How has COVID impacted couples’ money conversations?

Poll probes financial behaviours, attitudes, and priorities of married and committed North Americans

How has COVID impacted couples’ money conversations?

For married and engaged couples, finances can be an emotional topic, making it hard for even long-term partners to get on the same page about money. But as more households recognize the importance of preserving their health and wealth amid the pandemic, it seems couples are taking a more candid attitude.

In a new survey of more than 3,000 married, in a relationship or divorced North Americans, TD found that 45% of couples have found it easy to talk about money during COVID-19. Nearly half of Canadians surveyed (49%) said it has led to more open and constructive conversations about their finances, including cutting back spending on non-necessities (62%) and putting off larger purchases (36%).

Among Canadian couples and those in a committed relationship, 85% said they discuss money on a monthly basis. Seventy-seven per cent said they typically open up about finances within the first year of a relationship; 56% said they get candid within the first six months.

The consensus among Canadian respondents is that “not talking about money with my partner on a regular basis” is the top financial mistake in a relationship. Taking that to the extreme, 8% admitted that they keep financial secrets from their partner – including a secret bank account (29%) or substantial credit card debt (22%) – with nearly two thirds (62%) having no plans whatsoever to disclose them.

Focusing on Canadian millennials, 53% said they agree with their partner on what expenses count as a “want” and a “need.” Four in five (81%) admitted that they make unreasonable financial decisions, including 25% who said they engage in excessive and frivolous spending.

The survey also gave some hints as to how the pandemic disrupted wedding plans across Canada and the U.S. Among the engaged Canadian couples whose plans to tie the knot were affected, 56% either postponed or downsized their nuptials.

More generally, the poll revealed that Canadians are relatively more financially prudent and conscientious wedding planners than their U.S. counterparts:

  • 53% of millennial respondents in Canada think taking risks when planning a wedding is ok, compared to 63% in the U.S.;
  • 46% of Canadian respondents believe the couple should pay for all wedding expenses, vs. 35% in the U.S.;
  • 49% of married Canadian respondents spent less than $5,000 on their wedding and 31% spent between $5,000 and $15,000, in contrast to 49% and 20% of U.S. respondents; and
  • 14% of married and engaged Canadians did not buy an engagement ring nor saw a need for it, compared to 11% of those in the U.S. who felt the same.

There was also widespread agreement among Canadians (49%) that finding true love is easier than finding financial success. That hasn’t stopped them from pursuing financial goals, as 88% of Canadian survey respondents reported that they are currently saving for something.

Still, financial challenges remain. Six out of 10 (60%) of Canadian couples surveyed said they are facing difficulties meeting their financial goals amid COVID, and the fear of being unable to retire emerged as Canadians’ greatest financial concern.

Among Canadian couples in the survey, 17% said they need advice on investments; 14% on paying off debts; 13% on retirement; and 11% on budgeting. But even though they need help, just one third (32%) of Canadian respondents said they meet annually with a financial advisor.


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