I’m on holidays for the next two weeks, so we’re re-running the most read editions of Carrick on Money from 2018. This particular newsletter looks at how to address personal finances when entering a new relationship.

Being financially smart is a plus in the dating scene. My wife and I just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary, so I can’t tell you this first-hand. But I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts by young adults in the past couple of years that stress the importance of money-related issues in starting new relationships.

Part of this is about partners being in sync on their broad financial goals, and in their attitudes toward saving and spending. But the biggest emphasis seems to be on debt or the risk of getting serious about someone who is heavily indebted. They call it sexually transmitted debt, which means becoming responsible for money borrowed by someone else.

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I'm impressed at this level of concern about debt, but I think it needs some refining. Having debt as a young adult can be normal and of no great concern if it was racked up through student loans to finance a promising career. This kind of debt is easily conquerable over time. What you want to be cautious about is junk debt – credit card balances and loans built up buying junk. In expensive housing markets, it's hard enough to afford a house without having junk debt to pay off.

If you google “debt and dating,” you’ll quickly get a sense of how big of a deal your finances are when you’re single and trying to meet someone. A recent U.S. survey found that one in five people had decided not to date someone because that person had debt. Fear of STD, I guess.

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Today’s featured financial tool

Wondering what the best age is for you to start your Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits? We have a new online calculator that can help you with this decision. You’ll also find answers to your questions about how CPP benefits are calculated, and how to begin receiving your pension (for Globe Unlimited subscribers).

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The bizarre, amazing and infuriating side of personal finance. My Instagram page is called PF World and you can find me at rcarrick.

Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Avoid investing disaster with these five rules

A smart list of rules from money manager and investing columnist Barry Ritholz. I really like rule No. 1 – avoid new products. Rule No. 5 is vital.

You, your kids and the housing market

Some level-headed advice from a financial planner on helping adult children buy a house.

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Her year of going broke

A gutsy, honest account of a woman who tried to spend her way back to health and happiness after major surgery and found her finances undergoing a crisis of their own. Profanity alert.

How to crack a tough rental market

Toronto has a vacancy rate around 1 per cent, which means it’s brutal to find an affordable rental. Check out 27-year-old Huy Do’s brilliant way of finding a new place to live. Further on tough rental markets: Here’s a New York apartment of 68 square feet that rents for US$950 per month.

Ask Rob

The question: “I’m an international student studying in Canada for the past six years and expecting to stay for the next four years. I’m in a good financial position, with enough income to live happily with my wife and two kids. I’ve been paying an average monthly rent of about $1,500 and this year we started thinking about buying a house for the purpose of investment. We’re kind of lost and do not know what to choose – renting or buying.”

The answer: "Readers of this newsletter will not be shocked to see me voting for renting here. Four years is too short a time frame for investing in real estate, especially in expensive markets like those in and around Toronto and Vancouver. Renting means you're just paying for accommodation and have no need to follow the housing market's ups and downs."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured video

Investor advocate Marian Passmore talks about the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic, which helps people who believe their investments have been mishandled and can’t afford a lawyer.

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