Just because one spouse earns more money doesn’t mean they should have more control over the household’s finances. Each partner in the relationship brings value and deserves a say in how money is saved and spent, which is why you have to talk about your finances with your spouse.
Yes, talking about money can be awkward, and it can be stressful, especially when there’s an earnings disparity. But when it comes to family finances, communication is key. Sometimes, the person who brings home more money may feel “in control” of the household coffers and may not realize how to incorporate their spouse’s input into the family’s broader financial picture.
To help ease these conversations, I created a step-by-step guide on how to better communicate with your spouse when it’s time for potentially difficult-to-have conversations about money. Take a look.
It’s just a conversation, even if it’s about finances
I know it sounds easier said than done, but simply starting a conversation with your spouse about your finances is so important. You have to start somewhere, even if it’s uncomfortable. Think about a time you sat down with your spouse to plan a trip or vacation. It takes work to mutually agree on a location and decide on hotels, attractions, etc. The same is true when discussing money matters. And while conversations about planning a vacation are probably more exciting than talking about money, someone has to take the first step. Let that be you! Make a plan in your head about what you want to cover during the discussion so you’ll have a roadmap for what’s to come.
Build a budget together
If you’re married or living together, you’ve probably already gone through the process of separating the bills or opening a joint bank account. This step takes things a little further when it comes to talking about finances with your spouse. As life changes and evolves, so should your budget. When you first got together, you were likely on your own… then came things like cross-country moves, promotions at work or job changes, children, and other milestones. So, think about it this way: When you scored that raise at work, did you think about increasing your 401(k) contribution? When you had your first child, did you set up a college savings plan? Or did you just keep going with your financial plan? Now’s the time to adjust your budget. You and your spouse are probably in a much different situation than five years ago or ten years ago. Your budget needs to evolve over time.
Create a Net Worth Statement together
This part is a little more detailed than simply talking about your finances with your spouse or planning a budget. A net work statement is a written document that clearly shows how much money you have across all your savings, checking and investment accounts – and other assets you may have.
In this net worth statement, you’ll write down how much money you have in your 401(k) account, the value of your investment accounts and even the value of your home. Maybe throughout the marriage and changing jobs, you acquired equity in your firm, but since you don’t have anything besides a contract to show for it, you may not immediately think to incorporate this into any of your financial planning. And even though money in a 401(k) is not to be used until we retire, it’s still an important asset that should be included on your net worth statement. The purpose of the net worth statement is to be able to see all aspects of your financial situation in one place, clearly and easily. Without knowing exactly where you stand financially, it can be difficult to prepare for the future.
I know this process can be overwhelming at first, but taking the initiative to have talk about your finances with your spouse can only benefit both of you in the long run. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to seek guidance from a financial advisor and work through a financial plan together. (Think of the need for an advisor as just another of those important life milestones!)
More on HerMoney:
- How Couples Can Split Their Money and Bills to Be Fair
- Why Did My Mortgage Feel So Much More Serious Than My Marriage?
- The Financial Pros And Cons Of Marriage
MONEY, WORK, LIFE and MORE: Get the latest insights and advice each week for free in your inbox. Subscribe to HerMoney today!