Expert Q&A Archive
How do I talk to my spouse about saving money?
My husband is older than me and spends money a good deal more freely than I. I pay the bills and track our outgo. I have not been successful in convincing him that we need to retire several of his credit cards ( I have only one) and eat out less. He was badly injured four months after our marriage. He is on disability, I work full time and other than cooking some, he is of limited help with other home care tasks in part because he doesn't feel good and because generationally men of his age haven done much around home. (I'm 48, he is 59) We've only been married 6 years and this is a first marriage for me.
I do have a TIA-Cref account from work and a very small annuity and some Franklin funds. I'm paid the first of the month. His disability payment comes mid month so I'm often holding bills till we have funds.How can I save for the future whe every cent goes out the door? We just started a small business to sell off the wealth of things he's collected over the years. Perhaps that will help some. What do you suggest I do to influence his spending habits and foster a climate where we both save for the future? I know I may not be successful but for my peace of mind, I want to try.
Anne Delle Donne:
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I can imagine you are under an enormous amount of stress right now, and I want to applaud your efforts to plan ahead.
My counsel is the following: 1. Sit down and talk to your husband. Let him know how important this lifestyle change is to you, and how it will ultimately affect both of your futures if nothing is done to remedy the situation. Present the details of where your money is going today, and then talk about a "game plan" that you BOTH AGREE on. There will undoubtedly be places you can make adjustments to ease your cash flows and provide for some monthly savings. You many want to set goals to pay off the credit cards-maybe it is one by one until they are all paid off. Assuming you can find some middle ground, sign off (literally sign the paper) on your "game plan," where you are each agreeing to follow the guidelines you both put into place.
2. I have personally found that although I approach concerns with my husband with the best of intentions-he doesn't always listen to me. I have also found that when a credible third party gives the same advice I have, he will be more apt to listen and make changes. I can assure you, should you explore a meeting with a financial advisor (preferably a Certified Financial Planner), they will confirm that you are headed for trouble if you do not change your spending habits. Your husband may "listen" to this advice (although it is the same advice you are giving) more readily, and might be more willing to make the appropriate changes if it is coming from a third party.
Delores Lenzy - Jones, CPA, CIA:
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Savings is hard, but can be done. It takes discipline and commitment in order to save.
Here are some suggestions for your savings effort. Allow your husband to pay the bills and/or track the expenses. This may allow him to see how much is being spent and thus, the potential for savings. Sometimes the impact of seeing that you spent $300 on meals during the month will cause a behavioral change. Also, make a list of discretionary expenses and decide which ones you can live without, perhaps starting with one. Track how much is being saved by giving up one discretionary expense and move on from there.
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Your husband's avoidance of your financial situation is something we see a lot of. Past clients have had good luck meeting with a couples counselor to discuss communication about money and to develop financial and life goals together. Once you have common goals you can work to make the finances support those goals. The counselor can work as a moderator….to give you both the structure and the safe environment to discuss your money concerns.
Also (or instead of the counseling, if your husband resists) creating a household expense report on a weekly or monthly basis can be a good way to start to get your husband connected to your household financial position. Sometimes the person who is not in charge of the weekly bill paying can get disconnected from the financial picture. When this happens spending can become more focused on short-term emotional satisfaction rather than longer term financial and life goals.
A simple report listing income and expenses will put the information in front of both of you equally, on paper…rather than you verbally "nagging" him that he spent too much on something. The report listing the expenses speaks for itself.
Once you can both discuss money without getting angry…or avoiding…you'll be able to develop a spending and savings plan together that prioritizes your joint financial goals.
Connie K. Marmet:
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I have lived in a similar circumstance and the only conclusion I reached was that there is only one person I can change--and that's me. As difficult as it sounds, I would recommend that you establish a joint budget for shared expenses and three accounts, yours, his, and the joint account. You pay your share of the joint (based on a split you both agree to ) and your own personal expenses and let him pay his share of the joint and cover his spending. This will enable you to manage your money and save. Depending on the law in the state you live in, he probably has a claim to your retirement once you start drawing but it's your to manage in the meanwhile.