Are you on the same page as your spouse financially? If you are single, have you had an honest conversation with yourself?
My husband and I have what I think is a pretty open relationship when it comes to finances. We communicate often and, relatively speaking, are on the same page. But we’re getting older. We have a daughter. And per some recent financial conversations, we’ve had recently, I’m concerned we’ve never been further apart financially.
Married for 7 years
We have been together for over 12 years married for 7. During our entire relationship, our finances have been separate. On purpose.
I met Nick when he was in graduate school. I had been out of college for a few years making good money as an advertising sales rep. At the time he received a small stipend as he worked toward his doctorate. I don’t think I was fully understanding and appreciating at the time how different our financial situations were at that time. How every date night out, or anniversary, or Valentine’s Day literally broke the bank for him to take me a nice dinner or buy me a Movado watch.
Related: 12 Simple habits of frugal people
Fast forward a few years and he graduated and started his career with a PH.D. He started making more money than he had ever had in his life and has only climbed since then. While we are married and in a committed, trusting relationship, we have always kept our financial lives separate.
Present Financial Situation
I have an appreciation for Dave Ramsey and have recently been into his Total Money Makeover. While I don’t agree with all of his advice I know he has a wealth of knowledge and experience.
My husband and I are on “baby step #6.”
For those of you who don’t know, Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps:
- 1) Save a $1,000 emergency fund
- 2) Pay off debt (other than your mortgage) using the snowball method
- 3) Save a 3-6 months’ worth of expenses
- 4) Invest 15% for retirement
- 5) Start a college fund for your children
- 6) Pay off home early
- 7) Build wealth and give
Separate Finances Work for us
My husband and I have separate checking accounts and separate savings accounts. We share one joint savings account. We both will be maxing out our 401Ks this year- first for me.
My husband pays all of the bills sans daycare and I wire him money through Chase Zelle each month to pay my “portion” of the remaining bills. The amount we each pay is relative to our income. He makes more, so pays more toward monthly household expenses.
I realize there are a lot of differing opinions out there, but this arrangement has worked out very well for each of us. We each know what is expected of each of us financially each month. I never have to worry about overdraft fees due to a check I didn’t know he had written out. There are never any arguments or discussions regarding how much was put on the credit card each month. We periodically will check in with each other regarding finances but no recurring conversation.
Our cars are both 2012s and paid for. Each of us had student loan debt that has been paid off for some time. Our only debt is our mortgage which we originally purchased for $262,500 in 2011. Those who know me know I’ve always been a saver. The mortgage is that last piece of debt I’d like to see knocked out sooner rather than later.
In about 2013 or so we refinanced the mortgage to a lower interest rate and went from a 30 year to a 20-year mortgage. We have made a commitment that 2018 is going to be the year to be more mindful about paying off the mortgage.
We are currently overpaying by about $600 per month on the mortgage to bring the balance down more quickly. Additionally, we recently took $10,000 from our joint savings and put it toward the mortgage per my recommendation.
We have a decent sized joint savings account that would more than cover any emergency, loss of job, or any other financial catastrophe that could come up. We are risk-averse and while I like to save, and am very concous about how we spend, specifically on groceries, I am not investment savvy (but working on it).
Fear of investing
Being green with investing combined with fear of the markets plummeting, our savings is sitting in a literal savings account and not working for us. I know that is not the most financially sound move we can make and that our money could be working harder for us!
At my urging, I finally convinced my husband to take $10K and put it toward the mortgage which to me saves us the interest on that money for the remainder of the life of the loan. So while no immediate tangible benefit, I still feel better about that money going toward debt than sitting in a savings account making a fraction of a percentage in interest.
We have none.
What, what? How do you have no goals?
What I mean is, we have no goals written down on paper that are concrete and that we are aligned together on. My husband will lean over as we’re on the couch watching TV and show me a big beautiful house for sale. A shiny sports car that would be fun to drive. The used pontoon boat we could take advantage of as we’re close to water. A vacation home in northern Wisconsin.
We talk about how great it would be to retire early. Are we serious?
Do we want these things for our life?
- Do we want to retire early
- Can we afford a vacation home?
- Let’s travel to Australia in a few years
- Do we want to finance our daughter’s education?
How are we going to achieve our future financial goals if we haven’t discussed them? In fact, we may or may not be on the same page with them as a couple. And we certainly don’t have a plan to achieve them!
The benefit of written goals
I recently read an article regarding a Harvard Business Study from the 70s that basically conducted interviews asking new graduates if they had written goals for their future. Ten years later the interviewers asked the interviewees the same questions.
Those that had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had no goals.
Those who had written goals were earning 10x as much as the others!
I’m no Harvard graduate, but I do believe in the power of the written word.
- Goal Setting.
Let’s think about this: if you don’t havethe time or don’t care about your goals enough to write them down, how in the world to you plan to make them a reality?
I’m making it my mission this year to have an honest conversation with my husband about our dreams and goals for life. The output being actionable goals that we have a plan to work toward. I honestly think writing them down will not only increase the likelihood that we achieve them, but would also keep me more motivated on a day-to-day basis with my finances and remind me why I’m working so hard and saving so hard.
I’m sure you are familiar in goal setting to make sure they are S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.
I recently stumbled upon the acronym for S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals that takes goal setting a few steps further.
S – Specific
Be very specific. Don’t just say you want to make more money or I want to retire early. Be very specific about exactly how much or when. Include the specific actions you will take to achieve them.
M – Meaningful
Your goals have to resonate with you. They have to mean something of importance to you that will keep you motivated to achieving them.
A – Achievable
You can do whatever you set your mind to do. That said, it is important you set goals that you can actually achieve. If you’re 45 years old with no retirement savings and want to retire at 50, truly how achievable is that? Get real with yourself to choose goals that are a stretch to keep you motivated and build momentum, but ones that you can actually achieve.
R – Relevant
Are you goals aligned with what you are trying to achieve in life? What is your dream lifestyle? Are your goals aligned with getting you closer to that lifestyle or further away? If one of your core values is spending more time with family, your goal shouldn’t be to move half way across the country.
T – Timely
You owe it to yourself to write down a specific date on when you plan to achieve your goals. When there is a date, they become measurable and you are able to hold yourself more accountable to them on a regular basis.
E – Evaluate
I really like this addition in the S.M.A.R.T.E.R method because it gives you a chance to remind yourself of goals and check in on them. You’ve been working on the goal for a year now, are you on track to achieve the goal? Are these still the right goals? Have your goals changed? Are the long term goals you set a few years ago still the right goals? Life changes, your goals can too.
R – Readjust
Like many things in life, things change. Maybe you’re not on track with your goals. Maybe you have a new goal. Take time to readjust, change, edit, and modify the goals. However, keep them written down, and keep moving toward them!
In the next few weeks I’m going to start the process of having goal-setting sessions with my best friend, my life partner, and the one I want to have mutual goals with. It will likely take many conversations as our definitions of what is specific, actionable and timely will likely vary.
I know it’s the next best step we can take toward achieving the life we both envision together.
Do you have written goals? How do you keep yourself accountable for them?
Take one small step today – to help your finances tomorrow,