Honey, Let's Talk About Money

Talking about money can be stressful, especially with your spouse. Maybe you were raised carefree when it came to money. It was never an issue. Never talked about. Everything was always taken care of. Yet your spouse was raised by budget-focused parents who talk more about money than just about anything else. Everyone knew when money was tight and when money was flowing. They also heard countless arguments between their parents about money. In one life, money talks were nonexistent and, in the other, money talks were all consuming.

Now you’re an adult, married, and need to talk with your spouse about money, but you have differing expectations. How do you have a constructive conversation when you both come from such different money educations and psychologies?

My wife and I have been walking this road throughout our marriage. We come from very different families when it comes to money, and that has led to some challenging conversations about finances. The good news is though, that after 11 years of trying to make our money talks work, we’ve learned a few things along the way.

Open and kind communication changes everything

Open communication is marked by rigorous honesty. So much of our money talk problems stem from shame and fear that prevents us from being honest about what we want, how we feel, and how we spend our money. As many fathers and husbands can relate, I want to give everything to my wife and kids. So, it has always been difficult for me to say “no” when my wife is spending money on something I don’t feel comfortable with. It isn’t that she is going out to buy a new car or a $12,000 handbag, but there are times when our spending priorities are not aligned and I don’t communicate with her about it. This leads to resentment and miscommunication.

When I don’t speak honestly with my wife about how I’m feeling, I tend to not bring up money issues at all. As you can guess, this leads to negative financial consequences. Sometimes, the financial troubles will boil over, and instead of having a constructive conversation about money, we have an argument. This brings me back to the need for not only open communication but kind communication. As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” A gentle conversation will only happen when we refuse to let resentment build up, isolation creep in, or honesty go by the wayside. A money talk marked by open and kind communication might begin by saying, “Hey honey, I’m feeling anxiety about our finances and I was wondering if there might be a good time I could share my feelings with you about it?” This invitation for connection can make all the difference in how we begin money talks.

Creating a shared financial vision to stay on track

Once you are having the money talk, what do you talk about? In times of financial stress, my wife and I often talk about budgets. We crunch the numbers to the very last penny. We cut all excess. We refuse to even buy a latte. Then, before we know it, we’ve overspent in one or two areas, neither of us share how we are feeling, and we end up exactly where we started. What gives? After doing some reading and talking with friends, we realized that we were so focused on what we couldn’t do with our money that we completely overlooked what we wanted to do with our money. We never took the time to discuss what our shared financial vision is. 

  • What do we value? 
  • What do we want to spend our money on? 
  • Are we trying to keep up with the Jones? 
  • Are we doing what we feel God wants us to do financially? 

These questions reshaped how we thought about our money talks. As Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” We had to learn how to be discerning with our money. We had to think through what we wanted and didn’t want to do with it. So, instead of focusing on how financial plans limit our spending, we focus on the ways they help us to achieve our financial goals. Now, at the end of the month, we can celebrate that we paid down some debt, saved for retirement, and had a wonderful dinner out with our kids. Focusing on the good of money has helped us see that it’s not our enemy and we aren’t each other's enemies. Instead, we are a team working towards a financial vision that we’ve agreed upon.

Diligence not Perfection

When it comes to money it can feel like anything short of 100% accuracy isn’t worth our time. That’s not true! How many areas of your life do you do perfectly? Parenting, your marriage, your job? No, I’m sure, like me, you have good days and bad days, but you keep working at them. Diligence is what pays off. The same works for money. We don’t need to be doing things 100% right to have healthy and constructive money talks with our spouse. Instead, we can make every attempt to stay diligent in our money talks. As Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” The financial expert, Ramit Sethi, goes so far as to advise his clients with “The 85 Percent Solution: Getting started is more important than becoming an expert.” A diligent person who gets it 85% right is not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than 0%. If we let the need to be perfect prevent us from doing the next right thing in our lives, then we will suffer for it. As the writer, Anne Lamott, says in her book Bird by Bird, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” I couldn’t agree more. Even the Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In other words, none of us are perfect. So, let’s stop being so obsessed with perfection. Let’s be okay with 85% and know that it’s Jesus’ perfection that ultimately saves us.

So, today, take a chance on your spouse and invite them into a money talk. Not a talk marked by fear or shame, but an honest and kind conversation that isn’t obsessed with perfection. A conversation that focuses on finding a shared vision that works for both of you. You might be surprised at how this conversation transforms your money talks.

About the author — Rev. Travis Jamieson

Travis Jamieson pastors a church in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has been married to Annie for ten years, and together, they are raising two beautiful red-headed children. In his spare time, you’ll often find Travis surfing at a local beach or riding his Vespa around town taking in the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area.

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