Lack of Spousal Teamwork Can Doom a Family’s Finances
When only one spouse or partner manages the family finances, serious problems can arise.
- The managing partner can make poor decisions — choices that the other partner disagrees with or that may not be in the other partner or the relationship’s best interest.
- The other partner can feel left out or looked down upon.
- The non-managing partner may not be aware of limits that he or she should follow. If he or she doesn’t know that they are in a financial crunch, he or she may spend freely and drive them further in debt.
- The non-decision-making partner may not understand the reasons for the managing partner’s actions, which can affect their relationship by causing misunderstanding and resentment.
- When the person who handles the finances suddenly dies, his or her survivors may be left completely in the dark. The survivors may have no idea how much they will have, what they will owe, where they can turn or what they should do, which can only add to their grief.
Both you and your honey should manage the money
Domestic relationships have changed. Today, both partners frequently work and their combined earnings support the family. Since the family money is both their money, each should have a say in handling the family finances.
Traditional gender-based roles have also changed, but many of the old mindsets are still entrenched. Spousal teamwork is now the norm on many fronts — except in managing the family finances. I’ve found that in most families, one spouse or partner still runs the financial show and it’s mostly men. But that is also changing.
Most couples don’t talk about money unless the roof is falling in. They live from day-to-day without making concrete financial plans. When they do, their plans tend to be general and don’t include specific steps on how they will be carried out. Partners also don’t work together to help keep each other on track and worse yet, they don’t really know what the other wants.
If only one member runs the financial show, the other may feel left out and that he or she has no say in the use of his or her own money. The managing partner may not know what the other
eally wants nor get the benefit of the partner’s knowledge and feelings — which could be considerable. When only one partner has total control, teamwork and unity suffer and divisiveness and resentment can be bred. Negative feelings can undermine the couple’s relationship. Those feelings can fester, trickle down and infect the rest of the family and their close friends.
When the partner who handles all the family finances also works, it can be a heavy load. As a result, that partner may not devote all the time, focus and energy necessary to do the best job. If partners manage the finances together, they can share the load, pick each other up and do a better job.
If the sole financial steward suddenly dies, as they frequently do, the survivor may be totally unprepared to step in. I’ve dealt with survivors who had no knowledge or experience with finances. Some had never written a check. A number were forced to rely on advisors, family, friends or associates of the deceased who they didn’t like or who didn’t have their best interests at heart. Still others fell victim to devious financial salespeople and advisors — sharks and vultures who prey on hapless survivors.
Lets face it, one of the spouses will eventually did. So planning and working as team is a must. In all probability, both spouse will not die together and male partners will usually go first. If the survivor has not been involved in their families’ finances, he or she can make major financial mistakes, incur unnecessary expenses or be ripped off.
In relationships, we all take on roles and certain ways of thinking become ingrained. Traditionally, men were the head of their households. They were in charge of their families’ money and made the financial decisions. Since men were the primary earners, they usually paid the bills and handled the savings, investments and future planning. They gave their wives and kids allowances and provided household funds.
In some households, a woman’s involvement in fiscal matters was considered improper so they received no financial training and were not included in financial discussions. Many husbands were secretive so their wives were left completely in the dark.
When potential new clients make an appointment to see me, I ask if they’re married. If they are, I make sure that their partner joins them when we meet. Since I will be working with the couple and building their wealth, it think it’s essential that both understand the basics of the family finances so we can do what is best for them. I also want both partners input, involvement and direction.
Recently, women have become more involved in their family’s finances. In fact, many have taken charge. I find that women are often better at managing their families’ money because they tend to be long-term thinkers, while men usually think more about the short-term. Fewer women are gamblers and prone to taking wild risks.
Financially, women are more grounded and conservative, they want to make sure that all the bills are paid on time, while men tend to be more willing to let them slide. Women usually look at the bigger picture: they’re generally more concerned with the welfare of their families and their communities, while many men focus on their stature and their personal needs. I’ve frequently seen that when women get money, they buy food and clothing for their families, while men buy hot cars.
It’s important for both partners to be equally involved because it’s usually both their money and affects both their lives. Neither have to shoulder all the responsibility or do all the work. They can plan together, set priorities and goals, solve problems and evaluate the risks. Often, partners balance each other out. For example, one may be financially aggressive while the other is financially cautious and conservative. The key is to find a mix that works.
It’s vital that both partners be on same page about their money issues. They must discuss their finances, set goals, plan and work together to reach them. When both are involved, they share the burden and motivate each other. They increase their chances of making the most of their money, building wealth and achieving their financial goals. Working together also strengthens their relationship. Here’s what partners should do.
Find out what you each want
Partners should talk and find out what each wants. My first objective with new clients is to find out what they want. How much wealth would they like to build in how many years and how would they like to live while they’re amassing that wealth?
So right up front, I ask them directly. I need to be clear on their objectives so I know what steps to take. However, when I ask, I’m still amazed by how often I hear, “Gee, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”
In any kind of relationship, it’s vital to understand the other person’s wishes. And what you find out is often a real surprise. People who you think you know well may have wishes that are vastly different than what you expected. Never assume that your partner shares your goals or that you know what he or she wants. After all your time together and as close as you may be, you’re still different people and may have different wants and needs.
Talk. Don’t leave it to chance. Clarify what your partner wants most. Ask your partner directly what he or she would like. Then tell your partner what you wish. Most people never discuss their financial objectives with their partners nor ask what they most want from life. When they finally talk, they frequently find that they have different goals and objectives.
People change and so do their needs and objectives. In a few years, what you passionately desire today may mean little or nothing to you. As we go through life, events invariably intervene and move us in different directions. Today’s dreams may be replaced by something that you can’t even imagine now.
Talk frequently with your partner and discuss both of your wishes. Note how he or she has changed. As they do, review your goals and priorities together. Then make the necessary adjustments so that you can work together to reach each of your goals.
When you know what each of you want, you have a place to start. Identify your shared objectives and build on them. When you’re far apart, work to reconcile your differences, compromise and give and take. Then plan. Together, figure out the steps you must take, how much each part of your plan will cost and map out the best route to plan and pay for it.
Pay bills together
- Sit together
- Chose a time and place when there are no distractions
- Discuss all the family’s bills and pay them
- Talk about your bills as you pay them
- Ask if they’re too high
- If the electric bill was $500 last month, explore how to reduce it
- Examine how you could cut your food bill
- Ask if you’re eating out too often, buying the wrong goods or shopping at the wrong places?
- Discuss ways to cut other expenses and increase your savings
- Review your investments. Talk about how they’re doing and changes you could make.
Two heads are better than one. When both partners are engaged in paying the bills, both will be motivated to trim expenses, stretch dollars and save and invest in order to build wealth.
When a husband pays all the bills and his wife doesn’t know what they are, she may spend like crazy without knowing that she’s spending more than they can afford. Heated battles can ensue. If she understands their financial condition, she will be more likely to keep within their means, which will help restore domestic peace. If she is involved she will be more motivated to maintain limits. Then when she sees the family savings and investments grow, she will be inspired to continue building the family fortune.
When you pay your bills together, also review your savings and investments. Discuss how each is doing and strategize. Ask if it’s producing as expected and if you should change? Talk about the type of investments you think that you should have and the people who you go to for advice. Decide who will be responsible for checking out possible investment opportunities or contacting a new financial advisor.
When goals are set together, the chances of achieving those goals will increase.
When we set goals, they’re easier to reach when others support our efforts. That’s the beauty of teamwork. When we act alone, it’s easy for us to stray and accept our own excuses on why we messed up. However, it’s much harder to pull the wool over other people’s eyes — especially partners who are close to us.
When spouses and partners work as teams, they are less likely to wander or drift. Partners provide checks and balances and hold each other accountable. They each make sure that the other is doing his or her share, staying on track and performing well.
Partners working together are also more motivated to do well because instead of just working for him or herself, they are each working for both of them, for the partnership. If one falls short, the other can jump in and pick up the slack. They can also motivate, encourage and help each other to overcome adversity or to resist temptations.
When we leave this earth, do we want to leave our spouses in a position where they are bound to fail financially or to be devoured by sharks? Of course not! We want them to be happy and do well. So it’s imperative that, at the least, they know the basics about finances so when they’re alone they won’t make major mistakes and can lead comfortable and healthy lives.
Talking with your partner is the answer. Frequently, have open conversations about your finances. Be willing to listen and take suggestions. Work together to pay all your bills, to review all statements and to build your wealth. Speak with your accountant, financial and other advisors together. Become a team that is dedicated to working together to build your wealth.