According to an American Express survey, 91 Percent of Couples Find Reasons to Avoid Talking About Finances; only 43 Percent Discussed Money Before Marriage.
We all know communication is key to a happy marriage – especially communication about money. But where do you start? I thought I’d share my system for keeping my spouse in the loop on our personal finances. This is one part of how we stay on the same page with money. I hope it’s helpful!
As a precursor to this, I’ll mention some foundational things to consider when working to have a great marriage, financially. Marriage is a team sport. You can’t be a great team if one person does everything. I believe both spouses should have at least some role financially. One spouse will often become the financial quarterback, but they must have a great receiver to win. I also believe it works best when you completely combine all finances. Marriage works well when you consider it OUR money instead of MY money.
The most important part of my entire system is the execution. I have to actually do something for it to be of any value. Now that I have been doing it for a while, it’s become a habit. But it’s still easy to run into a busy time and say I’ll catch up on this stuff later – and then the habit is broken.
The calendar is my tool of choice to ensure execution. I simply schedule a repeating appointment with myself every month. And I keep it. The repeating appointment has a link in the notes section to my monthly meeting agenda file. So every month when the appointment pops up, I open it up and with one click I’m looking at my agenda. I want to make it as easy as possible so that I’m more likely to follow through.
Here is my agenda for the repeating monthly meeting:
- Pay the bills (my wife now does this)
- Update family net worth tracker
- Update prior month cash flow tracker (My system for tracking cash flow that takes 15 minutes per month)
- Audit expenses if necessary (This explains my system for auditing expenses from a values perspective)
- Review investments and insurances
- Complete paperwork & other tasks
- Send my wife email summary
- Schedule time to discuss with my wife
As you see, I send my wife an email each month after I compile our prior month numbers to tee up the conversation and schedule time to discuss further. She always responds favorably and ultimately our conversation gets started off on the right foot. The email is setup like this:
Subject: Personal Finances Update
Hey Honey, I just completed last month’s numbers and wanted to give you a quick update.
- Last month we had $$ total cash at the beginning of the month and $$ at the end.
- Total inflows were $$ and outflows $$.
- Our target spending was $$ and we went (over or under) by $$.
- Our goal was ____ and we did ____.
- We/You did really well with ___.
- I think I/we could improve ___.
- Some things I wanted to discuss with you are ____.
- Can we discuss this more (time/date)?
Love you! -Daniel
I used to be the guy that would bring up finances randomly – like right after opening a credit card statement. We talked about money regularly but it was not typically a healthy conversation – it was usually initiated when one of us was bothered by something. With the help of this system, our conversations have become more respectful and open – proactive, instead of reactive. Also we now feel more in control of our money. We probably talk less about money now, but when we do, it’s very productive and positive.
So here’s my system…
-Schedule a recurring monthly meeting with myself (to handle what I am responsible for)
-Manage this meeting with a specific agenda
-Send my wife an email with summary of the prior month’s financial results and considerations for the next month
-Schedule some time with my wife to discuss this
Give it a try and let us know how it’s going!