How to Have a Healthy Conversation About Money With Your Spouse
One weekday night early on in my marriage, I had just finished reading a book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. This New York Times best-seller focused on taking control of your money and creating financial freedom for your family.
I was immediately hooked. As a young man with dreams of a prosperous future for my unborn children, it was right up my alley.
After closing the book, I vowed to live on a budget, pay off all of our debt and eventually become mortgage free as well.
With a big smile and new-found zest our future, I approached my new bride Nicole after she got home late from the office that night:
Andy: “Honey, we’re going to live on a budget and pay off all of our debt, but first things first. We need to sell your new car.”
Nicole: (picture an uninterested face here)
Let’s just say she was less than enthusiastic about my new plan. After trying to explain my reasoning and why she should read this incredible book too, the conversation sort of went sideways on me.
What did I do wrong? Was it something I said?
Choose Your Words Wisely
After our first marital money fight, I had a chance to calm myself down and realize I needed to reanalyze my approach.
My thoughts were of abundance for our family, but I was speaking a language of restriction and lack to Nicole. When she heard me say phrases like “live on a budget” and “sell your new car”, she thought I was trying to steal her freedom instead of my true intention of giving her freedom.
Find the Right Time for Both Parties
Another thing I realized is that I absolutely chose the wrong time to have this important money conversation with Nicole. She had just arrived home after a long day at the office and was absolutely not in the mood for a serious talk.
There’s a right time for the conversation like this and I chose the wrong one. I know I wouldn’t want to get bombarded after a hard day’s work with a super serious talk.
I wanted to a do-over.
If I could do a better job at speaking her language and choosing the right time for our chat, we could really connect and go on this financial journey together as a couple.
Speak in Terms of What Appeals to Your Spouse
I knew that my wife was not thrilled with her current career and she wanted to start a family soon. I was also really excited to become a Dad too.
I thought to myself ...
“What if I create a plan that allows my wife to eventually transition to become a Stay-at-Home Mom? This way, I’ll be speaking in terms of something that we both want. She’ll get freedom from her unfulfilling career and time to raise our children and I’ll set us on the path toward debt freedom and financial security. Win-win!”
It was time for Take Two! I was going to change my approach and pick the right time for this important conversation.
On a relaxing Sunday afternoon, I asked Nicole if she was open to talk about our family’s future. Here’s how our it went down this time:
Andy: How would you like to eventually stop working in your current 9 to 5 and stay at home with our kids?
Nicole: That would be incredible. How could we do that?
Andy: I’m glad you asked. I have a plan for us.
The door was now open! She went from offended to interested just like that. It was amazing to me how choosing the right words and the right time could make such a world of a difference.
Ensure You Are Both Present
With the door open, I didn’t want to mess this one up!
I have a rare condition called “TV Face.” When a TV is on, I stare at it blankly and can’t focus on anything else. I’m horrible in sports bars.
Given my affliction, I wanted to make sure I was fully present for this important financial discussion with Nicole. I turned the TV off. I turned my phone off. My focus was only on our conversation and addressing any concerns she had.
We were talking about our future. I needed to act like it.
Take It One Step at a Time
I had so many ideas of what financial freedom meant for our family after finishing The Total Money Makeover. I was eager to get started on all of it!
I wanted to:
- Pay off my student loans
- Create a cash flow plan
- Develop our family’s last will and testament
- Plan out how we can pay off our mortgage early
- Create a healthy cash savings
It was all quite overwhelming really.
The book directed us to start slow and complete the 7 Baby Steps in order. We did just that.
Andy: I’d like to meet with you once a month and review a family budget. We can make it fun. A little pizza, some wine and yes … spreadsheets. We’ll discuss our plans for the future, how we can eventually transition to one income so you can stay at home with the kids. Would you be open to giving that a try?
Nicole: Yes. I’m up for something like that. Let’s give it a try.
Foster a Spirit of Partnership
This get together we spoke about became the start of something incredible for our marriage. We called it our monthly “budget party”. To this day, we still meet each month and discuss our spending, saving, giving and our plans for the future.
Through our budget parties and the close partnership we developed, we’ve been able to do some amazing things for our family over the last 7 years:
- Eliminated almost $50,000 in debt
- Increased our net worth by $700,000
- Paid off our 15 year mortgage in less than 5 years
Additionally, Nicole was able to leave her stressful job and stay at home to our raise our two kids. The relationship that she’s developed with our two kids is truly beautiful.
Learn from the Past and Grow Together
After 4 years of being at home, Nicole’s ready for a new challenge now. She wants to start a part-time career that she’s passionate about. This change will require a lot of in-depth conversations about the cost of daycare, coordinating school pick up times and what the extra income will mean for our family.
I think we’ll be ready for those money chats though. We have some great experience to lean on.
What big financial conversations have you had with your spouse? Tweet us and start the conversation!