It would make for a blissful life if you and your spouse were totally in tune with each other when it came to spending. Where you both grew up with the same money mindsets and could seamlessly merge your finances together with no compromises and still full of complete respect and trust.
But in the real world, everyone creates a money mindset based on learning from parents and decades of reinforcing the behavior as single adults. And it’s quite likely that you and your spouse won’t be totally in tune with each other financially. If you aren’t married, you can decide if the differences are too great for you to manage. But what if you didn’t find this out until after you tied the knot?
What are your options if you and your spouse are on different ends of the personal finance spectrum? Do you call it quits and throw out the marriage? Of course, not, there are things that you can do to try and move towards the same goal of financial success even if at first glance you are rowing in opposite directions.
1. Keep Open Communication
This best place to start is to take a look at yourself and try to find out how critically far apart you are. Just because you don’t agree it doesn’t mean you can’t work together. And it is a very real possibility that you are not really at odds at all (in the grand scheme of things). So ask yourself a few questions:
- Is there a current/temporary issue that is feeding division between you? For example, you want to focus on debt repayment and he wants to focus on savings. Yes, you may disagree on the finances but it is temporary so take the time to address the issue head-on together so you can formulate a plan. Once the situation is resolved you will be back on track so even if it’s uncomfortable now, you can handle a few weeks or months together while you collectively tackle the problem.
- Is the division due to timing? For example, do you both agree on buying a house, but you would like to wait until you have saved more or gotten more secure at work. In this instance you aren’t really at odds, you just don’t agree on timing. Even further, you might want to think if the situation is time sensitive and do you really need your spouse assistance, or just agreement and support?
- Will this disagreement negatively impact me or the family? Here is where you have to separate yourself from your spouse. He might like to buy shoes, but if he is using his own money after bills are paid, savings deposited and debt is covered to buy them then does it matter that you don’t agree that shoes are a necessity not a luxury?
Once you determine if you have a life-changing, we must have a talk, difference between your financial mindsets, then it’s time to take the conversation to your hunny with grace. Grace is key here. We never ever ever want to discuss finances with our spouse using a condescending ‘let me show you how badly you messed this up’ attitude. They are your spouse, not your pet, so don’t rub their nose in it. It’s about you telling your spouse your concerns about the financial situation and your fears of the impact. Give your spouse time to respond to wait you are saying and listen to their concerns and fears as well. You might learn that you share more than you think, but just have different ways of expressing it.
But if you try to have a conversation with your hunny, and it went less than stellar, then it might be time to bring in the big guns and talk to a financial planner. Getting the employ of an object financial planner can help open the conversation.
2. Set Goals and Rewards
Once you have the conversation with your hunny about your feelings and fears, then it’s time to set some guidelines on how you are going to move forward and possibly agree to disagree. The best start is to set guidelines i.e. understanding what is yours, mine and the family’s. You both decide what goes under each bracket, but community bills and savings usually fall under family. The family finances must be secure at all times – for example, savings account must have $1000 minimum daily balance, the emergency fund must reach 3 months bills and expenses, and all bills must be up to date etc. before any other person-specific spending can be completed. In addition, you may agree on some general guidelines you want to impart, like any purchases under a certain amount are fair game to make without a family discussion. But anything over that requires buy-in from both parties. This allows for buying on how much to spend and save etc. What he does or you do with your share of the finances is completely up to you. You promise to not ‘help’ by telling him how to spend/save, sigh, scoff or dismiss what he does as long as it is within the guidelines you both agreed on.
It’s also a great time to set up rewards for your hard work and good behavior. Rewards are a great way to incentivize you and your spouse to keep to the guidelines that you both agreed to. Especially when old habits like to creep in and tempt you to deviate from your plan.
3. Keep some distance
When it comes to your personal accounts if you differ in financial mindsets then it’s best to keep some things separate from spouse for example: don’t put your personal savings in the family emergency fund savings account. And that counts for your investments too! If your hubby is more risk tolerant, as men usually seem to be, then when you contribute to the family savings, be sure to also use your work 401k, HSA, FSA etc. as opportunities to invest at your own risk level.
The same will go for your spouse so you both can retain autonomy to function as individuals in your relationship. But there is a caveat. If you want the freedom to do as you like, then you own the responsibility to handle the consequences. Debts that are accrued by one individual should be covered by that individual. Family savings aren’t meant to pay the credit card bill for personal expenses, they are mean to cover family emergencies. Of course, this does not hold up in the court of law and debts incurred during the relationship are shared equally in certain states, but it does help to remind you and your partner to spend responsibly.
4. Have money dates
Keep on target with your spouse by having money dates. It’s a great way to get out of the humdrum of the ‘everyday’ activities and conversations and allows you to make a plan to just talk money. If you have it regularly then it won’t be overwhelming or a shock going through the numbers and you can keep up and help each other’s progress with staying on track with the goal.
5. Know when to fold ’em
Sometimes no matter how hard you try you can’t fix a problem because it’s completely out of your control. After all, you are in a relationship with another adult who you can’t force to do or not do anything. If your spouse won’t follow the rules you both agreed to, or you don’t trust their financial judgement or is under the influence of an addiction like gambling etc. then there is only so much you can do to change your situation and it could be best to walk away to save yourself and your family. Only you can choose how far you are on the spectrum and how much help you’ll need.
The bottom line is, this is the real world. And you and your husband might not see eye to eye on finances, but that doesn’t mean you are doomed. With some effort and hard work you could both still pull in the right direction, but if you find it’s too much and the person is ruining your life financially and otherwise, then you have to decide what’s the best plan.