Do You and Your Spouse Have Compatible Spending Habits?
When it comes to household tasks and chores, most married couples take a “divide and conquer” approach. One spouse might handle weekly shopping, the other might handle garbage and recycling. The first spouse might handle laundry and cleaning while the other might handle yard work and maintenance. Or one spouse might drive the kids to school, the other might handle pickup and extracurricular activities.
But household spending and budgeting are among those responsibilities that are best tackled jointly. Money issues are often one of the biggest sources of marital tension. They can also serve as a leading factor in divorces. Here are five ways that you and your spouse can make sure you agree on your household spending, avoid surprises, and maximize the benefits your money provides. (As discussed in this blog, financial planning takes teamwork.)
1. Have an open and honest discussion.
Many couples assume their attitudes about money are aligned. Then one day, the roof needs an emergency repair that taps a savings account, or someone walks in the door with an unexpected splurge purchase (or worse yet, hides it!).
Stressful situations are not the ideal time for a couple to discover significant differences in spending habits. Sit down with your spouse and thoroughly review your finances and your monthly budget. Find compromises that will allow you to save for the future while still enjoying your present. (Please see this blog for some suggestions to help you get the conversation started.)
2. Understand the total household cash flow.
In many households, one spouse pays the bills. This can lead to misunderstandings, and arguments, about where the money goes every month.
Both spouses should understand how much the household spends every month, and how bills get paid. If you’re the one who’s usually in charge of bills, take an hour to walk your spouse through your process. Show him or her how to access financial accounts online, which bills are paid electronically, which are paid by check (if any), the monthly amounts and due dates, etc. This won’t just help both spouses understand the monthly cash flow, it will ensure that both spouses can handle household finances in the event of an emergency.
3. Be transparent about all assets and liabilities.
Newly married couples might still have banking or credit accounts that are only in the original account holder’s name. The other spouse might not find out about these accounts until a credit card is maxed out, or a checking account is overdrawn.
Again, the less stressful your reason for talking to your spouse, the more positive the outcome will be. Financial secrets tend to come out at the worst times, compounding stress, hurting feelings, and straining your budget.
Your spouse should be a cosigner and beneficiary on all your accounts, and vice versa. If one of those accounts carries a large liability, get out in front of the problem. Put a plan in place to start paying it down. Discuss the ramifications of combining any large individual assets with a tax professional or your financial advisor.
4. Agree on a budget.
If one spouse is responsible for budgeting and bill pay, that person often becomes The One Who Has to Say “No.” No eating out this week. No weekend trip to the waterpark. Not any new cell phones either. As for new clothes, no way.
Nobody likes being in that position, especially the one who has to say “No” to everyone. Eventually, you or your spouse will resent being the one who has to say “No.” You should both understand the household’s monthly cash flow and agree on how your money is – and isn’t – spent.
5. Get help
The financial planning software Apprise uses is just one of the many apps and web services that help households set and maintain a budget. (Others include mint.com and quicken.com.) If you’re a small business owner, Intuit offers a line of bookkeeping and tax prep solutions to fit most needs. Automating select bill payments and regular contributions to retirement and savings accounts can also help to clarify your monthly budgeting picture. (Adopting a “Pay Yourself First!” approach can make it easier, too.)
Finally, if there’s a spending gap between you and your spouse that seems impossible to bridge, we can be an excellent resource. It’s important to us that we understand where clients’ attitudes about money come from, how they’ve developed, and how they can diverge between couples. Facilitating this dialogue helps make sure both people have the best life possible with the money they have. If you would like some help, please schedule a free Strategy Session.
Here are the links to this week’s articles as well as a brief description of each:
1. Here’s Why a Roth Individual Retirement Account Conversion May Pay Off in a Down Market.
I’ve written about the potential benefits of Roth conversions several times. (See here, here, and here). A down market can make Roth conversions even more valuable. Why? Say you want to complete the conversion of $50,000 of assets. If the assets you want to convert were worth $62,500 before the market fell (a 20% decline), you get a break. You will only recognize $50,000 of taxable income on the conversion instead of $62,500. Assume that the assets you convert return to their original value, and your marginal tax rate is 24%. (Your marginal tax rate represents the tax rate paid on your last dollar of taxable income.) Then you won’t pay tax on $12,500 of gains – a savings of $3,000. Don’t forget that you’ll still pay $12,000 in taxes on the amount ($50,000) converted. Check the article for some other factors to keep in mind when considering a Roth conversion.
2. 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known.
We can often benefit from the advice of those with more experience. In this post on his 70th birthday, the author shared 103 bits of wisdom he wished he had known when he was young. Some of my favorites follow:
Don’t ever work for someone you don’t want to become. This sentiment was a driving factor in my decision to start Apprise.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I don’t need to write this down because I will remember it.” Who out there hasn’t fallen victim to this one?
There is no such thing as being “on time.” You are either late or you are early. Your choice. This reminds me of a similar piece of wisdom. If you regularly arrive late, you are telling the other person that your time is more valuable than theirs.
Use a password manager: Safer, easier, better. I send all new clients a password book to help them capture their passwords. This can prove invaluable for your loved ones after you die. You could use an online password manager instead. That can make it easier to share the passwords for family accounts.
To keep young kids behaving on a car road trip, have a bag of their favorite candy and throw a piece out the window each time they misbehave.” This was a new one, so I can’t say my wife and I ever did this. We both laughed hard at this one. Our 16-year old daughter thought viewed it as a “waste of good candy.”
Take the stairs. I do this whenever I can.
There were too many other good ones to list. I suggest you check the list out for yourself. Feel free to share your favorites by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Bull Market Rhymes.
I share just about every memo Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks writes as he’s an investment legend. In this memo, Marks begins by commenting on a popular adage attributed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” As a result, Marks noted that while the “events of investment history don’t repeat,” themes do recur, particularly behavioral ones, which is the main focus of the memo. He wrote:
“I want to mention up front that this memo has nothing to do with assessing the markets’ likely direction from here. Bullish behavior came out of the pandemic-related bottom of March 2020; since then, significant problems have developed inside the economy (inflation) and outside (Ukraine); and there’s been a significant correction. No one, including me, knows what the sum of those things implies for the future.”
Not surprisingly, Marks fails to predict when this market downturn will end or how much it might fall. But, with the benefit of hindsight, he certainly can help us understand what we lived through in markets over the past two years.
4. How to Overcome Multitasking Madness.
At times, all of us toggle between devices and apps. Neuroscientists believe multitasking has numerous negative effects. For example, nonstop multitasking slows our ability to process and retain information. It also hampers our efforts to filter out extraneous information. It can cause us to make mistakes, too. The article shares some remedies for multitasking madness.
5. Jumpstart Your Search for a Part-Time Job in Retirement.
According to estimates, 2.6 million more Americans than expected retired early during the pandemic. Now, many would like to return to the workforce, preferably on their terms. This article shares five tips for those seeking work that stimulates, satisfies, or just pays the bills.
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Phil Weiss founded Apprise Wealth Management. He started his financial services career in 1987 working as a tax professional for Deloitte & Touche. For the past 25+ years, he has worked extensively in the areas of financial planning and investment management. Phil is both a CFA charterholder and a CPA.
Located just north of Baltimore, Apprise works with clients face-to-face locally and can also work virtually regardless of location.