Last week, I let it drop in my blog that my husband and I have not always been on the same page financially. The truth is, we actually have the same values and goals when it comes to saving and investing, but our approaches differ dramatically.
From the moment I met him, I knew we spoke different financial languages. He’s older than I am and has had more experience when it comes to investing. I, on the other hand, am mainly self-taught. He approaches savings by tucking large sums of money away at one time, typically at RRSP deadline time. I tend to take the slow and steady approach and regularly deduct smaller fees from my paycheques.
As time went on, discussing finances became a struggle. I would get upset when I felt like my views were not being respected. He would get frustrated when I didn’t understand what he was saying to me. We both felt we were right and the other was wrong.
It took us a long time to get to a place where we could speak about finances in a way that didn’t end up with one of us crying (and by one of us I mean me).
We love each other very much, and with that love in mind, I backed up to assess the situation. I came to realize that we were making three major mistakes:
- We would only look at our finances in times of stress, such as tax time, or when buying or selling real estate. Basically we made those stressful situations more stressful because we hadn’t been looking at our finances, and then when we did look, it was in a rushed panic.
- We were trying to do all our financial planning ourselves. He still managed all his funds himself, basing his decisions on advice from his friends in the finance industry. I still managed my money on my own and didn’t consult him when I made my choices. In short, it was like we were operating alone.
- We weren’t respecting each other’s views. Every money conversation we had we came to from the perspective of needing to be understood rather than needing to understand the other person.
I’m pleased to say that about two years ago, we found a solution. I took it upon myself to create a simple system to help us navigate these formerly difficult conversations.
So, what exactly did I do?
I created a simple spreadsheet. Down the left-hand side I listed all the various places we have money tucked away, and across the top I listed the date in six month intervals (the first column was October 2015, the next column was April 2016, etc.). My hope is that those figures all grow over time. We also track any debt we our carrying (and hopeful watch those numbers go down over time). This spreadsheet became the main tool for us to see our whole financial life at once and literally get on the same page about our money.
We don’t talk about money every day or every week because I believe that would be overkill. But now we also don’t let it go years without discussing it and then bring it up all at once. Now, we sit down twice a year and go through all our finances, every last penny. We do it once on our anniversary in October (hey, we make it romantic!), and once in April at tax time (less romantic but still necessary).
The most important part of our process is consistency: we’ve committed to sticking to the bi-annual meetings no matter what. In those meetings we don’t talk about anything else, and we keep our discussion productive, respectful, and based on facts: how much do we have in each account, is that amount growing or shrinking, do we need to make any changes, etc.
This system may not work for you exactly as it now does for us, but if you find it challenging to talk about finances with your partner, you might want to consider implementing a system that will help make it a little easier.
If you want your own version of my Family Finance Tracker, email me, and I’ll gladly send you this handy tool!