It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We had dinner in the crockpot, our baby had just gone down for a nap, and I was putting a puzzle together with our older daughter. My husband was in the next room.
“What’s this $150 bill from Zappos?” he called out.
“It’s a pair of boots, my old winter boots had a hole in them,” I replied.
A few minutes pass. . .
“$75 at Pottery Barn?” came the next question.
“I think it was for that new rug in the entryway?” I said.
“And there’s also about 5 Target visits on this month’s credit card. Why did you go so much?” he asked.
I got up, fed up over the third degree back-and-forth, stomp over, and ask to see the statement so I can go through it myself.
That is how my husband and I discussed money for years. I was the one responsible for buying things for the house, gifts for kids’ birthday parties, and clothing items for rapidly growing children. I was not good at keeping receipts, tracking these expenses, or discussing them with my husband. We did not have a monthly budget beyond what we expected to pay for our mortgage, electricity, and internet. Every time my husband questioned something I had bought, I felt like he was on the offense and I was on the defense. It irritated me. We both worked, we both earned, and I didn’t like having my spending questioned.
I realize we are probably not alone. Friends will joke about intercepting Amazon deliveries from the front step before their husbands get home! But, as we’ve now discovered, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can change the conversation and have open and honest money talks with your spouse!
Why is it a tough topic?
Chances are, you and your spouse have had different experiences with money up to this point. Your parents probably handled money differently than you do now. One of you may be a spender and the other a saver. One of you may have taken the lead on tracking receipts and paying bills. Men and women also value money differently.
Start off the conversation with an independent writing exercise. What are your financial goals and fears? Do you anticipate needing a new car soon? Do you want to partially or fully fund college for your children? Would you like to set money aside to buy some new clothes next month? Would you feel better having more money in the bank? The goals can be short or long-term. Writing them down will ensure you are prepared for conversations to come.
The next step is to make a money date with your spouse. You can do it at home with a cocktail by the computer or at a favorite restaurant with your laptop! During this conversation, you need to be truthful, non-judgmental, and not accusatory with one another.
Best-selling money author Rachel Cruze suggests some good ways to get the conversation rolling:
- Share your money story. How was money handled in your household growing up? How did that shape your attitude today?
- Share gratitude. What do you consider your money “successes?”
- Share your fears. Broach the subject by saying, “My biggest financial fear is…”
- Share your dreams. Here is where you share the goals you came up with during your writing exercise.
- Share your attitude about giving. Is it a priority for you? Who or what do you want to be generous with?
- Share your appreciation for grace. Begin by saying, “When I make a money mistake, I love it when you…”
You may not get through all of these questions in one sitting. But, it will hopefully give you an opportunity to really listen to your spouse and start to see things from their point of view.
Putting it into practice
Now that you’ve discussed things together, now you can plan together. What will it take to reach your goals? What needs to change to achieve them? Work together to develop some ways you can help the others’ dreams become reality, and consider what you can change to alleviate some of the fears.
But, what if your spouse is still disconnected and doesn’t want to talk about it? Sometimes, even if you try to handle it respectfully, your spouse still checks out and declines to participate in money matters. If this is the case, you still have some options. Focus on yourself and what you can do to reach your goals. Try to talk about what you’re doing and your approach, without being accusatory or critical of the other person. And, it may help to bring in a third party in the form of a marriage counselor or financial advisor. Our staff at Compass Financial Services can help you with those conversations if you’re at a stalemate. We’ve advised many couples through the years who have had very differing views of money and how to handle it, and offered specific strategies and suggestions. At Compass, our ultimate purpose is to create a safe place where clients are valued, heard, and respected. We will work together with you to help pursue your dreams. If you need help starting or continuing the conversation with your spouse, Contact Us today or give us a call at (515) 327-1020.