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How do we talk to our spouses about our values, goals and dreams surrounding money?

Christina Day | Apr 13, 2023

For some reason, the topic of money seems to be a taboo subject for women. We will happily talk about breastfeeding, our children’s behaviour issues, how our spouse snores, how the dog threw up in the middle of the night… yet when the topic of money or finances comes up, we cringe. Why is that? Why are we so scared to broach this subject, often even with our spouse? Or we start talking about it with our spouse (ahem… yelling), once things reach a critical point. Or we just ignore it completely, thinking that he’s got it all under control with that fancy excel spreadsheet he’s got, then realizing down the road he in fact did not have anything under control (guilty!). There’s got to be a better way! 

            Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet, because I do have some ideas for you on how to make the topic of money less taboo. First of all, money is not scary (not as scary as math anyway). If you can do simple addition and subtraction with a calculator, I’m here to tell you that you can put away whatever fears you have about money… go ahead, do this now, go hide it at the back of your closet with that Christmas gift you forgot where you hid last July. Then come back and keep reading. 

            Now that you’ve tucked away the fear, you are going to rip the bandaid off and go talk to your spouse about money. However, you are not actually going to talk about money, at least not right away. Go pour a couple glasses of wine, or tea, or whatever your drink of choice is for the given time of day it is, and tell your spouse that you have been doing some reflecting, and would love to chat with him or her about your goals and dreams, and want to make sure that you guys are on the same page. Grab a sheet of paper, and start writing out both your goals. Don’t hold anything back. Do they all match? If not, why not? Talk about it together. Are the goals selfish? Does your spouse want to buy a motorcycle and tour across the country on it, while you want to go on an epic trip across the world, or go back to school? Or you want to retire at 55 and live in a cottage on a lake? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having your own goals and dreams that may not necessarily line up with the rest of the family, but this is your chance to discuss them and figure out how realistic each one is, how important each one is to each of you, and how you can support each other. Maybe that epic trip turns into you guys selling your house, buying an RV instead of the motorcycle and touring across North America for a year or two with the family. The point here is that once you figure out what your goals are together, it becomes way easier to move on to the financial part of the conversation and see where and how you can make things fit. This is also the part of the conversation that you can bring in your values as well, and figure out what values are important to each of you. Write these down. Maybe one of your common values is altruism or generosity, and you decide that giving back to your community in some way is an important goal. Great! How can you make all these things happen? Money of course! 

            The second part of this conversation involves you guys taking a close look at your finances. This is the boring but so very necessary part of the conversation. You may only have the time and brain capacity to skim the surface today, but make a plan together to circle back in a few days (not weeks) and have all your documents ready to review (bank statements, loans, savings, etc.). You may need to pull out the calculator for this one, but don’t worry, no complicated math is needed. For this part, write down your monthly take home income (after taxes and other deductions), and anywhere else money is coming in from (eg. If you have a rental property, side gig, etc.). Next, add up all your total debt including loans and credit cards, and the minimum you need to pay every month (you may or may not want to include your mortgage in here). Next, add up all your fixed monthly expenses (bills, mortgage, etc), and an estimate of how much you spend monthly on necessities such as groceries and gas. Ooops! Did I forget to mention we’re doing a budget here? My bad! Sorry about that! Ok, I’m not sorry, this is a critical component of getting on the same page with your spouse about finances. If you have no idea where money is going, if you don’t find a place for your money to go to (ie. YOU be the boss of your money and not the other way around), I guarantee you that money will find a way to escape. POOF! Into thin air it goes! You can certainly take this one step further and create an actual budget (on paper, in Excel, or I use my favourite free app called EveryDollar), but even just having the basics down here will give you an idea what you have left after everything is paid…or you may realize that you are actually spending more money than you bring in, in which case it’s time to readjust some things. You can either cut expenses, or make more money. This part of the conversation may be a bit difficult, but it’s very important to not skip over it. If you do have money left over, this is where you can decide where you want this money to go to based on your dreams and goals. Do you want to cut back on some expenses even more in order to tackle your debt quicker, in order to start an emergency fund? (Highly recommend this one).  Is all your debt paid off and you want to start a high interest savings account for your dream vacation? Do you want to invest in stocks for your early retirement? There are so many options here, but without knowing your numbers, you won’t know what the best steps are. 

            Having this conversation may not be easy. It may bring to the surface past trauma surrounding money, so be gentle with each other. Take the time to truly understand where each of you is coming from, in order to best figure out where to go together. If you need some extra help, it’s not a bad idea to talk to a money coach, financial advisor, or another financial expert, or even a therapist, but please do your research before spending money on this to ensure that person is the right fit for you. Interview a few different people, find out how they get paid (is it commission based, do they have your best interest at heart?, etc.) and how they can best help you on your journey. There is no reason to do this alone, in fact, you may find that investing just a little bit of money now on getting a bit of extra help will save you a lot more in the long run. But please take the first step today, and just start the conversation. I promise, it will be well worth it. 

 

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