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Sunday, January 17, 2010

“All the Married Ladies, All the Married Ladies…”

By Guest Blogger Bryan Link, CEO, SimpliFi

My apologies to Beyoncé Knowles—but this goes out to all the married ladies. It’s a new year, so it’s a great time to make a new start. And I don’t mean getting in shape or taking Spanish lessons.

I’m talking about your finances. Or more specifically, your family’s finances. January is the perfect time to make a resolution to get your financial house in order.

Why married ladies? Because I think married ladies are more interested in this kind of resolution than their single counterparts. I’ve been married for almost fifteen years, so I have learned a few things about married women by watching and listening to my wife and her married friends. So here is my (totally unscientific) list of your major stresses:

• You worry about managing your crazy-busy schedule.
• You worry about your kids—a lot.
• And you worry about money—a lot.

If you’re like most married ladies, you are the one who manages the cash at your house. You pay the bills, do the shopping, and generally make most of the buying decisions. In short, you are your family’s Chief Operating Officer.

Nevertheless, your husband probably thinks he makes the money decisions. And this is where the problems begin…

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but financial disagreements are one of the primary causes of marital problems, according to the American Association of Family Therapists. It’s no secret that husbands and wives fight about money and what to do with it.

If you’re nodding your head right now, then read on, because I have a way for you to ease your money worries and get on the same financial page with your husband. First, you have to commit to putting together a financial plan for your family. Why? According to Money Magazine, having a written financial plan makes you 250% more likely to achieve your long-term financial goals, so planning is probably the single best thing you can do right now to improve your financial well-being.

Of course, financial goals can mean different things to different people. You probably have already thought about the obvious ones: retirement, kid’s education, paying off debt. But you may have other goals, like a second honeymoon to Europe or your daughter’s wedding, or even annual goals, like a family beach trip or summer camp for the kids. All of these are goals—so they all need to be planned!

So what I’m proposing is planning—but with a twist. It takes a little work—and buy-in from your hubby—but the end result will be worth it. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Put together a long-term financial plan for your family. Map out your goals and then develop some reasonable steps to help you achieve those goals. But here’s the catch—you must do this by yourself. Do not talk to your husband about it.

Step 2: Have your husband do the exact same thing. But he must also do it by himself—you cannot be involved.

Step 3: Compare your plans and talk about the areas where you differ. This is the ideal way for the two of you to have a “shared money goals” conversation and find common ground. Once you both see eye-to-eye on your long-term strategy, it’s much easier to decide how to structure your short-term steps to get there.

Once you’ve identified your shared money goals, you can then use them to help you put together the much-dreaded budget. I hate to even use that word, because it probably causes images of ramen noodles and thrift stores to flash before your eyes.

But it doesn’t have to be that bad. Now that you have your goals mapped out, it’s much easier to develop what we call a spending plan (sounds better than budget, don’t you think?), because you know what you want to do. You’re prioritizing spending rather than just denying yourself—and it makes the process a lot less painful.

It’s critical to develop and stick to a workable spending plan, but don’t try to put one together until you’ve nailed down your goals in a financial plan. Your financial plan should drive your spending plan, not the other way around. Once you get the day-to-day working to serve your goals, you’re in business!

It probably goes without saying that this process won’t get rid of all your money problems—you still have to actually do the hard work of saving, investing, and the rest—but at least you can both take comfort in knowing that you and your husband are working together to get to the same place long-term.

I hope this sounds like a New Year’s resolution worth making—and keeping. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

This is one area of marriage where my husband and I just can't seem to get on the same page. I am going to use your suggestion of each making the list on our own and comparing. I hope it works!

R.J.M. said...

Exactly what I said my resolution would be this year. We have to get a hold on our finances. Great article.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great information! I followed Bryan's advice and set up an account on, then showed it to my spouse. It was an eye opener for both of us, and we are now using the website to create a unified financial plan that we both agree upon.

Sara H. said...

My husband and I were just talking about this last weekend. Great information.

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