How can I write a whole article responding to this question when my answer is one word? Everything!
As an independent, single mother, I am solely responsible for my family’s finances and as the business owner of a financial advice practice, I spend most of my day helping other people put some structure around their financial well-being.
Ever since I was young, finance appealed to me though I did grow up believing that it was a predominantly male domain.
I am very aware that not everyone shares the same passion about money as I do. I’m sure we equally love spending money but how often do we take a good, hard look at our financial reality?
Unless you make a point of focusing on every aspect of your finances at least once a year, you’ll never truly understand your financial situation. Do you know what your financial future will look like, irrespective of the circumstances?
It’s important to acknowledge that the way we interact with our finances is a result of our attitude and our emotions toward it. If you ask someone what money means to them you will get a variety of answers. Many answers will start with tangible reasons such as the desire to buy something nice for themselves, seeing the world, helping the kids or even giving it away, but when we look deeper into what it is that makes people really want to have money, the emotional reasons surface.
Money can be a way to achieve a sense of belonging, power and respect. For others, money symbolises control, weakness, worry, guilt, success, security and peace of mind.
Looking deeper still, what meaning did money have in your family and how did that shape your attitude today? How does your husband’s attitude to money influence you and what influence did his parents have on his attitude? Okay, this is getting heavy. Now to some answers.
With all the emotional baggage surrounding money it can be tempting to focus on the fun bit and let someone else deal with the responsible part. As wives and mothers our work is overwhelming. It is widely accepted that it would take three people to replace the work done by one mother. In addition to working in the home/family many of us are also have paid work too. We balance our work with family time and often feel there’s nothing left in the tank to focus on the finances, beyond perhaps immediate needs like making sure the bills are paid. We can fall into the trap of not having a complete picture of the family finances. After a long day it can be tempting to leave money matters to our partner.
There are two reasons why this is the wrong approach. Firstly, when it comes to finances in a relationship, a team approach is critical. Think about a team sport. Each player has their position and knows the boundaries within which they have to play. They know their strengths and find the opponents weakness and through training they devise ways in which they can improve their skills and become successful. In the training session the coach will bring the team together and they will discuss the overall goals of the team with every single player being completely aware of the strategy, the equipment and the role of the other team member. Each position is equally important to the overall success of the team.
Family finances should be viewed the same way. The only opponents to your finances are death, disability, living longer than your finances last and your own behaviour. Your husband/wife/partner should not be viewed as your opponent but rather, an important person on your financial team. Time needs to be set aside to review the strategy, identify each person’s role, understand what you have, what you need and where it will come from should you need to defend against your opponents.
This brings me to the second reason. Every marriage ends. Yep, that’s right. Every marriage ends. If not through divorce, then death. When people are in the midst of a highly confronting and emotional situation they generally don’t have the ability to deal with financial issues but that’s when they typically want clarity and reassurance. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of your family’s financial position now. Trying to do this during an emotional time can be very challenging.
Many women have told me that when they have asked their husbands about the family finances, they have either been told not to worry, that everything’s okay or are made to feel they are questioning their husband’s ability.
You understand the person you are living with better than anyone else and will know the best way to communicate in a non-threatening way the reasons why you want a clearer picture of your financial position. If you have never been involved in your family finances and have always signed where and when you are told, it may be difficult when you start asking questions. It’s quite possible your husband will be surprised, offended and even defensive. But on the whole, I expect many husbands would welcome having meaningful and positive conversations about family finances. In particular, it would be very reassuring for them to know that their wives are empowered with information should something happen to them.
We need to take responsibility so that we can be contributing members of our community and society and be good roles models to the children whose lives we influence. I challenge you to have the difficult conversations because in the end, they are likely to be rewarding and you will be on your way to becoming a financially winning team.
(Any advice given here is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.)