Relationships and Finances: How to Encourage Your Partner's Interest in Finance

Recently in our Relationships and Finances series, we discussed Learning About Finance Together. This post touched on how you and your spouse can develop a great financial relationship based on self-education and learning together. However, we only touched on what you can do personally if you have not yet developed your financial muscles, not on how to encourage your spouse to become financially fit. So, if it's your spouse who's the rookie in the game of finance, what should you do?

Encourage an Interest

First, if you are seeking a financial partnership in your marriage and your spouse is less than enthusiastic about being involved, peaking his/her interest is the best way to establish a base for your partnership. This, though, can be difficult to accomplish. Some people are simply more laissez faire about finances than others. However, some tactics may work, so let's look at a few ideas:

  • Set a Fun Goal. If you set a large goal (like a two million dollar retirement goal) or a fun goal (like saving for a big screen TV), your partner may be more inclined to pay attention to finances. Who wouldn't sit up and pay attention when their partner says, "Let's purchase two seats on the first citizen trip to the moon"? (By the way, rumors about the price of those lunar-vacay tickets are $100,000...each!)
  • Scare the Bojangles Out of Your Spouse. Another way to encourage involvement is to scare your spouse into financial submission. I think this tactic should be used only in severe cases, but it can be effective. Simply citing statistics about the price of retirement, the projected cost of your children's education and the amount of money wasted on interest over the course of the average credit card balance can bring your partner some insight into the ideas of financial mastery.
  • Lay Out Your Financial Plan and Ask for Input. If your partner still shows no interest in finances, it may be up to you to establish a financial plan. From there, you can request your spouse's collaboration to fine-tune areas of the budget. Giving your partner some say in the finances can at least help you agree on (and hopefully stick to) a joint budget, even if it was not a joint effort.

Check In

Whether or not you succeeded in encouraging your spouse to join you in a financial partnership, it is important to check in with each other financially. This means that if you are tangoing together to the music of ka-chings and adding machine paper feeds, you need to be on the same page. But even those who travel through a partnership without joining finances also need to communicate.

Checking in can be as simple as asking how your husband is coming on paying down his credit cards or how much your wife has contributed to her IRA. Or it can be as complex as drawing up a plan for the separate finances. Whatever the case, talking finances occasionally can help cement a partnership and a plan, even if the nitty-gritty details of financial planning are separate.

However, checking in can put some partners on edge. For example, if your partner has had financial difficulty in the past, especially if the past financial mishaps caused a strain in your relationship, it may be difficult for him to see your check ins as friendly rather than judgmental. In these cases, be sure to approach your partner with tact and sensitivity.

Be Open to Future Contributions

Even if your spouse decides at this moment that a financial partnership is not in the cards, things can change quickly. Maybe that bundle of joy you planned for ten years down the road arrives early, or possibly one of you loses your job. In any case, sometimes life changes (or just personal revelations) can encourage a laissez faire partner to take part in the financial planning.

It is therefore important to be open to your partner joining the ranks of finance co-captain. Even if the promotion to captain is late in the game, allowing your partner to participate in the finances you may have directed for so long will often improve your relationship and your finances. Two heads are nearly always better than one.

As you approach your partner about participating in joint finances, it is important to attempt to intrigue a non-interested party through creative tactics like goals, scary statistics or input requests. Checking in with your partner in a non-threatening way can also be a great way to encourage your non-participating spouse to join. Most important, allowing your partner to join the financial fun at a later date can set you on the path to an improved partnership – financially and emotionally.

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Anonymous's picture

Ravi Gupta wrote:

Wed, 04/13/2011 - 12:19 Comment #: 1

Great article! I got my current partner involved in finance by telling her how if an emergency came up she had no way to pay for it. It's easy going right now and I didn't ask her to save 90% right away. So far she seems receptive to the idea and marvels at the size of her bank account. Who knew finances could be so tough?

-Ravi Gupta

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 04/13/2011 - 15:48 Comment #: 2

Ravi, great job getting your partner interested! It's a tough cookie to crumble sometimes, but I like how your GF is interested in the ever-increasing size of her bank account -- that's a great way to stay motivated!

Anonymous's picture

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 3

[...] you have a spouse who is reluctant to discuss finances? Here are thoughts on how to encourage your partner to take [...]

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