How to Help Your Spouse See You As A Financial Equal

My grandparents fell in love in 1945, when men and women were not considered financial equals.  In the beginning of their marriage, my grandfather handled the money.  As my grandfather would have described the early days, “Every day was a gamble.”  Grandpa could never resist a bet, and a lot of their money was spent on fun and gambling.  When my mother, three aunts and three uncles graced my grandparents with their (very expensive) presences, my grandmother took the financial reins.  From her previous work experience as an insurance clerk in a doctor’s office, Grandma was well-versed budgets, and she was able to raise seven kids on my grandpa’s salary.  Now, looking back on her decision to become the financial family wizard in a time when household finance was a man’s job, my very strong-minded Grandmother says, “I don’t know why I waited so long.  I loved your grandfather dearly, but he was a financial fool!”

These days, it's accepted -- and almost expected -- that men and women will share the financial decisions in relationships. Two heads are nearly always better than one, and if now is the time to discuss financial equality in your relationship, how do you help your spouse see you as an equal?

Know Your Stuff

Nobody gets picked for a team just because they want to be there. Your family budget will only benefit when both of you come to the table with a solid knowledge of financial concepts and constructs as well as a realistic understanding of your current family finances. Nobody can be equal until everyone's on the same page.

If you're lacking in financial knowledge at this point, study up. Read this site, and others, to gain an education on financial themes, then practice by developing some potential paths to financial success to bring up as suggestions with your spouse.

Open Up Lines of Discussion

Opening the lines of communication about money is hard. It doesn't matter how much you love or trust your spouse, if honestly discussing finances hasn't been a part of your lifestyle, broaching the subject can be tricky.  I had trouble suggesting the idea of a joint checking account to my husband, because I felt awkward discussing finances when we were so ingrained in our separate checking habits.  I decided to drop the idea in his lap and return to it after he thought about it.  The secret? Make the experience collaborative rather than adversarial, and work hard at seeing each others' points of view.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Once the subject has been broached, consider setting baselines for making your financial plans together.  We'll discuss many of these in upcoming MomVesting posts, but for now, let’s look at some of the ideas it will be helpful to discuss before making your next budget together:

  • Talk about financial goals: Where do you want to be in 10 years? What big-ticket items are you hoping to purchase or save for? What bad spending habits are you hoping to break?
  • Discuss daily finances: Understand jointly where your money goes on a day-to-day basis -- this can open up the door to a lot of potential savings.
  • Research new financial concepts: Do a little homework on concepts like getting out of debt, establishing retirement accounts, putting your money into CDs and other investments -- whatever fits your lifestyle at the time. Then discuss what you've learned and, together, plan out some next steps.
  • Set financial limits for big ticket items: Many couples have dollar amount limit for purchases that can be made without the others' OK. If you're considering purchasing something that costs more than that limit, it needs to go onto the table for discussion. This is a great way to reign in excessive spending and to keep an eye on potential bad habits.
  • Know your own habits and needs: Take a good, hard look at how much you spend, what you buy, and why. Sometimes a financial journal kept every day for a week or a month can help you to analyze your spending habits.
  • Know where you are willing to cut back: Decide together what needs to be different in order for your financial dreams to come true. There's nothing like having a partner on your side to keep you accountable.
  • Understand your spouse’s need for something you consider wasteful: You probably don't need that pair of leather gloves, and he probably doesn't need that DVD. That said, creature comforts are important to everyone. Remember the golden rule...

Build a Concrete Plan

Once you and your spouse have discussed your financial goals and some basics for building a budget, it is time to lay out your financial plan.  Luckily, there are a lot of budget tools available, like Quicken and Moneydance, and personal financial accounting is not as difficult as it used to be.  What's hard about this -- as you've already discovered many times in your relationship, I'm sure -- is the whole "compromise" and "respect" part! ;-)

What are your secrets for finding financial equality in your relationship?

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Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Thu, 11/11/2010 - 05:05 Comment #: 1

Great write up on getting on the same financial page. We are mostly in sync on the list you have, but my wife is just a bit behind on all the investment concepts. I started my blog so she can come up to speed on ROTH 401k, IRA, bond and other investment concepts. She is our chief editor so she has to read everything. :)

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 11/11/2010 - 13:34 Comment #: 2

Thanks for the compliment, retirebyforty! Great idea to create a blog together to teach each other and others about financial concepts. I wish you both the best of luck!

Anonymous's picture

Weekend Reading: Riding the roller coaster | Invest It Wisel wrote:

Sat, 11/13/2010 - 12:47 Comment #: 3

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Anonymous's picture

Weekend Reading 11/13/2010 — Dividend Monk wrote:

Sat, 11/13/2010 - 15:47 Comment #: 4

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Anonymous's picture

Welcome to the Best of Money Carnival #77 | Northern Cheapsk wrote:

Mon, 11/15/2010 - 13:43 Comment #: 5

[...] How to Help Your Spouse See You as a Financial Equal at Momvesting. Solid advice for helping you talk about money with your significant [...]

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 11/15/2010 - 20:21 Comment #: 6

Thanks for the kudos and references to this post on other sites!

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