How to Get Your Spouse Involved in Managing Your Finances

How to Get Your Spouse Involved in Managing Your Finances

If you’re the one managing the finances, tracking the expenses and mapping out your family’s financial plan, you deserve a lot of credit. But I’m sure there are times when you wish your spouse was more involved. First, because it takes time to steer the money ship and it’s only fair to share that burden. And second, because it’s nice to know your spouse could take over in case you get run over, or suffer any similar fate.

You’ve worked hard to build a strong financial foundation and credit rating. You want to make sure your spouse doesn’t ruin your finances or trash your credit score regardless of what happens to you. That being said, you might be asking yourself how to handle money talks with your honey.

This is a situation that I’m very familiar with. My wife “allowed” me to do the financial management for years. She didn’t know how to pay the bills online, update the budget, or invest our savings to create retirement income.

This bugged me. I wanted her to be a co-pilot rather than a passenger. This was really important to me, because I know what it’s like to be in a home where the financial decision maker gets taken out of the picture prematurely. Even though my wife was very hesitant at first, we’ve made a ton of progress. We’re not there yet, but well on the way. Here’s what happened:

1. I cried like a schoolboy

I got this idea from George Costanza (Seinfield). He wanted to get his fiancé to do something she didn’t want to do (delay the wedding) so he started crying – and it worked. I figured that if George can do it so can I.

I didn’t really cry, but I did tell her how important it was to me that she be able to run the family’s financial affairs. I really opened up and told her my feelings. By doing so, she recognized that I wasn’t trying to control her. I was genuinely interested in making sure the family would be taken care of in case of unforeseen emergencies. When she understood that, she become more willing to take an active part.

2. We started slow

I was on my own financially when I was 17. I have a degree in accounting, and I have been a professional financial advisor for more than 25 years. In other words, I have a lot of knowledge and experience. I couldn’t expect her to step into the role of financial manager overnight. I introduced one hurdle at a time. I didn’t move on until she was comfortable with a given step.

3. We developed a plan

I created a detailed financial plan that really has two parts. The first part of the plan is a retirement projection. What we’ll have 10 and 15 years from now based on certain assumptions.

The assumptions include a savings goal. I’ve explained that we must hit our annual savings number in order to reach our ultimate retirement dream. Seeing this plan really helped my wife view spending money completely differently. She has never been a spend thrift but none-the-less, seeing the big picture really put spending in perspective.

The second part of the plan is really an emergency continuity plan. What to do if…

That includes a detailed discussion of life insurance, spending, savings, social security spousal benefits, college funding, trusts, wills, etc. I created a list of what to do and when to do it. I included who to contact, who to ask to step in as financial planner, and a general discussion of what assets we have and how to use those assets to replace my income.

As you can imagine, these two sections cover a lot of material. It’s a reference that we’ll have to revisit many times. Each time we do, she’ll get a better understanding of the entire picture and how each of the moving parts works.

4. I handed the budgeting over

I went over how to use the software to track our spending. Then, I asked my wife to be in charge of updating the budget each month. She’s been doing a fantastic job at it. An unforeseen benefit is that by her being so involved with the budget, it’s impacted how she views spending.

5. Entering uncharted territory

There are areas we have yet to work on, and that’s okay. As time goes on, we’ll get there. As new issues come up, we discuss them. The main point is that finances are no longer a mystery to my wife. That empowers both of us.

Is your spouse up to speed? Could he or she take over managing the finances at home? Are you anxious about turning over the reigns?

12 Responses to “How to Get Your Spouse Involved in Managing Your Finances”

  1. Anonymous

    You download your bank file with no passwords given out.
    Check their site out and see if it fits your needs. I paid $15 and looks like it will work for us many years to come. Also, my wife is now into tracking and making our savings goals which is definately cool!

  2. Anonymous

    Jerry,
    Try bank2budget. They have a 90 day free trial. Check to insure they interface with your bank already although their is an option to register your bank with them so they can configure the upload. The installation is a little clunky but I find it very instrumental in tracking our cash flow. Now we spend about 2 hours a month paying bills and keeping our expenses/revenues tracked and measured.
    Good luck, Steve

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Noah,
    We are needing affordable software that allows categorization and monthly summary of bank transactions. Also it would be nice to measure our summary totals against a National standard (what is the normal amount we should be spending) and show the =/- net. Can we ask one more thing? 🙂 We find it helpful to add personal data to these bank transactions such as a RX purchase we want to add the name or names of the medicine so we can record helpful information to use in the future (ie: adverse reactions etc). Of course having charts and tables customizable to us would be nice.
    Anyone know of software available?

  4. Anonymous

    @Jerry

    What are your requirements for the software?

    Some other paid options are Quicken, Quickbooks, or Microsoft Money.

    A free option is Mint.com, which will automatically pull in all transactions from your bank(s).

  5. Anonymous

    How can I budget easy? I failed at manual entry spreadsheets and keeping up with my bank account transactions is what I need. Any software out there that is affordable and able to import my bank transactions? That would be the way I would be able to keep up and trend what in the world is going on with my spending.
    Thanks everyone.

  6. Anonymous

    @Chris, I can sympethize with you. I’ve been married for 2.5 years and I feel like my wife still spends too much. It doesn’t help that we are both working (no children) and that my job has been good to us financially. I think the important overall goal is that you see savings increase. If you are going more and more into debt every month, address that first. I am comforted that i can see our savings increase even though I think we could do better. One thing I’ve started doing is sitting my wife down once a week for a quick budgeting session using YNAB. It’s simple to use and intuitive. I’ve also started giving her choices, such as “we can either take a small vacation or you can spend less on your hair and we can take a larger vacation.” This allows her into the decision making process without getting too involved with the mundane details. It also allows her to see consequences of her spending.

  7. Anonymous

    My wife is fully on board, but getting her to actually change her behavior has been the problem. We’ve been married about 10 months now and things are getting better but we’re still spending too much.

  8. Anonymous

    We plan together, but I do the grunt-work: I pay the bills, balance the books, etc. This is mainly because when we were both doing it, only half of it got done, so we decided I would take it over and he would take over the laundry 🙂

    I’m not sure he knows how to pay the bills online, but we still get paper statements for almost all of them anyway.

  9. Anonymous

    I’ve been trying to get my husband more involved but he’s VERY reluctant.

    One thing we did do was create a visual aid. Specifically, we bought a bulletin board and I have different colored index cards. On each card is one of our accounts (Checking, my savings, his savings, CC, etc) and on the back of the card, it has the bank, the account #, what we use the account for, and whos name is on the account. I also included cards for our debt (My student loan and our mortgage). I also made sure he’s a beneficiary on any account he’s not a joint owner on.

    I like the idea of a retirement plan, but we’re both in school right now so I think that’ll be better off waiting until we have a better idea of our financial state (we do contribute to a Roth though).

    I also like the emergency contingency plan and should probably work on one of those for our family as well.

    Finally, I admire that you were willing to give up control of the monthly budget to your wife and that she was willing to that on that responsibility. My husband refuses to touch it and threatens going to a cash only life if I try to make him (obviously not possible with all the bills, retirement contributions, etc).

    But a good synopsis of what you’ve done and hopefully it’ll help me to slowly bring my husband around to the mantra “finances are good to share”.

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