Problem Solved: Here’s How to Handle a Spouse That Is Bad at Managing Money (Without Starting an Argument)
When preparing for my interview with financial coach Shannaan Dawda, for the How To Raise Your Black Child To Be A Millionaire audiobook series, I read his brilliant book From Paychecks To Power: 7 Power Moves To Unlock Wealth Building. You can check Shannaan out at TrueFinancialCoaches.com In the book, he discusses how there are two particular spending personalities called Nerds and Free Spirits who most often marry each other.
Nerds are the ones who tend to be tight with money and watch where every penny goes; but Free Spirits, just as the name implies, spend however and whenever the “spirit” moves them, without much regard to budget. Again, the hilarious thing is that these two very opposite spending types more often than not are attracted to each. The obvious problem is that these two types often don’t see money management the same, and it causes great discord in the marriage. As someone who is in a marriage that reflects this very real phenomenon, I can speak to one really awesome way we’ve dealt with this and benefitted our children, at the same time.
First let’s address the automatic tenseness (let’s assume we’re properly using that word and that it is in fact a word) that fills the room whenever finances and budgeting comes up between spouses. If the person who earns the majority of the income and handles the finances is the Free Spirit, this can be incredibly stressful; especially if the one who earns less is more skilled at managing money and making sure all financial responsibilities are met.
It’s very hard for the bread-winner (particularly those with dominant testosterone levels) to admit when he (or she…but really he) is not the best at managing money. So what do you do, Thiah? Well, one thing that is true about most good parents is that they don’t want to pass on their imperfections to their children. So, we focused on teaching household economics to our children, and through that, we were able to identify our respective weaknesses to managing money.
First, we posted a simple chart of all of the income and expenses for our household. Then, we posted the bills and due dates, showing what date we’d pay each bill. During instances when the amount of the paychecks weren’t enough to cover an entire bill, we’d show the setting aside of portions of each check to cover the full amount; and if necessary, we’d call and make arrangements. All of this was done, after showing how 10% of the income went towards savings/investments, and 10% went towards charity.
Posting the household income and bills with their due dates gave our children a clear understanding of what money was coming in and what money was going out. For the children this is extremely important, because it helps them to connect with the true value of money and how it must be carefully managed in order for their needs to be met. It was a priceless move in teaching them how to properly prioritize spending. For those of us whose parents used to say “money doesn’t grow on trees,” this exercise prevents us from having to repeat that limiting mantra to our children.
For you as a couple, it helps you to confront the reality of the amount of money you have and where to responsibly direct it all. It’s kind of hard to justify spending $50 on Chinese food when you’re looking at an $80 shortfall for your light bill; AND you have to make arrangements.
About making arrangements…this was a very important piece, because it showed our children how to not dodge their responsibilities. They were able to see their parents figure a way to keep the utilities on, while staying true to our word and not jeopardizing our savings. Recognizing that there was a lack of money to cover all expenses helped them to see why they needed to be certain to turn off all of the lights when they weren’t occupying the room. It also helped them to see why the two of us may have been working a little more at times than usual. Furthermore, it enabled us to realistically say, “okay, we need to cut out this, this, and this; and do that to bring in an extra this.” Being under the observation of our children helped us to not get distracted by petty arguments and stay focused on the goal.
Allowing our children to see us set aside 20% of the income for savings and charity, helped them to see the importance of paying yourself first and giving to causes greater than self. Additionally, they were able to see us hold ourselves accountable in preparing for unexpected occurrences, as well as improving our present economic condition through our savings/investments. If there were activities the children wanted to do, they would research the cost then look at the chart to see if there was anything left over to afford the activity. If not, they had the opportunity to see if there were ways we could skim off the activity cost or find activities that fit within the budget. During times when we couldn’t fit the activity into the budget, seeing the due dates of the bills and the corresponding paydays enabled them to aid us in planning future activities. This exercise, alone, afforded the children the opportunity to learn responsible budgeting and money management. They were able to grow to appreciate the value of delayed gratification, and so were we.
So, how does that stop you and your spouse from arguing over how to manage the money? Because, if you focus on showing the children the right thing to do, it helps the two of you identify what you’re doing wrong, without shame or feeling like you’re being put on blast. Since our children watch us carefully, we’re forced to be what we’re telling them to be and self-correction begins.
About the Author
Thiah Veona Muhammad is your source for strategies, tips, and resources on How To Raise Your Black Child To Be A Millionaire. She’s an entrepreneur and author of the blog #RaisingBlackMillionaires and the upcoming release audio book series How To Raise Your Black Child To Be A Millionaire. As a wife, mother, daughter, and sister her goal is to empower poor and middle class parents with the child rearing strategies of the wealthy that will raise upcoming generations to usher in and perpetuate intergenerational wealth and interdependence among Black people in America and all over the world.