finances for couples

It’s a well known fact that money is one of the most common subjects that couples argue about. Research has shown that the more couples argue over money, the more likely the relationship is to break up due to financial concerns. 

But money doesn’t have to be a wedge in your relationship – whether you are just starting out or you are in a long term relationship. With practice, you and your partner can learn to talk about finances in a healthy way.

Derek Chase, Licensed Insolvency Trustee shares his advice about how and when to tackle those awkward money conversations. In this podcast Derek also discusses:

  • When, in a new relationship, is the right time to talk about finances
  • Finding out about your partner’s attitude towards money and debt
  • Warning signs at the beginning of a relationship to be aware of 
  • The importance of working towards common goals
  • Taking advantage of premarital counselling 

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the only professionals licensed by the federal government of Canada. You can be assured that they offer unbiased advice about managing your finances.

Wayne Kay 00:04
Welcome to the Debt Matters podcast, where we help Canadians find solutions to their debt with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada.

 I’m Wayne Kay, and today we’re going to talk about how to talk about money when it comes to your relationships. Why is caring about your partner’s finances before marriage important? What can you tell about their financial habits? Do you need to talk about money in a relationship? And if you have troubles, is there counseling available? 

We’re going to learn about dating and finances today with Derek Chase from Derek L. Chase & Associates, Licensed Insolvency Trustee serving Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the BC North Coast.

Hi there, Derek. Welcome back to the show.

Derek L. Chase 00:50
Thanks, Wayne. It’s great to be here today.

Wayne Kay 00:51
Oh, I am looking forward to this because this is such an interesting discussion regarding dating and finances and how to talk money in a relationship. Money is the cause of many relationships – the downfall in many relationships, I guess we could say.

Derek L. Chase 01:08
Yes, it is. I think relationship changes are a big part of financial difficulty, and unfortunately, relationships often do break up because of money problems and fights over money and squabbling about that. It can be a giant stressor in a relationship. So I think it’s really important to get off on a good start with that whole topic in a relationship.

Wayne Kay 01:36
Yes. And so we’re going to be able to throw a lot of this at you. Derek said this – is what people are going to be saying. Well, Derek said, I need to discuss this and this with so and so. 

And especially in my world, my kids are now, my daughter just got married, but we knew what his financial background was and her financial background was, and now we have another.

My son is going off into a new adventure as well. And it’s like it can be stressful thinking about the money talks, and so I’m going to be looking at it from their perspective. At what point do you have this discussion regarding money?

Derek L. Chase 02:19
Yes, that’s a good question. Because you don’t think you’d want to have it on the first date. No, probably not the first date, but eventually, I guess. There is no one specific time where you say you have to have this discussion, but I think it’s one that you have to have at a certain point if you’re planning on spending significant time with someone, whether that’s through getting married or in a long term relationship. If you don’t do it, you’re setting some groundwork for some real problems in the future.

But when do you first have that conversation? I think every situation is going to vary a little bit there. I think it would be a bit of a function as to what you observe as happening at the start of a relationship. Like, what do you think the other person’s financial habits are? What do you observe them to be?

I mean, there can be some real warning signs if a person is struggling with finances or even has a bunch of debts. So I think you’d want to be on the lookout if your prospective partner had lots of unopened mail sitting around their place or if they’re saying, oh, we’ll just need to stop off at this payday loan store regularly. 

Certainly you’re going to notice, if the phone call, if the phone’s chirping with collectors calling – if some of these warning signs are happening, then you need to have that conversation sooner rather than later about finances and debt and budgeting. 

Because in our experience, we often see situations where patterns haven’t changed. And if someone’s starting out like that, it’s quite likely it’s going to continue into the future unless it’s brought up or if it’s addressed in some way to try and change those habits and build in a bit more discipline into the finances.

Wayne Kay 04:46
You can’t just worry about love carrying you through. You need to have the discussion, though. And it is important because as you said, sometimes it can be habits, bad habits that are formed and they can be broken. But it needs to be an open discussion and maybe it’s not going to be the most comfortable discussion, but it needs to happen. 

So how do you tell what kind of financial habits they have? Is it in that dating stage? Because I sound old, I’m not old. I watch some people and I’m like, I can’t afford to be going off to these restaurants that my kids are going to. What’s going on here? How are you making this work?

Derek L. Chase 05:27
Yes, I think you start off just by observing. I mentioned a couple of things to watch for there, but if a person is doing those expensive restaurants and you know they’re carrying debt and there’s no plan to get out of debt, if it’s not treated as a big deal, then you have that conversation sooner rather than later. 

If there is no evidence of financial difficulty, if things are just kind of progressing along normally and person has a job, they’re dating, it’s still super healthy, I think, to have a good, open, honest dialogue about what you expect in regards to finances in the future – what each person’s attitude is towards carrying debt and just potentially even getting some pre marital counseling about talking about finances. 

There’s lots of counseling available out there and I think people would be surprised when they know how much access they have to it. Lots of times people’s employment comes along with access to free counseling as to how to talk about different aspects of their relationship. So why not take advantage of that, right?

Wayne Kay 06:52
So when you got married, did you have that discussion? Did you have to go in debt free? How did it work?

Derek L. Chase 06:59
When I got married?

Wayne Kay 07:00

Derek L. Chase 07:01
I got married pretty young, pretty unusual, and we didn’t have a lot of money to talk about. So it wasn’t that big of a deal. And my wife did have some student loan debt now looking back at it, but it wasn’t a topic. But thankfully it was pretty easy for us to talk about finances. I think as an accountant, you just sort of barge in and just bring it up anytime, right?

Wayne Kay 07:31
So, same with me. I got married fairly young and my wife just said –  no, you’re not coming in with debt. You have to be debtless in order for us to become a partnership. And it was like, okay, well, goodbye motorcycle.

And I remember her actually making the point because I had a mountain bike back in those days, and I made the comment about her getting a bike and she’s like, yes, okay, I’ll budget for one. And I thought, oh wow, she’s really good. She’s got a money plan, which was great. So there’s a few little things that we saw talking about money in a relationship. I guess you just flat out have to just bring it up, right?

Derek L. Chase 08:11
You do, but it can be difficult. There’s that saying that love is blind. So it could be a setting where your prospective partner has some real problems, but you just don’t see it because you’re in love. And so if your friends or family are bringing it up that you should really talk about that, you need to listen to them.

And I don’t know if barging in to talk about it is the right way to go about it. I think I’d advise trying to set up a time to talk about it where neither party is under a whole bunch of stress.

Wayne Kay 08:47
Yes, that’s true.

Derek L. Chase 08:49
Coming back from a hard day at work and then right into a money meeting is probably not a good thing to do, especially on a Friday or something like that. But when you’re talking with someone else about finances, I think it’s important not to go straight into the blame game and start being critical of another person and how they handle things, because that’s just not the way to do it. That’s not going to get a good reaction. 

I think it’s more important to talk about the future and what’s important to you and how things can be planned for having a better future. One of the things that’s quite interesting when we do financial counselling in the context of a Consumer Proposal. We’ve got one exercise we like to do with couples where we get them to make a list of prioritized things that they want and things that they need. But we make them do it without talking to each other and then we get them to compare the list.

So if one person has a high priority of saving up some money and the other person’s top priority is to go to Toronto, there’s going to be tension in that household. So I think it’s important to get some of your perspective as far as wants and needs and which ones are the most important. 

So obviously for needs you’ve got the housing and the food and the utilities, but for one, like I said, if one person wants to save up some money to feel better and the other person doesn’t have any desire to save, that’s going to bring some tension. Whereas if you can agree on what your top wants are, then you are pulling on the rope in the same direction and you’re going to feel good about it.

Wayne Kay 10:52
Do you find relationships work better when you’re both pulling the same side, pulling.

Derek L. Chase 10:57
On like a tug of war, but you’re both pulling on the same team? You know what I mean.

Wayne Kay 11:03
For my wife and I, anytime we’ve battled over something and I’ve gone and done my own thing, it’s never worked out right. Whereas if we both make a decision and we’re both going to make something happen, it’s always very successful. So I think it’s really important.

Derek L. Chase 11:22
I would guess that shortly after that you probably drafted out some sort of budget to get there and now you’re working towards a common goal and you’re feeling pretty good about it – because it might take some time but you’re going to get to that goal. Then you have a template to do the next one and you just start journeying through life together as opposed to battling about that fancy new bike you want.

Wayne Kay 11:51
To buy –  and there’s nothing better than actually saving for it and then going down and paying for it in cash. There really isn’t. It’s just the best feeling as opposed to having the desire, okay, I want the new bike, I’m going to go buy it. And I don’t know, I still love the saving. I love looking it up online and checking it out every week or walking by it in the store and then going down and buying it.

Derek L. Chase 12:19
Yes, if you’ve got the patience to do that, that’s fantastic. And it’s a tough battle though. The world wants us to be in debt and there’s lots of sort of tricks out there to try and get people into high interest rate debt. Like, congratulations, you’re pre approved, get that bike right now and no payments for twelve months.

And I think a lot of people don’t do the payments or can’t pay it off in full in twelve months and then they’re in a 29% loan. So it’s well worth your while to firstly talk about it, secondly, plan it and shop for it and then ideally make that cash purchase. That’s the best of all worlds, I think.

Wayne Kay 13:03
Well, if I didn’t do that, I probably shouldn’t be hosting the Debt Matters podcast with all the great advice I have talking to Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across the country. It’s like a wonderful education and so anytime I get to share something that I’ve learned that works, I love to share it along and it’s just one of those things.

So we’ve actually always done it as we like to just save up and buy something as opposed to, yes, here you go, here’s your credit card, let’s do it. And the reason is because we did the credit card thing and then I had to teach guitar lessons. I had to do all these different things to try to pay it off because we didn’t have the income at that point to actually get out of the debt that I was in. So it took a long time, a couple of years to actually pay off some credit card debt. And I’ll tell you, once you go through that, you think about it and never go back into that situation.

Derek L. Chase 13:56
Yes, I think we’re all learning as we go through life and that was a good, really good thing for you to learn then. But when you’re starting out in life, you have to learn these things. And I would say talking about finances or really talking about anything important in a relationship, it is beneficial to do that earlier than later because I think when people leave it or defer it or just say, I’ll do it another day, the pressure starts to build. And like any setting where pressure builds, it can potentially lead to an explosion. And that’s never any fun in relationships. So hard to have those conversations.

But I think if you do it in the right context and at the right time, then everyone’s going to be better off for it. And hopefully, like you say, you can start a pattern of sharing about finances. I think it’s also really healthy once you have sort of started to go down that path as you start having conversations once in a while about things that are coming up and what’s going to be expensive between now and Christmas sort of thing. And that’s just good communication, I think, to have in that relationship, right?

Wayne Kay 15:25
Absolutely. And don’t go crazy for Christmas. That’s my advice.

I was at a store once, it was actually in the US. And one gentleman was complaining to another gentleman that he put $5,000 on his credit card that he could not afford just for Christmas gifts that year. And I was thinking, wow, he couldn’t afford it. He did this. There had to be another way, there had to be another option as opposed to just spending that kind of money.

And I was – that’s a problem right there, right? We feel like we have to get involved with Christmas and we have to go wild with how much we spend and we truly don’t.

Derek L. Chase 16:12
Yes, it’s a good question and it’s another one. Another part of that dynamic about choosing who you’re with, I suppose.  Is our material things super important or our experience is more important, or just being with a person more important? And those are all very personal decisions.

There’s nothing wrong with having nice things as long as they fit the budget. But where a person prioritizes their spending and their finances and their debt does talk a lot about them as a person and their character. So it’s just good that that’s revealed, I think, in a relationship before any big commitments are made so that you know what’s going to be there in year one and year five and hopefully for many years beyond that.

Wayne Kay 17:03
Terrific. Any final words of advice you have for us regarding dating and finances and how to talk about money in a relationship?

Derek L. Chase 17:10
Final advice would be, yes, go for it. Talk about it. Talk about it in a loving way, and then it’ll work out.

Wayne Kay 17:16
Well, Derek, thanks as always. It’s always a pleasure, as always.

Derek L. Chase 17:21
You have a great day.

Wayne Kay 17:22
Well, thank you to my guest today, Derek Chase. You can learn more or schedule a free consultation with Derek and his team at

And that’s it for today’s Debt Matters podcast. Be sure you subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast from. And of course, for more information, you can always 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.  

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