What often happens in marriages with combined finances is that one person will assume control the finances. They pay the bills, watch the accounts, and retain all of the money know how. In our family that is me. Being the analytical numbers guy, I willingly take on that task. On of the pitfalls of combing finances is that one person often ends up with all the power. Power doesn’t have to just mean setting rules, but it can also mean bearing the financial stress and controlling information. The other spouse often becomes oblivious to the actual amounts and inner workings of the accounts, and with that they lose their ability to provide their input and insight. This can wreck havoc on a marriage, but seems to happen all to often. Most times it starts out as innocent ‘sharing’ of duties, but ends in financial disaster.
Let’s look at one tool that helps couples handle their money and finances in marriage. For The Happy Rockette and I, we try to avoid that ugly path by having a monthly budget/finances meeting. It is not as scary as it sounds, what the meeting boils down to is laying all the financial cards on the table and talking about them. If you don’t have a budget, please don’t feel like you need one to talk about your finances.
You can vary the meeting frequency depending on the current state of the finances. If you are deep in debt and the stress is high, meet every week or every other week. If things are in cruise control skipping a month isn’t a big deal.
For us the meeting is usually scheduled for one of our many hour long car rides. To start the meeting, bring a current snapshot of the finances. I usually print the account summary page from Quicken or Microsoft Money. Bank and credit card statements or a spreadsheet print out would be perfect too. From there The Rockette will look things over, and make sure she is comfortable with everything. If she has ideas or questions, we will talk it through and come up with a plan together.
Subjects can vary from long term goals, to the budget for groceries, to 401k contributions, vacations, or whatever needs to be discussed related to money. Any actions that need to be taken are recorded and ‘assigned’ to one of us, so that they can be reviewed at the next meeting.
If there is a point of contention, we try to respect each others opinion and reschedule the discussion on the hot topic after we have had some time to think. We usually try to keep the meeting short, 15-30 minutes. If it runs longer than that, we will either follow up later, or wait until next month.
That’s a brief summary of what a monthly money meeting looks like. For us it has been a wonderful tool for handling our money together in marriage.
Here is a list of the benefits that it has brought to our marriage:
- Openness/No Hiding
- Valuable Communication
- Multiple Viewpoints and Insights
- Sharing of Financial Stress and Decisions
- Diffusion of Power
What tools are you using to strengthen your financial situation in your relationships?