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After the initial shock and awe from disclosing our plan, after the intrigue [assuming you move onto this stage] and well after a few minutes of solid brain picking for the secret ingredient to our investment strategy, one of the standard questions I get without fail is “how do I get my husband on board“.
Mostly, this comes from women though I have been asked from one of my guy friends [#loveislove]. To be fair, a few husbands have asked about their wives but given the vast majority of our readers are women, the majority of the questions are centered around getting the husband on board. I find this question to be rather interesting for a number of reasons.
First, I am of the belief that two people should be “on board” before they get married. In other words, conversations about money, how it will be managed, financial goals and risks should be happening well before you agree to marry someone. Yet, I know its quite common for people to agree they want to spend the rest of their lives together while shying away from financial conversations until its absolutely necessary.
Secondly, the question often comes scattered, covered and smothered with underlying emotions that scream “heeeelp me”. Yes, there have been times where the woman is genuinely intrigued and wants guidance on how to put better financial management into practice with their hubby but in most cases, it comes across as if they want help in convincing them “THIS is what we NEED to be doing”. Pursuing FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) isn’t for everyone but I do believe there are elements of the lifestyle that are universally applicable.
Third, financial insecurity and illiteracy often reveal it’s ugly-face in the under-layers of these conversations which create really difficult and vulnerable exchanges. Personal finance is one of those areas that has it’s own jargon so when you’re the person that manages the finances in your home, it’s easy to abuse your super power by using it as a lever to manipulate the other person. Not cool.
All of the above makes answering the question,[“how do I get my hubs on board?] difficult for me because I don’t want to judge those who are in precarious situations, I don’t want to mislead anyone into making a critical mistake and I don’t want to empower anyone to manipulate their partner. However, there are some simple things you can do to help build a bridge between you and your husband when it comes to better managing your money. Here are five tips to consider-
1. Schedule the talk
Give yourself some time to think through exactly what you want the conversation to be about, what decisions you want to be made and what the next steps should be. Then, schedule the conversation for at least 3 weeks out from the day you want to have the conversation. This gives your husband just enough time to block his calendar but isn’t too far in advance that he’ll forget about it. This also gives you an opportunity to sprinkle in some tidbits leading up to the conversation. Next, schedule the conversation to be on neutral territory. I don’t recommend doing it at home because its filled with distractions. Its better to go somewhere that is neutral like a park, a quiet meeting space, community center or a place with good Wi-Fi and relatively quiet nooks. Your Momma’s house is also off the table. Don’t do it.
Lastly, consider scheduling a celebration immediately after the conversation. Whether it’s an ice cream date, grabbing a drink at your local bar or lunch, you’ll want to do something to commemorate this courageous step. The most important thing is opening up both of your minds to a new way of life and its best to do that when you’re both standing on neutral ground.
2. Embrace your mistakes
If you’re anything like Mrs. r&R, you’re likely going to go HAM in preparing for this conversation and that can help AND hurt you if your husband already knows how you get down. In the process, there is likely a glaring mistake or oversight that you may have made in your planning or calculations. If/when this happens EMBRACE it! Thank him and tell him that is EXACTLY why you’re wanting to have this conversation together instead of one of you leading the charge for the team. It’s easy to convince yourself this is nothing more than playing into his ego but the reality is, two heads are better than one.
When I first built our personal financial spreadsheet, Mrs. r&R was quick to challenge my projections because I’d failed to account for the two months a year that we receive three paychecks instead of two. While that is a good mistake because it revealed we had more disposable income than I originally projected, there were likely other mistakes that are problematic and sent warning signals to her that perhaps I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Use these as opportunities to embrace vulnerability and transparency because that will build trust and soften the request for change.
3. Acknowledge your biases
Whether you know it or not, we all have biases and in personal finance, they reveal themselves pretty quickly. Since I grew up in poverty and am accustomed to being under-privileged, there are times where I am very conservative (e.g. portfolio growth) and other times where I’m wildly aggressive (e.g. budgeting). Come to think of it, this may be because I’m a Gemini. Either way, it’s important to acknowledge that upfront and incorporate it into your conversation. This will encourage your husband to acknowledge his own biases though you will likely have to pull it out of him. Men don’t typically walk around psycho-analyzing themselves and connecting dots from their childhood experiences to their adult spending habits.
In our case, Mrs. r&R had a more comfortable upbringing than I did so while there are times we complement each other well, there are also times where I need to talk her down from the peak of Mt. Crazy Talk. It makes sense that she believes that we can always make up for a loss, deficit or really pricey purchase because she has never really dealt with not having access to money and we make a good living.
On the other hand, my natural reaction to clutch my man-pearls at the thought of big purchases is because I literally remember being “the opposite of a winner/ remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner”. Seriously though, I do remember those days.
4. Let the data do the talking (probably the most important one)
We know that money is a deeply emotional subject and that by and large, men don’t wear their emotions on their sleeves. While I do sense a growing shift in how masculinity is defined and displayed these days, it’s still relatively safe to assume that most men are matter-of-fact guys. With that in mind, you should let the plethora of data available to you do the talking. Whether it’s showing him the top causes of stress in a marriage, using an easy to use retirement calculator, discussing the ever-growing cost of college, or shining the light on how 401k fees are eroding your retirement it’s important to stick to the facts. This also gives you the opportunity to hold him accountable to present his case with facts and not his own set of emotions.
It’s just as important to accurately capture and track your costs and current state. Tools like Mint.com and Personal Capital can help with this because they visually show and categorizes your costs and expenses. It might even be worthwhile starting the process of loading your accounts and finishing it together. If you opt for this, I would recommend using the Net Worth Tracker to show how you’ve been tracking over time. Below is a 90 day snapshot of what ours looks like through mid-July (less a few details of course). You can see a broader view in our midyear update here.
5. Don’t compare
It’s one thing to share an article from your favorite blogger (hopefully us) but DO NOT under any circumstances approach a financial conversation that compares your husband to a friend’s husband, or your relationship to another. Even if you’re not outright suggesting that he do what some other guy or couple is doing, it can very easily come across that way. Instead, focus on the specific objective at hand…whatever that is. Whether the goal is retiring early, clearly identifying how much your debt your in, devising a get out of debt plan or building up a down payment for a house, keep the focus on YOUR relationship.
Best of luck. Feel free to drop us a note on how things went here. We love hearing from you guys!