Last month, I spoke on at Financial Fortitude event for a Delta Sigma Theta chapter in NYC with my girls Tonya of My Fab Finance and Tiffany The Budgetnista Aliche. The room was packed with black women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s wanting tips and inspiration about how to govern their finances.
It was wonderful.
Many of them were tired of just being fabulous; they wanted to be financially free and fiscally flawless.
At the end of the panel, a woman came up to me and said that she noticed that I was married and wanted some advice about how to handle the issues that she was having with her new marriage (less than a year) around finances.
In less than a year, she was having misgivings about marrying her husband. This was his second marriage and her first. He had a child from the previous marriage and claimed that money was the downfall of it..
She shared that her wedding day, a day when a woman is supposed to be at her happiest, was a sad and stressful one. She felt that the money used for an extravagant wedding could have been used for a down payment on their financial future.
I couldn’t give her super specific advice because I didn’t have access to their finances nor have an opportunity to speak with her husband.
Nonetheless, I left her with some strong takeaways about how to broach the tough topic of money earlier on in the relationship.
Side note: Even if you are not married, keep reading. If you want the right man to put a ring on it, then you are going to need to have money talks to get your marriage off without financial foolishness to hold you back.
Know what money means to your spouse. If you have been a part of The Frugal Feminista tribe, you know that I firmly maintain that a discussion about money is really about something else. Money is a proxy for so many things like love, power, status, pleasure, and happiness. So when you talk to your spouse about money, make sure you have a deep understanding that when you say “I really want to talk to you about how we are spending money,” they may hear, “I really want to talk you about how I can take away a major source of your power” or something closer to their financial values.
From our brief discussion, I could gather that this woman had married a man that viewed money in a fundamentally different way than she did. She was financially conservative and viewed amassing money visa saving as a form of security. He, on the other hand, found frugality controlling and looked at money—that is, spending money— as a source of pleasure.
When you have some insight into your partner’s relationship with money, you will have a better understanding of how they will handle family finances, but also how to talk to them in their “money language.”
Pick the right time to discuss money issues. If you are frustrated with how your spouse is handling the family’s finances, then you are going have to be very strategic as to when you will broach the topic. Don’t start discussing your partner’s money mistakes when the bills are coming in and there is no money in the accounts.
If there is already tension in the marriage, you can best believe the tension will escalate and no progress will be made. Even in the worst financial climates, there has to be time in the month where things are at least better and you and your bae are in good spirits and open to having a conversation. A financial sweet spot, so to speak. Find it and use it.
Speak in terms of goals and watch your tone and energy. In my conversation with the event attendee, I could feel her anxiety. It was palpable and real—so much so that I wanted to give her a hug. Now, if I could feel it, I know that energy has slapped her husband right up against the head without her uttering a word. So, I recommended that she focus on having a dialogue where they focus on where they want to be financially in the next six months and plan backwards with specific steps on how to get there.
This approach takes the attempt to finger-point out of the equation. Instead, it keeps progress around shared goals at the forefront.
Search for the financial silver lining. As my new friend begins to make progress in her marriage, I told her to find the good that her partner’s financial habits…not matter how small. Finding this nugget of goodness will help her see him in a more positive light; it will also make him feel better about his financial identity, since he probably feels a little insecure and defensive around his wife when it comes to money.
When she reflected on her husband’s financial behavior, he was able to see that he paid bills on time. That’s a real win for her to see about her partner. It gives her something to build their financial foundation on.
Prioritize the financial topics that you want to tackle. In speaking with this woman, I found that she had a litany of issues with her husband’s approach to money. The two most salient were his lack of budgeting and ambiguity for who and how his child (from the previous marriage) was going to get to college. It was clear that she didn’t want to pay for it since the child’s mother was alive and working. But she hadn’t really been clear with him about her reservations about it. I told her that it would be of utmost importance for her to speak her mind (respectfully) about this topic taking Tip #2 and Tip #3 into consideration.
With hindsight always being 20/20, it would have been ideal that they had spoken about money prior to their nuptials. But when that’s not possible, taking advantage of the present is the next best time. Frugal Feministas– What say you? Do you feel that you could broach money topics with your bae?
If this post really resonated with you and you want to transform how you feel and think about money so you can live your best life, consider money therapy.