Maybe it’s a little crass, but spending big on the big day for lovers can be a measure of the love for our significant other.
Though few would admit it, a bit of emotional accounting is likely unconsciously taking note.
On a more tangible level, Statistics Canada in its 2017 ‘Valentine’s Day… by the numbers’ study shows Canadians spend more than $8 billion annually on jewelry, perfume, lingerie, chocolates and flowers.
That’s over a whole year, but a lot of the commodities of love are likely purchased for February 14. Various surveys point to spending more than $200 per person for the holiday, including one by the National Retail Federation in the U.S. for this year.
Undoubtedly the personal finance industrial complex sees value in Valentine’s, concocting surveys connecting love and money.
And for good reason: love and money are soul mates. Albeit these life partners are no strangers to lovers’ quarrels.
Many surveys play on this notion, with headlines appealing to the ‘if it bleeds; it leads’ nature of media.
Take this recent one from Ratehub.ca: 46 per cent of Canadians say credit card debt is a dating deal breaker.
Even juicier: 31 per cent of Canadians have taken on sexually transmitted debt. That’s from Finder.com, an Aussie-based, personal finance website.
It notes Canadians — through their romantic partnerships — take on a collective $160 billion in debt, or $17,417 of "caught debt."
Let’s give marketers their due, though. Each campaign also doles out pieces of wisdom to make money and love a more concordant pairing.
Lowestrates.ca, for instance, offered up its recently engaged managing editor to speak on how to effectively budget and other sage advice to ensure money matters are conducive affairs of the heart.
Just like saving for retirement or the kid’s education, counsel on the subject can prove advantageous, particularly because most people seek, and do find, the ‘one’ to form not just a long-loving union but an economic one, too.
And when done right, marriage — or shacking up for the long run — can be a booming home business.
"Marriage continues to be an economic powerhouse," says Dr. Moira Somers, a Winnipeg clinical psychologist, specializing in money and relationships at her practice Mind, Money and Meaning.
"One of the best things most people can do for their financial lives is to marry because two is better than one."
The author of Advice That Sticks: How to give financial advice that people will follow adds that statement comes with caveats.
That’s because love doesn’t just magnify the good — like doubling household income. It can also wreck personal finances.
"Sometimes people marry and not only do they not reap the economic potential… they end up being torpedoed by it," she says. "Bad marriages can be economic landmines."
As such, engaging in best financial practices can help avoid a money-related maiming.
LowestRates.ca’s John Shmuel (the guy getting married) is on the money suggesting couples do best when they have frank discussions about spending, saving, income and debt sooner than later in a deepening relationship. As well, if things get really serious (i.e. moving in together), they should start discussing more long-term financial plans regarding retirement, buying a home and even having kids. Nothing must be written in stone.
But he says these exercises help couples recognize they may have different approaches to money.
Shmuel points to work done by Avni Shah, a University of Toronto professor of behavioural marketing at its Rotman School of Business. Her research found people often fall somewhere along a spectrum running from saver at one end and spender at the other.
"People who are savers psychologically actually hurt when they spend money, and people who are spenders get pleasure from spending," Shmuel adds.
Spenders and savers aren’t incompatible. But knowing yourself and partner in this respect helps you each understand your respective strengths and weaknesses. That awareness leads to better decision-making, says Scott Spence, a financial planner at Second Half Solutions Ltd. in Winnipeg.
Generally what drives us to save or spend too much boils down to SCARF, which stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.
"These are really about our amygdala (the part of our brain that) that addresses fight, flight or freeze."
For example, "we often feel the need for autonomy," says Spence, who is a certified divorce financial analyst.
Conflicts in relationships often crop up when, for example, partners feel they have no control over their financial situation, he adds.
Couples that work together to address SCARF do more than talk.
They put talk into action, including opening a joint bank account.
"The best way to manage your money together is to have a joint account so that if you’re paying rent or a mortgage, both sides are putting in money," Shmuel says.
While tempting to lead separate financial lives, a joint account ensure couples are working toward the same goals.
"It’s a way to leverage the advantages you get from two people combined," Somers says, adding relationships have done "beautifully" too with partners having separate accounts.
But the joint account can further embody intimacy.
This financial closeness reflects togetherness emotionally. And a lack of financial intimacy often points to a relationship’s sore sports.
"When a marriage is in trouble, people stop disclosing," she says.
"There is this mathematical formula that intimacy is this function of vulnerability and disclosure that land on willing ears and hearts."
So if you’re hiding spending, debt or an investment account, or your partner is, Somers says the S.S. Relationship may be lurching toward rocky shores.
"It doesn’t mean the marriage is over," she says. "It means things need attending to."
A therapist suggesting therapy may feels a little self-serving. But Somers offers nutritious food for thought, stating people miss the point balking at the cost of relationship counselling.
"People will often say that they won’t go see a therapist because it’s too costly," she says. "But let me tell you it does not hold a candle to the cost of getting a divorce."