This is a guest article by Neal Frankle. Neal is a Certified Financial Planner and blogs at Wealth Pilgrim. Neal writes about taking action steps to improve clients’ financial situations and finding balance at the same time.
I’ve often wondered if the posts we write about personal finance are getting into the hands of the people who need them most.
You already know the importance of tracking your budget, having enough life insurance and having your financial house in order.
But what if your spouse doesn’t understand these things? Worse, what if he doesn’t even want to hear about it? What do you do then?
Do you want to know the single greatest indicator of a couple’s future financial success? It’s when both partners being on the same page.
When they aren’t, it’s like a time bomb waiting to explode. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or earn. If you don’t generally agree on the importance of saving, investing, budgeting, insurance, etc., you’re facing an uphill climb.
Here are 5 steps you can take to get your spouse on your team:
1. Be clear about your motives.
Let me clarify this by way of example: I’m a CFP with a degree in accounting. I love taking care of the money and my wife is only too happy to assign that task to me.
But I also come from a home where neither of my parents did any long-term planning. They didn’t follow a budget. They didn’t save and they didn’t plan. When they both died while I was in high-school, my life became a nightmare.
I refuse to subject my kids to that same risk. That’s why I want my wife to be able to step in and take over should something take me out.
My motive is fear, fear of what would happen if the unthinkable took place. I’ve discussed this with my wife and she gets it. Before I told her what about my fears, she just thought I was being silly since I had the professional and educational background to take care of the finances. Now she realizes it’s not that simple.
Your motives might be very different than mine. You might want your spouse to get on track because he’s derailing your finances. He might be spending too much or he might not be tracking his spending. What are your fears around that? Are you afraid you’ll never get out of debt? Are you worried about retiring? What is your motive?
Be honest with yourself and your partner. If you have a solid relationship, your spouse will be more willing to get out of his comfort zone and take action. Your honesty will also be an invitation to your spouse to be honest about his own financial motives and behavior. That’s the kind of conversation you’re looking for.
2. Discuss what money means to you.
When you think about money, why is it important to you? What are your dreams? How does money facilitate those dreams? How does your behavior get you closer to or further away from those things you want most in life?
Share your thoughts and get your spouse to share his thoughts too.
3. Fess up.
Admit how your own financial behavior gets in your way sometimes. Admit to your own mistakes. Are you too controlling? Are you living in fear?
When you open up, encourage your spouse to open up too. By calling yourself out first, it should make him feel more comfortable to do the same.
4. Get together.
Work out an action plan with a time table. Break down your goals to bite size, manageable mini-goals. If you need $3000 to pay off the credit card and you want to get it paid off in 10 months, work out a plan to save $300 each month. Write down how you, as a team, are going to get this done.
5. Be accountable.
Of all the steps I’ve listed, having an accountability partner is the most important. Go to someone you both trust and share your plan with that person. Make a commitment to provide progress reports to your accountability partner every month.
What makes this step so powerful is that you take off your hat as the bad guy. Hopefully, you both make commitments to your accountability partner and you each have responsibilities. You’re not the one your spouse has to answer to. This takes a lot of the pressure off and it’s also a powerful motivator to get things done.
If you and your spouse are not on the same page financially, you’re going to struggle in areas and waste energy. I know that it’s not easy to deal with a spouse that doesn’t see things the way you do. But if your spouse agrees to go through this process (and be completely honest each step of the way) I know you’ll be much further down the road to financial success.
Have you used any of these steps? Did it help? What was the eventual outcome?
Published or updated July 2, 2010.