Ok couples, real talk time. This one is for all of you in happy, nurturing, loving relationships who maybe aren’t as prepared as you should be. There’s no perfect couple (Instagram’s a damn liar!) but some couples are living the good life, and other’s who are struggling. If you’ve ever been in the second scenario, you’ll know how stressful it can be. And the role money can play in that situation. It is essential that you protect yourself from a failed relationship with access to cash. Your own money. In your own name. And not at all tied to your spouse!
Thinking about the end of a relationship sucks. I get it. It’s like having the death talk with your parents. It’s important though. You need to prepare for the bad times during the good times.
The Not So Pleasant Stats
The divorce rate in Canada is 38%, and that doesn’t include couples who split but aren’t married. You don’t have to be married to be in a bad relationship. Common-law rules in Canada provide many of the same rights given to married couples and to be considered common-law you only have to live together for 12 consecutive months or live together and have a shared child. It’s hard to find good stats on the uncoupling rate, but it would undoubtedly boost the divorce rate significantly.
The scarier stat, at least to me, is the number of people who remain in bad relationships because of money, or I guess lack of money. A 2014 study conducted in the UK found that 19% of people stayed with a partner because of their financial situation. That’s almost 1 in 5 people who were stuck in an unhappy or even unsafe situation because they couldn’t afford to leave. Awful.
The gender disparity within that group is also a huge issue. Another UK study discovered that 20% of women compared to only 3% of men admitted to staying in a marriage too long because of financial worries. Women face a disproportionate burden because of lower incomes and less access to funds. And that’s precisely why we need to be extra prepared for the worst case scenario.
Individual Emergency Funds
You are allowed to have more than one emergency fund; in fact, I would recommend it. As a couple, you will have couple emergencies. You might need to replace your furnace if you’re homeowners, or pay for emergency surgery if you have pets, or cover living expenses because of a job loss, or come up with the deductible for a car accident. Keeping three to six months of expenses saved up in a high-interest savings account is a critical step in getting your finances in order.
However, it doesn’t end there. You should also have your own individual ‘if shit hits the fan’ account. As we’ve seen, relationships end and access to money gives you an out. Whether you combine your finances or already keep things separated, you should always have a portion of money in your own name.
How do I do it? I’ve talked before about how the bf and I keep our finances mostly separate. The only joint account we have is a savings account for house stuff. We keep it topped up at $10k and use it to cover joint expenses that come up such as annual property taxes, house reno/replacements, and pet issues. Then we each fund our own emergency fund that has at least three months living expenses.
And don’t even come at me with any talk about how keeping money separate is a trust issue or a sign of a bad relationship. Wrong. Being prepared is NEVER a bad thing. In fact, taking care of your needs builds confidence and makes you a better partner.
Credit In Your Own Name
Access to cash can get you out of a bad situation, but access to credit can help you build a new life. Banks do not like to lend money to people who have no credit history. Sometimes this happens in relationships where there is a gap in earnings. If one person has a much higher income, then they often become the primary when it comes to paying the bills, applying for credit, etc. That might sound like it makes sense. The person bringing in the bucks pays the bills.
The problem with that system is the lower earner gets the shaft when it comes to creating a credit history. Both of you should have bills (cell phone, power, cable, etc.) and credit cards in your own names. You should also be listed jointly on your mortgage if you have one. This will build credit but also help protect your interest in the asset.
In case talking about break-ups isn’t dark enough, now we’re going to add death to the mix. Sorry guys. Unfortunately, death is another way a relationship can end. There is a lot that goes into preparing for the death of your spouse. I’m not going to go into all the details of estate planning here; I’ve done that before. Short version: you NEED to have a will.
One of the absolute best ways to prepare for the loss of a spouse is to work together and create an emergency binder. This will include everything your partner (or someone else) will need to know to ensure the life you’ve built can keep running without you. Bank accounts, bills investments, insurance, care for beneficiaries (and pets) will all be written out and stored in one spot. Not sure where to start? My friend Chelsea from Smart Money Mamas has created a fantastic ‘In Case Of Emergency Binder’ template. I’ve used it to prepare my own, and it covers everything and is worth the cost for your peace of mind.
The final point isn’t specifically money related, but it’s such an essential factor that I wanted to include it. Ending a relationship, even a bad one, is lonely. You likely feel embarrassed, sad, angry, and alone. To help cope with that, it really helps if you can surround yourself with close family and friends. Having someone who will get you out of the house for an afternoon or come over and share a bottle of wine will make it that much easier for you to reestablish your position in your new life.
Your relationship with your partner can so often dominate the bulk of your time, but don’t let your friendships fall to the side. Everyone has busy lives, but make a point of staying in touch so when you need a friend, they’ll be there.
As they say, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You might not want to consider a future without your current partner, but you should ensure you’re ready just in case. I’d love to continue this discussion in the comments. What steps have you taken to protect yourself from a failed relationship? Have you ever been stuck in a situation because of financial concerns?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.