As an advice-based financial planner, I know how important money is in a relationship. With the right communication and proper planning, money can be a source of entertainment and security and can lead to a happy and successful retirement. However, it can also be a huge source of contention. In this series about money management for couples, I’ve already talked about spending discretion. But now I want to take a step back and dive deeper into the core of most money problems (and solutions): responsibility.
Though most couples who have a good relationship with money find it works best if they are both involved in decision-making, I have found that in almost all cases, one or the other takes the lead. This is key because it means that someone always has their eye on the ball and it also reduces the likelihood of butting heads over every single spending choice.
How to Determine Who Should Take Responsibility
When I talk with my clients, I find that many times, they’ve already naturally gravitated to designated roles. One pays the bills and sets the budget for the month while the other consults on large expenditures or gives their opinion where appropriate. Much of this is based on each member of the couple’s personality as well as their background. If you have not yet designated a lead, here’s how to discover who is better suited to the task.
Who has more interest? Which one of you watches financial news, understands the market, and seems to have a way with numbers? That person is likely to have more interest in handling the finances and should be the natural choice.
Who has more time? In some cases, one member of the couple will have more time to devote to financial matters than others. If one person is working 60 hours a week while the other has more free time, the one who has room in his or her schedule to devote to financial matters is probably the best choice.
Who has the most knowledge? If one member of a couple has a background in finance or money management, he or she is almost always the best person to take the lead on family finances. Not only will he or she be able to understand complex issues better, but they will also probably be the same person who takes the most interest in these types of things.
Set a Discussion Schedule
No matter who takes the lead when it comes to financial matters, it remains vitally important that both are on the same page. That’s why I recommend that the couples I work with set a regular meeting schedule to discuss finances. In most cases, meeting monthly makes sense so the bills for the month can be discussed as well as any upcoming big expenditures. This is a great time to voice concerns, ask each other questions, and re-establish that you are both playing for the same team.
Numerous studies have shown that couples who are in sync about finances have much stronger relationships and are much less likely to divorce. This is just yet another reason why I insist on meeting with both members of a couple in my practice. If you work with a good financial planner who is regularly challenging you to become a better money manager, you will find that it’s not that difficult to communicate with your spouse about money matters—and make your relationship a whole lot stronger in the process.
Patrick Tucker, the owner of True Measure Wealth Management, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He focuses on client behaviors and what ‘wealth’ means for each individual client to provide care-giving plans that lead to a mindful fulfillment of financial goals. A lifelong learner, Patrick uses his continued knowledge to become a valued partner for his clients and help them explore the wisdom of true wealth.