While my husband is currently the breadwinner of our house, he is not the most financially savvy person. In fact, while I was working full-time, I balanced my finances, the finances of my clients, and my husband’s money—all without making a single error. Now that I manage our home, financial management and security falls to me, and I take this job seriously. However, before quitting my job, I had to have a serious heart-to-heart with my husband; I had to teach him about financial health.
Managing a household budget and financial plan is difficult, but talking about it with your partner can seem impossible. Believe me—I did this stuff for a living, and even I had trouble managing to bring it up in conversation. But this is an important aspect of partnership and of living comfortably in a space together. Plus, who know—what if the person in charge of money suddenly dies? You have to prepare for the worst possible scenario, even if the worst thing that happens is your partner maxes out a credit card.
So, here is my list of strategies for tackling this big conversation together. Read through and see what you think might work for you.
Make sure you both have access to everything. Knowing that your joint bank account exists isn’t enough. If you want your partner to take charge of their financial well-being, they need to have full access. Get your partner a set of keys to any safety deposit boxes you might have. Share all security question answers and passwords. Make sure your partner is named an account holder or the primary beneficiary on accounts you hold. Equal access means equal responsibility. This might be enough to inspire them to get their act together.
Maintain a budget. Make a budget and share it with your partner. This is an essential strategy for sharing the big-picture idea of all the money in play—income, debts, recurring expenses, investments, et cetera. Something as simple as sharing a spreadsheet on Google Docs is an excellent way to both share responsibility, educate, and engage your partner.
Have your partner watch you. Explaining things is helpful. Written instructions, checklists, and spreadsheets are better. Having your partner sit down and watch you organize is the best possible option. Let them observe the process while you explain it, then have them practice it with your help and guidance.
Gradually relinquish financial responsibility. If your partner doesn’t handle any of their money, start with small, manageable tasks, preferably ones with low stakes. Ask your partner to take the reins on your cable bill, then expand those responsibilities to most of the utility bills. With experience comes confidence, and that’s really all you need to understand your financial situation.