Managing your finances can be hard as an individual. But when you get your epiphany and take control, it becomes a lot easier. This is because you are only dealing with yourself and having to control yourself. Now, when you are married, it’s a completely different ball game. You have two people, probably from entirely different backgrounds, now become one. Personalities clash. Cultures fuse. And emotions can run high sometimes, especially when it comes with talking about money.
If you have a marriage like most people, there is a free spirit and a nerd in the relationship. Both compliment each other and none is bad. The nerd is typically the saver in the house and the free spirit, is the spender. Without the free spirit, the nerd will become a tightwad, so the free spirit helps the nerd to have a life. Without the nerd, the free spirit blows all the money away, so the nerd helps the free spirit to have a better financial future.
But then, how do you get your spouse on board financially if you’re the nerd and make all the financial plan in the household, and your spouse is the free spirit? Very tough thing to do. It is a fact that finances are one of the top causes of marriage fights and divorces.
Worse still, we know that Money Taboos are real and many people are afraid to talk about money. But until both spouses are on the same page financially, it is extremely difficult to maximize your financial potential. If you have no financial unity, it acts as a barrier to good marital unity in other areas as well, leaving your marriage open to problems.
Immigrants And Marriage
For the immigrant community, this is even more difficult because of the culture some of us came from back home. Now, most of my writing will reflect my cultural experiences from my home country Nigeria. It is common for some Nigerian immigrants in America to go back home to get married, then bring the spouse over to join them here in the US. The spouse after joining the hubby in America, often, may get educated and begins to earn some income.
Then the troubles start because there is lack of financial transparency. Sometimes the man wants to control the wife financially and vice versa. Or the wife becomes an income earner and exerts financial independence from her husband and the latter becomes angry. This creates all sorts of problems, some tragic.
There has been many documented tragic stories, sometimes even leading to murder. And I’ve often wondered if the couples involved only were honest about money and planned their financial lives together, maybe some of those tragedies may be avoided. I know of a personal story of an immigrant nurse who went back home, got married and brought his wife over to the US. His wife stayed home with the kids while the man worked.
He was quite successful in his career and often worked extra shifts and second jobs to make more money. Sadly, he passed away suddenly. That was when it was realized, his wife had no clue about their family’s financial life: the wife had no idea how much her late husband made, if he had any assets or if he had life insurance. She was completely clueless. Her late husband kept her in the dark about the family’s finances. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anybody.
So then, how do you get your spouse to be on the same page financially? Here are some things you can try. The list is not by any means exhaustive.
Start A Conversation
Yes, you’ve heard the cliche: communication is very important in a relationship. And it’s true. You can start off by ensuring positive interactions with your spouse in topics unrelated to money. Use this as a sedgeway to get to talk about finances.
This Dave Ramsey blog post does a good job in detailing how to choose your words, tone and timing wisely. Don’t be condescending and be open to what your spouse has to say. Don’t start a conversation when your spouse is tired and had a long day and just wants to rest. Whatever you say then will just go over his/her head.
Talk About Your Why
Here, you are talking about your shared goals. You are not talking about budgeting here. You can take your wife on a date or a leisurely evening stroll and have a dream session in high definition (like Chris Hogan likes to say).
You can start with a simple question, “What does your dream life look like?” Create your vision board together. What is your why? You can share your own why and ask your spouse for his or hers. Why do you want to get out of debt? Why do you want to have an organized financial life? And why do you want to build wealth? Everyone has his/her own why. Your “why” helps propel you to do what you do.
This process will help you and your spouse create the plan you want. Maybe she wants to be able to get to a situation where she can stay home with the kids. Well, to do that may require that you are out of debt and have a solid emergency fund, while making your budget work on one income. Your spouse will be more likely to be on board when she knows the process will lead to the place she wants to be.
Create Joint Accounts
When they say ‘two has now become one’, it means you’re now working as a team. It’s often simpler to have joint financial accounts when you are married. This means joint bank accounts and joint investment accounts. By law, retirement accounts have to be owned by a single individual, so these are exempt.
Some married couples often see joint accounts as potentially causing some friction. Well, maybe you can try a version of this: you can have your own individual checking accounts, but have a joint savings account and joint investment accounts. Also when buying a home, it’s best to buy it with both names of the couple on the deed.
Share Financial Passwords
Well, if you cannot have joint accounts, can you share passwords to all your financial accounts? This is the ultimate level of financial transparency. You can create this list and secure it electronically online with password protection. Personally, I have a list of all our financial accounts (retirement accounts, bank accounts, term-life insurance accounts, mortgage account, and all our utility bill accounts) with their usernames and passwords.
This list is easily accessible to my wife and I and any of us can check and review the accounts at any time. This breeds trust in your spouse that you’re not hiding money anywhere. Sometimes financial infidelity can be much worse than physical infidelity. I’ve heard of a story of a woman who nearly considered divorce when she discovered that her husband was secretly keeping tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debts.
Show Your Spouse The Math
If you’re the nerd and trying to get your free-spirit spouse on board, you can show her the math of your financial plan, and allow him/her to make an input. Show the math on how long it will take to pay off your debts; the time it will take to pay off your mortgage or if you’re already debt-free, the time it will take to get to financial independence.
Doing this might crystallize things more practically for your spouse. When we bought our home in 2015, I shared with my wife the plan to have our mortgage paid off in 5 years. I literally made this plan the day we closed on our home using the mortgage professor calculator. And then I helped her envision the kind of life we could have when he had no mortgage payments or any debts. She quickly bought in to the plan.
Write Quarterly Financial Summaries
For those spouses that don’t live and breathe this money thing, you can help get them on board by writing them monthly or quarterly household financial summaries and asking them for their input. This is different from the monthly budget meeting, which sometimes can be dreary for some free spirits.
I personally write a quarterly household financial summary and send it to my wife via email. In it, I detail our net worth, discuss financial priorities for the upcoming quarter, and ask for her input. She really enjoys this and looks forward to it. She will often reply, then follow it up with live discussion and whatever we agree on, I implement it and note it in the subsequent quarterly summary.
Celebrate Small Wins
You will certainly win the confidence of your spouse in your family’s money matters if you incorporate some small wins in the process. So for every financial milestone you reach, you can do a little celebration to cap it off. Say, you paid off all your credit card debt, you can treat yourself to a very luxurious nice dinner in an expensive restaurant. Just paid off your car? Schedule a weekend family road trip to a National Park. Paid off your mortgage? Wow, nice; how about a Disney cruise?
Did you finally reach the coveted 2 comma club? Take a bow, you may well treat yourself to an exotic international vacation to the Fiji Islands. You can decide together how you celebrate your wins and what to do, but you get the point here. Doing this helps your reluctant spouse to buy into the process of your financial plan as there is expected rewards along the way. And it can be so much fun.
Whatever it is you can try to get your spouse to be on board, you should do it. If you want to have a sustaining marriage or you want to build sustaining wealth (divorce is dangerous to financial independence), it makes sense to get your better half on board as early as possible. When you work together as a team, the progress is much faster, for team work makes the dream work.
What other thoughts do you have in trying to get your spouse on board? What has worked for you and what has not? Comment below