Learning to Communicate

Learning to Communicate

What makes my wife and I work so well together is our ability to be on the same page for the ‘big’ things while being able to respectfully disagree about other things. Using finance as an example, Kayla is 100% on board with pursuing FI. She would love nothing more than for both of us to be around more for our future children and not be chained to a job. However, when it comes to the mechanics of it all, she could not be less interested. She does not spend frivolously or detract from our goals in any way, but the thought of digging into spreadsheets to look at our asset allocations and what our path forward should be will never be something she looks forward to as I do.

The Backstory

As I elude to in my post called My FIstory, my financial history growing up has helped to shape my view of money at its effect on the world around me. This is true of everyone. After my father’s early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis and as his condition worsened, it became clear that he could no longer handle the finances. My mom had to pick up where he had left off with the problem being that, since my father was a CPA, she had never even looked at the finances before. Her involvement in paying bills or saving for retirement was not how their marriage divided up the household tasks. Since this had worked for 25 years, why bother to change?

I could see the worry lines on my mom’s face as she called banks and utility companies trying to set things straight and just make sure that she had all of the information for all of our accounts. It was a long and hard process for her when it didn’t have to be. It was from then on I decided that my future spouse and I would be equally aware if not actively involved in our finances.

The First Attempts

Since I had made that decision at the age of 16, I have never changed my mind; even after meeting Kayla and learning of her absolute disinterest in finances. We had agreed that once every 6 months she would sit down with me and take a look at everything. What money we had, where it all was, how we spent over the past 6 months and how we could do better. These discussions went TERRIBLY. I would pull up my 12 tab spreadsheet and I could see her eyes glaze over. I would talk at her about where we were and she would “listen” to the best of her ability, but I could see that none of it was sinking in. We pushed on with this method 4 times until it all came to a head.

This is the complicated mess we used to attempt to discuss every 6 months.

The last time we sat down for this horribly unproductive discussion I mentioned that we had done well in all categories, minus groceries. Kayla became silent. I pressed on with my run through, but ended up going back. As we dug into this a bit, I learned something. My approach was not only boring the life out of her, but it put her on the defensive anytime something that she was inherently in charge of, such as groceries, came up to bat. I decided that enough was enough. It was time for a change.

It’s a Team Effort

I created a new template for how we would review our finances and we reviewed it together before implementing it. My concession was not to get into the weeds on our investments or to question any past expenses. Her concession was that instead of every 6 months, we would sit down every month to review what our baseline budget is and discuss if that really makes sense for the upcoming month. We review 4 main questions to get the conversation going:

  • What events do we have coming up this month? For example, this month we had a Baby Shower, Birthday and Housewarming party.
  • Any large expenses that we need to plan for this month or in the next few months? Next month is a big birthday for my mom so we will want to do something special for her that will be outside of our normal budgeted plans.
  • Anything special you want to do this month that isn’t already planned? Movie Date Night!
  • Do you have something in mind that would advance any of your personal or business goals for which we haven’t already accounted? Kayla found a studio that teaches pottery lessons, something she once loved and has since dropped. This is now on the docket to rekindle an interest in pottery that she has been missing for years.
This is an example of what we sit down and discuss now.

We now have a real conversation about things that really matter along with reviewing what our budget items are for the month. This new method has been in place for 3 months now and I have to say that it has DRASTICALLY changed the way we discuss finances and plan for our future.

How do you and your significant other review your finances? What changes have you made to improve your conversations? Let me know in the comments below!

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