Having money conversations with your spouse can be difficult for lots of reasons, and the reality is, many of us don’t have a lot of practice holding these types of conversations.
When Samantha and I were first married, she let me do my own thing with our money. She trusted me. That sounds great, right? The problem came when I wanted her input on decisions. I’d get frustrated that she had no opinion, and she’d get frustrated with feeling stupid in regards to money.
Two adjustments led to us breaking this cycle:
- We each owned parts of our budget
- We created a rhythm of regular money discussions
Now, having regular money discussions with your spouse may sound horrible. I know it did for us. Why would we voluntarily increase the frequency of our arguments?! But here is the key: most money discussions are not actually about money.
We created a five-part framework that we believe will help you have better money discussions with your spouse. The framework consists of:
- Understand each other’s background
- Put together a plan
- Commit to the plan
- Schedule regular check-ins
- Revise the plan as needed
The goal with this framework is to create a once-a-year check-in with your spouse where you walk through this whole framework and then have regular meetings throughout the year where you check in on your goals. As you’ll see, most of the questions or discussions in the annual check-in are not money-related. To have better money discussions, you and your spouse have to first align on your goals and aspirations.
These types of discussions are key to helping improve your financial life.
In Part 1 of this discussion, we’ll look at steps 1 and 2. In Part 2, we’ll address 3-5.
In the future, we’ll do a deep dive on each of these, so please stay tuned in!
Understanding each other’s background
For both Samantha and I, we were fortunate to grow up in families where we had good money examples. But even with that support and teaching, what our parents told us and what we took away are not always the same.
To get to the bottom of a person’s relationship with money, you have to understand where each of you came from and how that has impacted the way you approach money today.
In our case, Samantha always relied on her dad to handle money in their family. When she married me, that naturally continued. This perpetuated her thought process that she didn’t need to exert any time or effort in further educating herself on budgeting, investing, or savings.
However, I wanted a partner to support me in these decisions, and unknowingly, she wasn’t providing what I needed or wanted.
This created stress in our money conversations. Once we unpacked our financial backgrounds and acknowledged it, it allowed each of us to better support the other.
I went out of my way to teach her instead of talking at her. She intentionally educated herself and took ownership of different parts of the budget.
Your journey might not be easy, but it’s essential that you fight through the difficulty. A good relationship with money is essential to a good relationship with your spouse.
Put together a plan
Once you understand each other’s background, it’s important that you come up with a plan. There are a few questions that are helpful in this:
- What is important to us?
- What are our non-negotiables?
- Where can we cut back?
These questions help establish boundaries for each person in the relationship. For example, I could think that Netflix is non-negotiable but Samantha could think it is a waste. Both are valid opinions to consider. Understanding how each person answers will help you know how and when you’re pushing the other’s buttons. It’s important to be willing to listen and sacrifice when needed.
A key for us is that each of us owns a piece of the plan. You may not be the “money” person of the relationship, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to ignore the financial health of your family. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to money. When you own part of the plan, it sets you up as a true partnership. Maybe it’s handling the mail. Maybe it’s filing. Maybe it’s the groceries or housing. Whatever portion you’re in charge of, really own it and see how it will help you build confidence.
I want to let you in on a secret: budgeting and managing money is not that hard. A finance degree or high money IQ is not required. If you believe you can’t do it, you’ve already created a limiting belief. A healthy mindset open to learning is all that is needed to set your family on a better financial path.
Closing thoughts: do the work
We have money and our budget built up in our heads. The reality is, it takes consistent work. But also, anyone can do it. Be willing to have the deep conversation with your spouse and put together a plan.
This will change your life and the future of your family.