Published on 05-30-2019
You’re on board. You’re ready to knock out this debt. Start saving for your big dream. You’re absolutely ready to tackle some big financial goals.
There’s just one problem - your spouse isn’t as enthusiastic as you. (They’re actually kind of dragging their feet on this).
It’s a frustrating feeling to not have your partner behind you. So how can you win your spouse over so the two of you can be a team with your finances?
Speaking from personal experience, it’s possible to not only get them on board but get them excited about dumping debt or saving more.
When I interviewed Certified Financial Planner and NY Times best-selling author Carl Richards about how to talk with your spouse about money, we went over some key strategies and ice breakers to get the ball rolling.
How you approach these chats can have a huge impact on whether or not you get them geared up to improve your finances.
Before we jump into how to talk about money, it’s absolutely crucial we mention the most common reason why your spouse may be reluctant to open up about finances.
Once you get a clear idea of that you can find a solution that fits.
Different Money Stories
If you two are coming from different starting points with money, they could feel like you’d judge them for having a different way with money.
Carl gave an example of how different he and his wife were raised even though they grew up around the same area.
….we were close enough that by almost all outward appearances we would be from the same socioeconomic background. [From] every outward experience you would expect are like our financial lives to be the same. But it couldn't be further from the truth.
...Like my parents were divorced. My mom was doing everything she could to keep us in this neighborhood with great schools and church leaders and community people around us.
..My impression – I don’t know my mom’s story – but my impression of the experience was like ‘Oh man. Next month the power bill might be you know the power might be turned off’
...My wife, just a couple miles away, her dad her parents ran a real estate company. They were entrepreneurs real estate entrepreneurs so they were very used to like boom and bust easy come easy go if it doesn’t work will move
With these different experiences, Carl and his wife understandably viewed finances from different lenses.
When they knew where each other was coming from, they could better respect the positives of their different approaches and created something better with them.
First off, one of the best ways you can help win your spouse over is by understanding where they’re coming from.
When you have a chance, ask them about how their family handled money. You could say, “You’re really good with scoring deals. Is that something you picked up growing up?” or “You’re pretty good with creating a budget. Where did you learn how to do that?”
And just listen without any judgment or suggestions. The point of this opener is to get your spouse willing to talk about money.
When you have a better idea of why they feel a certain way with finances, you can focus on creating goals that motivate them and a system that works for both of you.
When we were paying off our car and student loans, we had two different ideas on how to approach it.
Understanding why each of felt a particular way, we can up with a plan that had us paying more towards debt while automated transfers towards that buffer.
They Don’t See the Why Behind the Money
I get a kick out of listening and watching Dave Ramey’s shows. I especially enjoy hearing him work with couples.
Sometimes the husband or wife will call and tell Dave that their spouse just isn’t listening. They’re breaking the budget, dragging their feet with the debt snowball plan, or just don’t really want to save.
Usually, Dave digs in with some questions, to get a better feel of what’s going on. Many times, I noticed that the problem isn’t the goal. Getting out of debt is smart.
However, the approach the eager spouse takes completely fails. It’s usually because they were so focused on how they were going to pay off that debt, they never really explained why it was important.
It’s hard to stay motivated with finances if there’s no goal to work towards. That means you have to see what matters to them.
Go out, relax, and talk about what you’d like to do in the next year, five years, and down the line. Do you want to start a family? Do you want to travel? Start a business? Volunteer more? Really dig in and talk.
No numbers. Just ideas. That can be a way to connect and get on the same page with finances.
They Feel Overwhelmed
Typically someone is carrying around debt, especially something like a bad car loan or a huge student loan, they feel overwhelmed to the point of disengaging with finances.
I’ve spoken with people who had six figures in debt (not counting mortgage) and at a certain point they admitted it becoming debt free was impossible.
Thankfully, they did pay off that debt (or well on their way), but those feelings are quite common. So if you think your spouse is feeling trapped by debt, your support is crucial.
You can help them open up and get some back up through leading by example. Even if you’re pretty savvy with money, no one is perfect.
You could mention things you’d like to improve and ask their opinion. That can help them begin talking more and be more encouraged to revise their approach.
Go on Money Dates
Now having one money talk is not going to solve your problems. I’m a firm believer that you two should have many talks about money. So much so that finances are just a part of regular conversations.
Money dates are a fantastic way to stay on top of your finances while skipping the spreadsheets.
I go into money dates and how you can get started with them in my book, but the gist is that money dates are about making sure your money is going towards what’s important to the two of you.
You do have a review of the number, but they’re not the focus.
They’re regular check-ins that allow you two to take a bit of time to see what’s working and what’s not.
Some couples do them monthly while others break it up by paycheck.
You should try them out - you may find that they’re a great solution to getting and keeping you on the side team with your finances!
Your Take on Talking About Money
I’d love to hear from you - how have you two worked out your differences with money? How would you describe your money personality? Are you more a saver, giver, investor, or spender?
Elle Martinez is the creator of Couple Money, a personal finance podcast and site focused on helping couples get on the same page, dump their debt faster, start building wealth together.