I am ashamed to say that my wife told me the other day that she doesn’t know what a mutual fund is. This stemmed from a brief discussion about where to invest $1,000 that we had collected from our 8-year-old son’s birthday and Christmas money. My wife is a big fan of certificates of deposit. They are her safety blanket, and all she knows about investing.
Of course, I was appalled. I was not only mortified at her investment choices but also at my own inability to educate her over the past ten years of marriage in the topics of my chosen profession.
I realized that part of my problem has been my poor communication skills. Like many couples in America, my wife and I are very different in the way that we think about, handle, and approach our personal finances. It starts to get even murkier when we discuss our combined efforts. My wife has very little experience with, love for, or interest in personal finance, investing, or money management.
Don’t get me wrong, she does care about our retirement and our overall financial wellbeing, but she is not as passionate about the subject as I am, and doesn’t want to be bothered with the details. So, it is very hard to include her in our family’s financial planning. Below are four ways that you can try to include your spouse in the financial planning for your family.
Have a monthly finance meeting
Having a family meeting about your personal finances is one of the most important tools that you can use to include both spouses in the financial planning and decision-making process. This should not be a one-sided meeting, but rather a family money talk and discussion.
Your monthly meeting should cover items such as where your family currently stands financially, what your net worth is, which investments have grown or shrunk, etc. You should also review your financial goals, discuss any financial challenges, and refine or reconfirm your short and long-term financial plan.
Set goals as a family
Your family should have both long-term and short-term financial goals, and you should set those goals together with your spouse. Take some time separately to write down both short and long-term goals, and then come back together to share and discuss each otherâ€™s goals. You may find out things about your spouse that you never knew were important to him or her.
For example, you may learn that your spouse finds it very important to leave your family home to your children after you both die. If you do not know your joint financial goals as a family, it will be hard to ensure that your family’s financial plan is heading in the right direction.
Develop systems for saving and investing
Do you have a monthly written budget that your family sticks to when spending? How do you handle large purchases? Do you have a certain amount of money that you can spend without having to discuss the purchase with each other? Many families set a spending limit of (say) $100 or $250 without having to check with each other. For others, the limit is much lower. The key is to find a number that works for you.
You should also find a budgeting system that works for your family. Should you use the envelope budgeting system to control your spending every month? My wife and I actually use credit cards to manage our monthly budget, and pay off the balance every month.
See a financial planner together
Another great way to involve a spouse that has no interest in financial planning is to solicit the help of a professional. Not only will a certified financial planner be able to develop a comprehensive financial plan for your family based on both spouses’ financial goals, but the financial advisor will also be able to properly educate both of you on your investment options.
A financial planner can be a teammate that helps you explain things to a spouse who may need extra help with certain financial concepts. There is also a neutrality that the financial planner brings to the table. You could tell your spouse something a hundred times, but it may not click until it is heard coming from a neutral party who is an expert in that field.
Do you, or your spouse, care more about the day-to-day finances in your family? Do you have trouble including your spouse in your family’s financial planning? How do you approach your finances as a couple?