When Joan Rivers’ husband died unexpectedly in 1987, Joan not only lost her husband but her financial security too. To her surprise, she was left with $37 million in debt – something she knew nothing about.
This just goes to show that even strong and powerful women don’t have it all together. Joan is just one of the millions of women that face this issue.
Today it seems like women will talk about anything, even intimate topics, but never money. While men are ‘traditionally’ the breadwinners and money managers, it’s time to break out of that stigma and have your voice heard in your family’s finances.
It all starts with educating yourself.
Understand Personal Finances
To have a say in your family’s finances, you need to understand how personal finances work.
Today you can learn anything you want to learn about finances online. Take a course on Udemy or Teachable, read blog posts, and even watch videos on YouTube.
Learn more than the basics. Scare people with your knowledge. Educate yourself about budgeting, savings, retirement, investing, real estate, and net worth. Start here.
Know the various budgeting programs (50/30/20, envelope budget, and zero-based budget), know how much you should save for retirement each month, and where you can cut costs.
Have so much knowledge that there’s no reason to question you. The more you know, the more you’ll have to say. Back your statements up with facts when you talk to your family, and you’ll have a stronger leg to stand on.
When you talk, skip the emotions. Even though money can get emotional, talk just facts. If you can’t agree at the moment, agree to step back and revisit the topic at a later time. You don’t have to solve everything at once.
Know Your Family’s Money Situation
You can’t have a say in your family’s finances unless you know what’s going on. Ask to see the bank and credit card statements. Pay attention to how much money comes in each month and how much goes out.
Where does it go? Are you bringing in enough to cover what goes out, or are you living on credit? If you need to bring in more money, where will you get it?
If you don’t work, there are many ways to make money without a job. If you feel like you need to bring money in to have a say, there are many ways to make that happen. However, adding a paycheck to your family’s budget isn’t the only way to contribute to the household.
Make Your Goals Known
Traditionally, the men set the financial goals in the house, but why can’t you have a say? Your desires may be totally different than your husband’s, and that’s okay – opposites attract, right?
When you don’t talk about your goals, though, you’ll feel resentful. Every time your partner makes a money decision or even spends money, you may subconsciously get mad. It may not be obvious in how you carry yourself, but eventually, it will affect your relationship.
Write your goals down and share them with your partner. Let them know what you want to see for yourself and the family. Whether it’s a specific amount of life insurance you want to carry, a certain amount you want to be saved each month, or a particular retirement goal.
Then decide on household financial goals and create a financial mission statement together. You can’t achieve it if you don’t say it out loud.
Have Family Meetings
Talking about finances is stressful. There’s no doubt about it. But, when you have an open-door policy and talk to one another freely, it gets a lot easier.
Set up scheduled ‘money talk' dates. This way, neither of you are springing the subject on the other person when they aren’t ready.
When you know the time and place of the meeting, you can both mentally prepare yourselves. If one of you isn’t in the right frame of mind, ask to postpone it until you’re in a better place.
During the meetings, bring up anything that’s bothering you as well as what you love about your family’s finances. Always look at the good and the bad. When you’re looking at the ‘bad’ figure out what you’ll do to fix it. Complaining about it doesn’t change anything.
Is it time to increase your income? If your spouse or partner can’t get a raise right now, what about learning some high-income skills to start a side gig or level up at his current job?
You could learn similar skills and start a side gig too. When you're in a partnership, you’re more likely to make decisions together and not feel resentful of one another.
Have Some Give and Take
Agree to disagree. Even though you’re married, you aren’t always going to see eye to eye, especially with money.
Yes, you can feel strongly about a topic and make your voice heard, but not so much that you argue. Make it a point to talk about both sides, and try to compromise. If you can’t, someone has to win. Sometimes it will be you, and sometimes it won’t.
The more flexible you are and the more willing you are to listen to your partner’s side of things, the more likely you are to come to an agreement.
Agree to Talk Often
When you agree to talk about finances often, it’s less stressful to bring it up. Schedule regular money dates once a month, or on a schedule that works best for you both.
Whether one of you wants to make a large (frivolous) purchase, you want to change the amount withdrawn for retirement, or you think you should change banks, agree not to do anything until you talk to one another.
Instead of putting one person ‘in charge,’ make it a joint task. Sure, have one person assigned to pay the ‘regular’ bills, but anything else should be up for discussion.
Both partners should have the log-in information for the bank and credit card accounts or consider using an app like Zeta to easily share and track household finances. You should both feel comfortable bringing up and discussing money.
Work Together for Financial and Marital Harmony
When you work together, you have a better chance of reaching your financial goals together. No one will feel resentful, and if you do, you’ll be better able to talk it out. Harboring frustration or guilt over finances isn’t healthy for anyone.
Don’t leave your loved ones with the unpleasant surprise of thousands of dollars in debt when you’re gone. Stay on the same page, work together to achieve financial freedom, and everything else will fall into place.
Article written by guest contributor Sam Hawrylack, the co-owner of How To FIRE, a blog that discusses financial independence and early retirement. She uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others get control of their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles, and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles full-time. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her dog “Simba” and traveling with her husband, John. You can find her on Twitter @HowToFIRE.