How to Start Engaging in Family Finances with Your Spouse


‘Tis the season for holiday shopping and – let’s be honest – arguing with your spouse about money. Sharing the family finances with your partner is particularly fun during the holidays. If you have not had that argument yet, it’s there … brewing under the surface … similar to your burning desire for a long vacation on a quiet beach, but in a negative way, and I digress.

Maybe the fight will be about how much those holiday photo cards cost WITH stamps. Or how many presents to buy the kids. Or (insert your own holiday tradition(al) argument here).

No matter the argument topic, something is bound to come up surrounding finances. Especially after living the past 9 plus months in. a. pandemic.

Making countless meals, loading and unloading the dishwasher put you over the edge. Or it could be overseeing remote school or even taking the “Covid puppy” out to pee before crawling into bed. And there are even more difficult stressors you might be dealing with.

Living through 2020 has certainly put pressure on marriages and families. Yet many of us are rising to the challenge. Some of us are even finding clarity and connection inside our homes. My last post discussed the reluctance many women feel at playing an active role in family finances. and highlighted a UBS study finding that the pandemic motivated 64% of women to become more involved in their family’s finances.

If you are motivated to engage in family finances, below are some tips to start engaging in family finances with your spouse. Deepen the connection with your spouse about money today.

Start Engaging in Family Finances with Your Spouse1. Schedule a money connection date and start the conversation.

Set a clear intention to have an open conversation as you start engaging in family finances with Your spouse. Create a supportive environment by finding a new cocktail recipe and making it together. Try taking a long walk together. Sit together at your backyard fire pit and just talk. Anything that sets the tone for a relaxing, honest and non-judgmental conversation.

2. Focus on your experiences and emotions with money.

Money fights are often about an underlying issue (your values, your experiences) rather than a surface issue (“I can’t believe you spent X, on Y!”). Understanding the underlying issue is more than half the battle. To do this, talk about the role money played in your house as a kid, your biggest financial fears, your gratitude for your spouse’s financial strengths, your appreciation for your spouse’s understanding of your financial mistakes. Focus the conversation on really listening to your spouse’s experiences and asking questions to learn more.

3. Schedule money connection dates on a regular basis.

Schedule a monthly money connection date and stick to it. Learning more about each other’s emotions and experiences with money is more than a one-time chat. It will take a number of dates to deepen your understanding, especially if you have a challenging history with money. Try identifying and each writing down your top five core values, then share the list with each other to identify similarities and differences. You will be amazed to see that your money arguments are often about differences in your values.

4. Shift to the big picture.

Once you deepen your understanding of your personal values and money experiences, shift your money connection date conversations to the big picture and start dreaming together. Discuss your hopes for your later years. Ask questions to learn more about your spouse’s dreams and share yours. What would your ideal day look like if money was plentiful? What kind of a legacy do you want to leave for your children? Remember to talk about your individual dreams as well as dreams you want to share together and with your family. Write your dreams down and start planning together.

5. Start planning.

After you write your dreams down, talk about what it will take to achieve your dreams together. How much money will you need? What does or does not need to change to get you there? What if something unexpected happens along the way? Continue your money connection dates to check in on your progress and to revise your goals and dreams as time goes on.

A financial planner can be brought in at the planning stage, or even earlier as an objective listener to support your path to sharing the family finances with your partner. My next post will introduce and expand on financial planning topics such as emergency savings, retirement accounts, estate plans and life insurance.

Stay tuned for more Covid-induced financial clarity in early 2021!

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An upstate, NY native (Fayetteville to be exact), I settled on the NH Seacoast in 2011 after living in Portland, ME, Boston, Lake Tahoe, CA and Burlington, VT. I’m a lawyer-turned-financial planner at Charter Oak Capital Management who loves helping singles (by choice, widowed, or divorced) and couples organize their financial lives and plan for the life they imagine. My husband Dan is co-founder of a renewable energy company and we have three girls ages 9, 7 and 2. Our family loves the outdoors and spends a lot of time in Rangeley, Maine -- hiking, skiing and biking. I’m an avid reader, podcast listener, home organizer and gardener. I love all kinds of music and smart comedy (a la Midge Maisel). And in the event I find spare time, I beeline to my hammock or the couch with a book.


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