Finances – Do it Together

Are you the “numbers” person in your family? You enjoy math so doing the budget each month is fun for you. It’s easier for you to manage it, so you take that responsibility, to help your spouse who finds it stressful.

Or, perhaps you’re the spender of the family? You enjoy shopping a little too much, so doing a budget is frustrating for you. It’s easier to let your spouse take care of it and ask him/her to give you a limit on what you can spend each month?

It is very kind of you or your spouse to manage the finances every month for the household, for any reason. However, I have to warn you that it isn’t beneficial or healthy at all.

I’ve heard this story too many times:

The husband manages the finances. He pays all of the bills and makes sure there’s some money going into savings each month. He tells the wife how much they can spend on groceries, clothing, etc. based on their income. They are a well-oiled system, and everything runs smoothly.

Suddenly, the husband has a heart-attack and passes away. On top of dealing with her grief, the wife is overwhelmed with all the government paperwork, funeral plans, and changing everything over to her name. The initial care of everyone fades as the month goes on, and then the sick reality hits her. She has no idea how to manage her finances. She doesn’t know when to pay the utility bills or even how. She tries to track the investment accounts her husband had for them, but doesn’t know which ones she can take from without being taxed on (if she even knows that will happen). She knows the amounts her husband allocated towards the common household needs, such as groceries, but without his income, she doesn’t know if that number is still accurate or not.

In her grief-stricken state, she could go one of two ways: Spend frivolously on a bunch of stuff she doesn’t need because she’s stressed, accepting spam calls thinking they’re really the bank or loan companies calling, looking for payment. Or, she might fear she’s poor and be afraid to spend anything.

It sounds drastic, but it’s reality. It’s like teaching a child the basics of finances all over again. When you don’t do something for a long time, you can lose the basic skills required for it, because your brain says it wasn’t important anymore and makes room for other things.

The other danger of only one spouse handling the finances is that it can create tension in a marriage. The one not handling the finances may know how much income the two of you are bringing in and feel like you both have lots. He’ll buy whatever he wants, not paying attention to the household expenses because he thinks everything is fine. Meanwhile, his wife is stressed because even though they may make a decent wage together, it’s gone before the end of every month.

There is an easy solution to this. Do your finances together.  Have conversations about it at least once a month. Don’t just explain which companies your utilities are with, which companies you’re indebted to, and which ones you’ve invested in. No, go through it all, every single month. Let your spouse see the numbers. Explain the income you have coming in and when. Show him/her the budget, track your expenses so you both know where you’ve spent the money, and see if you have anything left at the end of the month. (We’ll teach you how to budget next month, to make sure you’re learning how to save instead of living paycheck to paycheck.)

This will be a tough conversation at first, especially if it’s your first time having it. Be patient with each other, and give lots of grace. Take it slow and explain everything as basically as you can. The more you do it together, the easier it will get, and the faster you’ll get at it too. It doesn’t have to be a lesson every time; just at the beginning until your spouse starts to understand the concepts.

Both spouses understanding your finances is motivating. You’ll have peace knowing your spouse will be informed with what to do if one of you passes away. You can resist overspending on things you don’t really need/want, and can learn to work as a team, becoming united towards goals you want to achieve together.

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