• Reader Question: Financial Transparency for Couples, Part 1

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    Reader Jay has a problem:

    …One problem my wife and I have is that there is limited financial visibility into her accounts. She does everything on paper and in check registers. I do everything on-line and have a spreadsheet on our home PC that projects my finances 5 years into the future. Her contributions to the projection are fields with her name in deposit or withdrawal fields. There’s a lack of willing participation on her part because she perceives my inquiries into her finances as either a violation of her privacy or as evidence that I consider her a spend-thrift. It makes it very difficult to plan our future when half of the money isn’t really visible for planning. How did you guys get to the point where both your finances were laid out on the table? Do you have weekly meetings?

    I understand how Jay feels because Him and I had the exact same problem. Disclosing my finances to Him was terrifying and only happened after an ultimatum. Hopefully, the suggestions below will help Jay and his wife get past this without an ultimatum.

    I think this post actually reveals five issues. I’ll post my thoughts on one issue each day this week.

    1. There are two different methods of documentation being used.
    According to John M. Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, one of the keys to productive communication is to allow your partner to influence you. Jay and his wife each prefer a different method of record-keeping. To have equal knowledge and power over financial decisions, they need to choose one system they can share. I suggest that Jay and his wife sit down and present the pros and cons of their system to each other. They could also research other systems together, such as using Quicken or Money software. They could even modify the existing spreadsheet to reflect their combined wishes. During these discussions, they need to be open to their partner’s influence. The focus should be on finding common ground, not on winning the argument.

    Other posts in this series:
    2. There are unclear privacy boundaries. (Tuesday)
    3. There are two different spending styles at odds. (Wednesday)
    4. No dedicated time exists for talking about finances. (Thursday)
    5. There’s no unified financial plan (Friday)

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