Are You In Sync With Your Spouse?

It’s hard enough to keep the family finances in tact these days. It’s even tougher if you’re not on the same page. Here’s how to get thereA financial plan, I like to say, is not about numbers on a page. It’s about figuring out your goals, your dreams, your hopes and your responsibilities then finding the money to cover all of those things. And it’s a lot tougher if you’re working against your spouse rather than with him (or her.)

Don’t believe me? Maybe you know a horror story- but here’s one if you don’t. A friend of ours recently committed to paying off debt after realizing that her husband hadn’t paid sufficient attention to the family finances and they had run up six-figure credit card debt. She took over the finances and even took away his cards. But a few weeks after she did so, he came home with $500 of exercise clothes. She couldn’t believe it. She thought they had agreed to focus on paying down debt.

Despite being on the brink of bankruptcy, they simply never agreed to priorities. Our friend has vowed to cut her husband off from all opportunities to spend, but we think it would be easier if they could simply agree. Here are a few steps that can help.

Discuss your current debt situation, including your total monthly debt payments.

Discuss how debt impacts your lives. What does this keep you from doing? What goals could you pursue if you didn’t have debt?

Identify why you have debt? Have you had an emergency? Are you overspending? What elements of spending are driving up debt? Identify behaviors that you need to change.

Compare your reasons for debt to the future goals that you would like to attain.

Discuss how each of you feels about these competing goals and the tradeoffs you will have to make to pay off debt to get to your future goals. If you’re not bought in, keep talking until you find a solution. For example, if getting out of debt would require that you forego a vacation, do you both agree on the priority? How about clothes? Golf? New cars? You get the picture-this one can be tough, especially if one party feels like they’re sacrificing more. Agree to work together to reach your goals.

Completing step six isn’t easy. You may find that the first attempt ends with finger pointing as you identify the causes for debt. A second session may end abruptly because you don’t feel that the sacrifice is being borne equally. If you can’t make it through in one session, pick it up in another. Just don’t give up. You’ll find that this is a process that never ends if you’re doing it correctly-you should always collaborate and prioritize financial decisions with your partner. And if it doesn’t work with just the two of you in the room, it’s time to raise the white flag and bring in a therapist – or compassionate financial adviser.

Copyright 2018, SavvyMoney