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couple holding valentine greeting card (Ievgen Chepil/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
couple holding valentine greeting card (Ievgen Chepil/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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I think I love you - so what's your net worth? Add to ...

Decades of pop culture have cemented the notion that love conquers all – including money. But a new survey by ING Direct suggests that for Canadians, matters of the wallet are just as critical as matters of the heart, with a whopping 92 per cent saying it’s important to date someone with a similar outlook on money.

While these numbers paint an idealized portrait of fiscally-responsible Canadians dutifully engaging in thoughtful discussions with their partners, not everyone is buying it – including financial expert Kelley Keehn. She argues that conversations around money simply aren’t happening, especially not in the dating phase of the relationship.

“It’s quite rare that a couple will consciously sit down on date No. 10 and ask each other questions like ‘What’s your financial situation? Can I get a copy of your credit report? What’s your net worth?’” she says.

Organizations like the non-profit Investor Education Fund and campaigns like Financial Literacy Month have certainly made inroads in the education department, but money remains a societal taboo, Ms. Keehn says. That 20 per cent of Canadians know only a little or nothing about their partner’s finances, according to a Valentine’s Day poll by TD, suggests that financial discussions are still off limits for some couples.

The ING study also exposed a gender gap, with 15 per cent more women saying they are concerned about having a similar financial outlook, and 20 per cent more women saying it’s important that they know about their partner’s finances than men.

Acknowledging that not all women fall neatly into any category, Ms. Keehn nevertheless attributes the disparity to three things:

  1. Strong, independent women who have worked hard to get where they are, and they don’t want anyone messing it up.
  2. Many women, especially stay-at-home moms, who remain dependent on their spouse’s income and so are often more concerned about financial matters
  3. Whether we like it our not, as child bearers, women are generally more risk-averse. There are also vulnerabilities for women who bear children, explains Ms. Keehn, who says that when women leave the workforce, they run the real risk of losing seniority and a place in the market.

“We’re designed to have to struggle or be fearful of our careers because of our family,” she says.

So what can closed-off couples do help ignite or rekindle their financial relationship?

Ms. Keehn suggests setting up a financial date night where you can discuss goals and then work your way up to conversations about current status and how you can get to where you want to go. Another idea is to also start a couples investing club, where you share financial resources, workshops or books that you found interesting.

“It’s all about being curious and putting our egos down, which as we all know, isn’t always easy,” she says.

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