn’t know about. And so that will lead to problems. Yes, I would say that don’t just be satisfied with one person’s handling of it. It’s got to be a two way street there, as far as communications go.

Wayne  8:25  

What would your advice be to a new couple getting into this just starting out? And all of a sudden, here’s Derek, who’s got his magic wand of advice that’s going to help them financially. What would that look like? No pressure.

Derek Chase  8:41  

I would just say don’t make it a topic that’s rarely talked about. I think lots of times people come from upbringings and households where money was never talked about, or it was talked about in anger all the time. I think make it a regular topic. 

I’m a big fan of having a date night, no matter where you are in your relationship. And, hey, there’s nothing wrong with talking about the finances and what’s coming up on the horizon for expenses. Just to have a conversation and in a regular way, at least once a month, and it just becomes normal after a while. But the alternative is, if it’s always sort of in the background, or in the dark, or it just never comes up, then that’s more of an opportunity for problems to arise, I think.

Wayne  9:40  

Well, I think it’s one of those. It’s, one of the main topics in your life – money and finances, and especially as you go through, as you were mentioning one time when we were chatting about a retired couple that didn’t have any savings. So maybe if they had talked maybe earlier on in their lives together, they would have learned some saving tips as they went along.

Derek Chase  10:03  

Yes, for sure, there’s no doubt about it. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of energy to have that conversation or to do a little bit of research on that. And even just a little bit of data or awareness or effort in that area can produce tremendous results. 

So I would just encourage people, if they’re listening, and it’s been a difficult topic in their household, to bring it up. Say can we talk about this a little bit and I really think we should share what’s going on and kind of go from there.

Wayne  10:43  

And if that’s always a heated discussion, is there any advice on how to get through that?

Derek Chase  10:48  

Well, I think there’s some excellent counselors out there for relationships. And perhaps that’s another step that a person has to take. There are what we call underlying issues that can be very difficult to overcome with finances. 

One that pops to mind is that maybe someone likes to really shop and shopping makes them feel good, because they really didn’t have anything when they were growing up. So they like to shop now to feel good. So that’s an underlying issue, personally, or psychologically that maybe you need some specific counseling for. 

There are a tremendous amount of counselors. We’re lucky in Canada to have that. And a lot of times people have access to those counselors on a free basis through their employment. Take advantage of that, and find counseling for relationships, whether that’s through your union, or through your church, or through whatever resource –  so that you can get down to that underlying issue that’s maybe driving the financial problems in your relationship.

Wayne  12:10  

Yes, that’s a great one. I love that you brought that up. Maybe one likes to spend, and one doesn’t, depending on how they were raised. My wife, if we won the lottery, and you asked my wife what would you want? Her list is very small, where my list is really long, I’ve got my list of all these things that I would love to be buying, right? So when we talk about needs, versus wants, you want to touch on that quickly?

Derek Chase  12:38  

Oh, it’s always a good question. I think if you watch advertising, they’re always talking about your wants. And when it comes down to it, when push comes to shove, what do you really need in life, I mean, that’s some pretty basic things. 

So a healthy exercise in any relationship, I think is for each of you to write down your top needs and your top wants and then compare them to see where you’re at and talk about that. And that can just again, help build communication and help to make some choices as to what the households number one need and the households number one want. 

And you can even extend that to having teenagers involved in writing down those particular lists. We would encourage families to do that with their kids, their teenage kids to write down the teenagers top needs, their top schooling needs – which is another category and then their top wants. There’s some good teaching points –  teachable moments where you can convey that you can’t get all of these things right away –  you have to choose between what comes first. And obviously that’s going to start with survival needs and then moving on to school. Then lastly wants and maybe that teenager has to go get that paper route in order to get the wants.That certainly was a popular thing to do when I was growing up as far as a teenager getting that little lawn cutting job or paper route or whatever to get the wants and it’s still relevant today.

Wayne  14:28  

Oh yes, you can make good money cutting grass. It was unbelievable how much my son made in the neighborhood. So it’s a great place to start for sure. You do these exercises with couples that come in. Have you ever seen the needs be really quite different between a couple?

Derek Chase  14:49  

Really, not that comes to mind. I mean, the basic needs are shelter and food and utilities and things like that. It’s the wants or the goals. You could call a want a goal. And and yes, it’s just something that you could get by with without, you could still live without it. Yes, something that you want.  And those vary dramatically. 

But yes, again, it’s just a matter of getting them out on the table and saying – having a bit of a talk about which of these wants is at the top and which is at the bottom and what’s important to you and and what’s important to the household?

Wayne  15:34  

Well, I think that’s a great step that if you haven’t seen the needs be too different. People understand what they need. So that’s a good thing. And there’s a little success for that relationship, or as we’re both on the same page – understanding those. Then they can go from there. I think people need to know they’re not alone, financial issues, financial topics, talking about money is a stressful situation for a lot of people. And you’re not alone. 

Derek Chase  16:01  

Very true. It’s a very common thing to stress out about that. I think once you are able to get some information, I think that goes a long way towards de stressing that whole setting. Whether that’s information between the people in the household or whether it’s information from a professional, such as a Trustee. That’s all good. I mean, the more information you have, the better decision you’re going to make. And you know, the future is going to be brighter.

Wayne  16:34  

Derek, thank you very much for all the information today, anything else you need to share?

Derek Chase  16:39  

I don’t think so. I think that was good. I think every setting can go in a better direction. So I would just encourage people to take the steps that they need to take, even if it’s just a small step to go in that good direction.

Wayne  16:51  

The guest today, Derek Chase. If you want to learn more or you want to schedule a free consultation with Derek, you can go to the website And that’s it for today’s Debt Matters podcast. You can subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcasts from. And of course for more information on this show, you can check out Thanks for listening.

About Derek Chase

Derek Chase is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee in British Columbia. He has been helping individuals and corporations restructure their debt since 1997. His areas of practice include personal and corporate insolvency including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy. The best part of his work is to be able to witness lives change for the better when the heavy burden of unmanageable debt is lifted.

Additional Resources