A reader recently shared the following dilemma:
I really liked the financial sheet you created and was very excited to continue with it. However, I’ve wanted my husband to learn it as well since he is the big spender. He refuses to learn it and my health is deteriorating more and more every day. Every time I even mention the expenses, it bothers him and he seems to become very upset.
I don’t know how to get him involved in the finances of our home.
Our reader is not alone; many husbands and wives share her frustration. Hopefully, this article will help engage those detached spouses in their family finances.
1. Ask for a financial meeting.
Your starting point is to ask your spouse to agree to discuss family finances. Be ready for some resistance – after all, your spouse, who has likely heard your frustrations before, would probably expect more of the same in such a meeting. You should therefore promise to keep this meeting short – say fifteen minutes – and readily apologize for any nagging, pleading or whining you have been guilty of. At the same time, emphasize how important working together on family finances is to you. How do you plan for this meeting? These ideas should help:
2. Explain the benefits of working together.
If your spouse views budgets as straitjackets which confine, restrict and suffocate, you need to emphasize the positive aspects of working together on your finances.
Men: Your wives may need the security of having an emergency fund, so say, “Just think how much peace we would have if we knew we would always be ready for any emergency.”
Wives: Because many men view money as a scorecard, you might say, “I have done the math, and I believe we could save $10,000 in the next 18 months if we get started now.”
The benefits of managed money are many: less stress, more vacations, great retirement plans, and simply the joy of working together for a common goal. In fact, just as money problems create marriage problems, working together to solve those money problems will create a great marriage. You wives may even tell your husband how romantic the thought of mutual money management is to you. At any rate, if you can get your spouse to agree to these benefits, you have accomplished a huge goal.
Now would be a good time to plan another meeting so you two can actually dig into your family finances. This meeting may take an hour or more, so be sure you have realistic expectations when you schedule it.
3. Dig in and work on a budget.
It is time to work on a budget, so be sure to have some budget forms or spreadsheets ready. Ideally you could discuss each expenditure together as you create this budget, but if your spouse simply hates numbers, don’t torment them. Offer to prepare the budget yourself with this caveat: your spouse must agree to go over it with you and change at least one item. Why? Because making changes will not only give an element of ownership to the budget, but will also send your spouse the message that you are not a control freak.
Once this budget is complete and once your spouse has made at least one change, you both need to commit to actually living on this plan. At this point, you need to agree to meet each month to review how things are going. These ongoing meetings should not take longer than 15 minutes.
4. Plan ongoing financial meetings.
Budgets very seldom work the first month you try them, so be prepared to make some changes remembering that more expenditures means less savings or debt reduction. When both of you agree to the changes, recommit to this amended budget. Plan next month’s meeting now because if you don’t, you will both tend to forget. In fact, plan to meet the same time and day every month. Write it on your calendars and, just as you would any other meeting, reschedule if a conflict arises.
Although the above steps are essential for involving your spouse in your family finances, the following tips will also help:
5. Keep your expectations reasonable.
Your spouse may never get as fired up as you are about achieving financial freedom, so don’t feel you failed if they don’t share your exuberance. Here’s the deal: If you are both on the same road headed the same direction (even if you are different places on that road) you have succeeded.
6. Share some great books or blogs.
If your spouse is a reader, feed that inclination with some good material. After all, many spouses are more prone to listen to a third party expert than their mate. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and, of course, ChristianPF are great starting places.
7. Never forget that you are on the same team.
Money represents values, so when these discussions become testy, think of them as opportunities to learn more about what is really important to your spouse. In so doing, you will learn to love them even more. After all, even when you disagree, you are still on the same team.
8. Consider financial counseling.
It may be that the two of you need a third party to help you sort things out, create a plan, and hold you accountable to that plan. Try connecting with a Christian Financial Counselor who has tons of experience in helping couples become financial teams.
9. If you strike out, insist on marriage counseling.
If your spouse absolutely refuses to discuss finances with you, you don’t have a money problem – you have a marriage problem. At this point, ask – or perhaps insist – that the two of you meet with a marriage counselor.
I hope these thoughts will not only help you and your spouse become great financial teammates, but also great marriage partners. I wish you much success!
Have you (or your spouse) ever been totally uninvolved in family finances? What factors were instrumental in getting the two of you on the same page? What other suggestions do you have for getting the uninvolved spouse to participate? Leave a comment!