Do you talk finances with your spouse? No? Well, you should. As awkward as it maybe, it is so important to have regular discussions over your financial situation.
Now, I know this might be tough if there is a dark cloud over your finances, and may cause disagreements, but sweeping it under the rug only makes it worse. I assume there is some sort of discussion related to this subject, but is it a quick “honey, did you pay the rent?” or is it a full-on conversation related to goal setting, where you are at, where you want to be, and the steps you are taking to get there? There is a HUGE difference. Don’t get me wrong, you can still ask if the rent is paid but having the actual in-depth discussion behind that question is what is so important.
Finances are one of the biggest causes of divorce in the US. I don’t mean to be a Debby downer, but it is a fact. By having these discussions and putting the work into creating a successful financial future, this can help you to avoid being in that statistic.
To make this a little less awkward, I have some tips to help lighten the load:
- Icebreaker: That initial conversation is probably going to be the toughest to start. Make it comfortable. Schedule a time to sit down to a nice dinner or get in your pjs and talk money with pizza. Anything to make the situation more relaxed. Try to start by discussing the positives of your finances. Maybe you saved an extra $300 this month, or you raised your 401k contribution, literally anything positive. Doing this can help get you both in a good mood. If there is nothing positive to start off with, maybe bring in a solution to an issue. Say you have a massive medical bill due this month, instead of just looking at the fact that you are going to spend a ton of money that maybe you do not have, look on the bright side that at least after this month you won’t have that bill and you can put that money into savings next month. Get creative and try to keep the mood light. The discussion will be more productive if you are both happy.
- Do not lie: This is probably THE most important tip I can share. Hiding items related to money is the easiest way to cause an argument and create issues. It is so much better to get everything out into the open so together you can take the steps to make it right. No matter how embarrassing it is, or how big of a burden it may be, you are in this together. In my opinion, I would much rather hear the bad news up front and work through it than be lied to about it as the problem is getting much bigger. Be open and communicate the issues. This is so important.
- Use tools: There are so many resources out there to help you reach your financial goals. From budgeting websites, spreadsheets, templates, books, the list goes on and on. Find a tool that works best for you and your spouse. If you budget monthly and like apps there are sites such as Mint or Everydollar. If you budget weekly and like to have a paper copy, maybe you find a spreadsheet that you can fill in. Anything to help make it easier. This can also help make future conversations a breeze to get through. On top of that, you will visually be able to see how you are doing and stay on track.
- Make goals: By setting financial goals you and your spouse will have something to work towards. Instead of waiting for the next paycheck to blow on food- guilty, say you made a goal to pay off your car 1 year quicker, now you have a purpose for the money that betters your future. These goals can be short term or long term, or even better a mix of both. Consider writing these down somewhere, your phone, computer, notebook, etc. Being able to see them will help make it harder to give up on them. Make sure they are goals you both agree on and benefit you both.
- Make a plan and stick to it: Whether this is a budget, or a 5- year plan, make a plan. Discussing what you want to achieve and talking about how to get there is a great step, but really getting down deep and planning everything out will help you realize what you have to look forward to, what you can do right now, or where you are making mistakes. If you do not have a basic household budget yet, that might be a good place to start. Find a way that works best with your pay schedules and stick to the budget. From there, start making a longer-term plan. For example: In 5 years you and your spouse are going to build a house and to get there, year 1 you are going to cut the amount you eat out in half every month and put that money into savings, year 2 you are going to do so and so…and year 3 and 4 and so on until you build the house. Hang your plan on your fridge and talk about it frequently. Keep your budget, or plan in front of you so you can keep each other accountable if one of you starts to fall of track. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Hopefully these tips help you and your spouse start the conversation for your financial future. Talking about money does not have to be awkward. If you take the time to create a more relaxed environment and discuss the positive things you have or can do, in my experience, it helps so much. This is the person you are stuck with forever, make sure you are both on the right page to have a successful future!
Author: Dakota Otis