Shortly after my husband and I got engaged, he asked to take a look at how much I had in student loans. He knew that my graduate program cost a lot, but had no idea how much in the red I was. He bought the rock which proved to me that he wasn’t going anywhere, but I respected his need to know exactly where I stood financially. It was a good thing too. We realized that I didn’t have enough loan money to get us through the summer after we were married, so my husband took out a cheap federally subsidized student loan. I could study for my board exam and he could do his internship. It was an open and comforting financial beginning.
Weekly money pow-wows are a great way to keep the money communication lines open in your relationship. Here are a few tips to make them run smoothly:
Set aside a certain time to talk every week: It becomes a habit. Pick a time that works well and when you both are normally free. My husband and I found that by planning ahead, both of us are mentally prepared to talk about our finances. It takes away the frustration that can come from having a money topic sprung on you when you are not prepared.
Have some popcorn: Or rice crispie treats. Or something tasty to make your meeting less formal and more fun. Speaking of fun
Do something fun afterwards: Talking about money for a half hour or so can be draining. In your planning make sure you have scheduled time to go play Frisbee, watch a movie, go for a walk, or something else fun and cheap. Believe it or not, coupling something fun with something not-so-fun is a great psychological game to make you’re not-so-fun thing more bearable.
Know where to put stuff: Do you know where to file student loan interest notices? Or do you know exactly where your social security card or where your auto insurance policy is? A filing system makes financial pow-wows go faster.
Keep up: As far as actual content of the financial pow-wow, 1st priority should be keeping up. For example keeping up on bills, keeping up on of strange bank charges, keeping up on credit cards, you get the picture.
Get ahead: Do something every pow-wow to get ahead. Get ahead of your credit card debt by deciding to pay extra. Get ahead on your mortgage. Can you pay a little extra toward your principal? Do you have some extra money sitting in a savings account that you could move to a higher interest account? What about saving some money on car insurance? Could you put a little more money into your retirement accounts? Little steps each week bring some forward momentum towards personal prosperity.
Delegate action items: Maybe someone should be in charge of getting a rate quote on car insurance. The other can call Wells Fargo about a fee on the checking account. Try to have both partners report on something for the next pow-wow
Don’t let them drag on: After an hour, stop. You’re done. Go play Frisbee.
Keep positive: Trust me it will happen. You will have a meeting with some bad financial news or get a reality check on where you stand. It’s ok. Facing your financial situation takes courage because you sometimes you will discover some unsettling things. Perhaps your car insurance is coming up in 2 months and you didn’t realize it, better you figure that out 2 months in advance than before you get the bill.
Money can be a depressing topic, but it is still important in a relationship to understand what is going on with the money. Believe it or not, working with money together can bring you closer together. What I adore so much about my husband is that he loves me so much, he’ll work and pow-wow with me through my debt. And you know what? When he goes to graduate school, I love him so much that I will work and pow-wow with him through his debt. One day we’ll be money-makers in our careers and I betcha we will still pow-wow.
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