Am I in your will? New game playfully asks partners to get real about finances

Whether you are just starting to date or have been together for decades, talking about money can quickly lead to friction-filled arguments that often drive a wedge into the heart of a relationship.

It's no wonder this emotionally charged topic leaves couples struggling with all levels of financial decision-making when questions like: 'Should we share expenses equally or proportionally?,' or 'Do you have debt?' require answers.

"It boils down to some of those big feelings like shame, embarrassment, fear of getting into an argument with your partner or fear of being judged," said Charlotte Pecknold, a financial expert with Coast Capital Savings.

To help ease the stress of those terror-inducing conversations, Coast Capital developed a card game called Talk Money to Me that aims to help partners open up to one another about their financial realities and goals — by either slowly wading into the murky waters of money talk or diving right into the deep end.

Michelle Meiklejohn/CBC
Michelle Meiklejohn/CBC

"Couples can shuffle the deck and get right into the meat of it by pulling up the cards as they come, (that's) for the more risk adverse," said Pecknold.

"But we recommend keeping it in the order they come so that you are not jumping right into the most provocative questions."

The cards prompt partners to ask each other weighty questions such as: Do you save for retirement? Would you rather buy or lease a car? Should we sign a cohabitation or prenuptial agreement. Do you owe your friends or family any money? Do you have a will or estate — and am I in it?

"Once couples learn basic healthy communication skills without escalating or avoiding they can talk about pretty much anything," said Edel Walsh, a certified relationship counsellor and owner of Love Done Well Counselling in Vancouver, B.C.


Coast Capital commissioned a poll that asked Canadians about why they think talking about money is so challenging. And while 97 per cent of respondents believe transparency about finances is fundamental to healthy relationships, nearly half — 45 per cent — admitted to being dishonest with their partner when it comes to their money.

Make or break?

The survey shines a light on just how uncomfortable partners are when talking about money, with 75 per cent of respondents saying they would consider ending a relationship if they found out their partner was engaging in risky financial behaviour.

"It's such a triggering topic," said Walsh, adding that one partner will sometimes feel so threatened talking about money that they experience a fight or flight response.

"A lot of people would rather avoid the conflict and the conversations than potentially risk losing the bond of the relationship," she said.

Michelle Meiklejohn/CBC
Michelle Meiklejohn/CBC

Pecknold describes meeting with a recently-married couple who were opening their first account together with the intention of sharing expenses like groceries, phone bills and other utilities.

"It very quickly was uncovered that we had two very different financial situations sitting at that table. And they were learning it at the same time I was," she said.

The conversation revealed a financial imbalance within the partnership where one person had worked through university, paying their tuition and even saving a little, while the other racked up student debt and struggled with their credit score.

"It really speaks to needing to have that conversation early and often so you aren't learning that information about your partner at the 11th hour," Pecknold said.

The Coast Capital study was carried out by Angus Reid Forum and was an online panel survey of 1,549 adults in Canada from Jan. 10 to 13 of this year.