My wife and I are in our early 50s; we’re now mortgage-free and on our highest salaries to date. I take care of all the bills, investing and important financial documents in our household. I’m okay with this because I enjoy it, but I think we could be even better off if we were both active in managing our money. I also want her to feel financially capable and prepared should the worst happen to me. How can I get my wife more involved in our finances?
I think it’s normal for one person to be more interested in household finances than the other, but it can be a bit lonely, right? Constantly having to make decisions, some of which are pretty critical, with your financial future on the line if you make a wrong move. It puts a lot of pressure on you to be the decision-maker all the time, especially if a wrong financial move will put you in the dog house!
That’s a lot to have sitting on the shoulders of one spouse, and it can potentially make you overly fearful or overly cautious, which will limit what you are capable of financially. Not to mention that you are making joint decisions with only one person’s point of view, your own, and that can’t help but create a bias in one direction. A problem shared is a problem halved, so that is the path I would recommend you go down, talking with each other and navigating a route where you each get a say and work to make an already good position even better.
I feel from your brief outline that you and your wife have fallen into a natural division of labor, with you steadily taking on more of the financial housework over the years. If you look around your home, there will be many roles that each of you naturally performs — making the bed, putting out the rubbish bins, cooking, and booking the family holiday. Any of these roles would be up for discussion if the person carrying them out was sick of doing it or needed some help. Talking about your money is the same. So, raise your hand and ask for help.
I’m sure that if you point out that her input into the family finances would be welcome and appreciated, she would be willing to hear you out and then take part. You allude to the fact that two heads are better than one. That is the way I would encourage you to approach the conversation with your wife, particularly as you enjoy the highest-earning years of your lives. Now is the time to make hay while the sun is shining brightly.
I probably wouldn’t lead in with “Babes, if I died tomorrow…” but I would lead in with “Babes, collectively, we have come so far, but I would love your input into our finances so we can go even further”.
It sounds like you already have her trust, so start to dream together about what the future holds and then gently bring in the numbers to aid the conversation if and when appropriate. If your wife has kept out of the finances for all these years, bombarding her with financial jargon is unlikely to draw her in. So, you know those spreadsheets you have been cultivating over the years? Don’t show her those! Instead, give a conversational summary of how far you have come as a family over time, working in round numbers, mentioning the providers you use, and showing the direction and progression. And explain your ideas about where you could take things as a team. Ask for her input. What dreams and ideas does she envision for her future and your shared future? I guarantee that she will come up with things you have never thought of.
Explain that while you are happy to continue to manage the money, you would like her to have more input into the decisions you make for both of you. Chances are she has backed right off taking much notice of the financial side of life because she thinks you are so competent at doing so, but I know that if my spouse came to me saying, “I need some support here”, I would listen with both ears and step in to help share the load.
Find some common ground where you can work together. It may be that you have stayed with the same insurer for 20 years but wonder if she can help you find a better deal? Ask for her input because no doubt she has heard talk around the office, listened to a good friend mention someone, or seen an advertisement somewhere that she could add to the conversation. Keep the conversation flowing as you reach a combined conclusion about which provider to go with and work together through the process.
There are a couple of resources to help present information in the way you both like to hear it.
PocketSmith has a custom dashboard feature that caters to the “deeply into the numbers” spouse and the “give me the basics” spouse. You can have your dashboard with every widget imaginable because you love the detail. You can create a simplified dashboard for your spouse that can convey the point they are interested in, whether pictorial or list form, in a way they like to see it.
The other resource is for you to ease your concerns about your sudden passing. Create a document that lays out all the vital information your family can refer to when they have lost you as their central financial database. It can be a weight off everyone’s mind. My Peace of Mind is one such resource, and the actual physical act of creating this folder will start conversations with your wife that you can also build upon. To keep all of your important financial information together, you can also store your essential documents in PocketSmith using the Attachments feature.
In my own home, we have found a nice balance. I’m the numbers person because I genuinely enjoy handling our money, but I don’t go it alone. There are frequent but brief conversations — I’ll run a decision past Jonny and get his input (he always adds something I would not have thought of), and then once a month, I’ll give him an update on how our family fortunes (or misfortunes) are progressing. Through hundreds of small conversations, he has come to learn where our money is invested, how our bank accounts are structured and how our spending and earnings are going. We are both more mindful of our money because of this process.
Be realistic about how involved your wife will ultimately become in your family finances; it’s unlikely that she will ever be as keen as you. Still, small conversations build up to great knowledge over time. So the answer to getting her more involved is by starting a chat about your worries and your dreams and hearing what hers are as well. Then you build upon this, one day at a time, checking in with each other at crucial points when a decision needs to be made and then with regular check-ins along the way.
Getting your wife involved now while you are making the best money of your lives can only set you up for a fabulous time in the years to come. Enjoy planning that exciting future and celebrating your successes as a couple along the way!
Got a burning money question for Ruth? Send them through to [email protected]!
Ruth blogs at thehappysaver.com all about how she and her family handle money. What’s the secret? Spend less than you earn, invest the difference, avoid debt and budget each dollar that flows through your hands. She firmly believes that if you can just get the basics right, life becomes easier from there on in.