Merging families is never easy, but if you plan on sharing a home with a new partner, stepchild or even your great aunt, you need to be prepared for the potential financial challenges you may face. As more and more families blend together, having the ability to talk openly about the household’s finances is vital. Who will pay for bills, groceries, mortgage payments, or minor fixes around the house? This should all be discussed from early on to avoid the common challenges that come with sharing a home.
And according to a recent TD survey, there will be challenges: 40 per cent of Canadians who consider themselves a part of a blended family say they didn’t discuss finances before moving in together, and 66 per cent say they now face financial hurdles as a result.
The top challenges faced by blended families include determining who pays for ongoing household expenses (25 per cent), conflicting opinions on how to manage the household budget (23 per cent), and deciding on household saving priorities (21 per cent).
Having the money talk is never easy, however, it’s an important conversation to have since almost half (47 per cent) admit that juggling these challenges is a source of stress, and 41 per cent say they argue with family members over household finances.
How to overcome financial challenges in your family
In 2016, Statistics Canada recorded over 5.8 million households in the country, with over 12 per cent of those being stepfamilies. As the number of stepfamilies and multigenerational families also grows in Canada, TD suggests some tips to keeping your blended family’s finances in check.
Start the discussion
More than one-third (36 per cent) of those surveyed admit they wish they had discussed finances more in-depth before moving in with their new family. That being said, the first step in avoiding the financial challenges common to blended families should be to have a conversation.
This conversation should touch on each person’s ideas regarding savings goals, financial priorities, joint bank accounts, and ways to protect your assets and financial obligations with home insurance or life insurance.
Build a budget together
As you merge families, it’s important to realize that not everyone has the same values, even when it comes to finances.
The TD poll also showed that 20 per cent of those surveyed said some family members are “spenders” while others are “savers,” which can be a source of friction. One way to alleviate this friction is to build a budget together to ensure everyone is on the same page about how much money can be spent, and how much should be saved. Just remember to compromise!
One person may be better at handling day-to-day expenses, while another may be better at managing bills with different due dates. Discuss how to divvy up the duties, and since it’s rare that each family member earns the same income, decide together on how the expenses will be split between each person.
It’s okay to have separate budgets
You may both decide to keep separate budgets in addition to an overall budget for the household, which can then be divided into savings and expenses for the home. This may be an option to consider as it gives each person a bit more freedom to spend on discretionary items of their choosing using their own budget. It’s also less stressful than having to report back on all purchases, as long as each person knows their responsibilities and remains accountable.
Being a family means having open lines of communication and being able to trust each other, even when it comes to money. Don’t let finances become a burden in the home. However you decide to manage the finances, touch base and communicate with your partner frequently to ensure you’re both still on track.