Marriage and Money Tip #7: Getting on the Same Page
One day early in our marriage, my wife and I had a tense conversation. Afterward, as we processed what had happened and circled one another warily, Dawna suddenly said:
“When you say that, it makes me feel like I’m in trouble—with my dad.”
I was stunned. I mentally replayed my words, and I recognized I was using a “script” I needed to remove from my vocabulary. Those words didn’t help the situation and, now that I had this knowledge, I could introduce a better script—one that would not inflame the tension between us.
Are there any statements, phrases, thoughts, or tones you need to change as you speak to your spouse?
Today’s marriage-and-money tip is a three-step process that entails using your words openly and wisely. This is a simple, easy-to-remember system for changing the game and getting on the same financial page with your marriage partner:
1. Articulate your ideas. What are you thinking? What is your spouse thinking? What are the two of you hoping your finances will look like one day?
2. Come to an agreement about where you are going. Understand each other’s needs, felt worries, fears, and concerns; then from that place of understanding, build a plan to move forward.
3. Activate your plan. When you and your spouse have your plan on paper and understand one another, it’s time to agree upon your next step and actually take it.
Come Up With a Six-Month Plan
You don’t have to decide today what you’re doing for the rest of your life. The plan you and your spouse have scratched out on paper doesn’t have to be permanent.
Think about it this way: “This is what we have agreed to for the next six months. Then we will reevaluate.”
You are a moving target. Not only are your home finances constantly changing, but you and your spouse are changing as well. If you follow your plan for six months and hate it, or you realize it just isn’t working for you, you can change it.
Six months gives you a chance to take your plan out for a spin and see if it bears fruit.
Give yourself S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. You can research that simple acronym online for more information. It will show you how to take your ideas and make them really specific and measurable, so your plan can pull on its boots and gain traction.
What Does a Financial Plan Look Like?
When you sit down with your spouse to talk about creating a financial plan, don’t be overwhelmed.
Think about a room in your house that has four corners. If you want to sweep that room, you have to sweep all four corners. Building a financial plan is much like sweeping that room. There are only four “corners” you need to address: assets, debt, income, and spending.
Assets: your emergency fund, investments, house, etc.
Debt: credit cards, mortgage, car note, student loans, etc.
Income: active streams of income (such as your job and/or your spouse’s job), passive streams of income (income received from things like investments, product sales), etc.
Spending: all your expenses including living and vehicle costs, personal expenses, etc.
Everything you can think of with money fits into one of those four corners. (If you’re interested in learning more about these four areas, check out my Prosperous Home material.)
You and your spouse can “sweep” these corners in different ways. You might want to pick one corner and focus on it for six months before moving on to something else. You can jump around. You can major on one corner for a whole two years if you want to.
My point is that, mechanically, this process is very simple. You can do this. You and your spouse can successfully build altitude in your finances and change your financial story.
Articulate what you need. Agree on a plan. And then take action.
This article is part 7 in a series about marriage and money. To read Stephen’s other articles in this series, click the links below: