How to Get a Spouse on Board the Financial Train

Brent Pittman —  08/14/2012
steam locomotive

Are you and your spouse riding the same financial train? Photo credit Mercedes.

I often get calls or emails from one spouse who is highly concerned about their family finances. Too often it is the wife calling, but that is a article for another time.

After speaking for a few minutes, I ask the questions that lets me know if they’ll be successful or not. [10 Reasons Why Your Marriage and Budget Aren’t Working]

“What does your spouse think about your finances? Can we get them on the phone?”

I get a wide range of responses like:

  1. They don’t know I’m calling.
  2. Their spouse is the problem.
  3. My spouse is too busy to deal with money.
  4. My spouse and I agree we need help, but I’m doing the calling (this is a rare response).
We then discuss that they’ll have to work together in order for their family finances to be successful.

How to Get a Spouse on Board the Financial Train

The problem of course is one spouse has the motivation and desire to make changes, but the other spouse isn’t there yet. The couple will need to be on the same financial train in order for this to work. [I Now Pronounce You a Joint Venture]

A crucial conversation will have to occur to convince the reluctant partner to get on the financial train.

I’ll lay out a few tips on how to have this conversation about money:

1. Examine your own emotions and reasons for wanting to get your financial house in order. It may be because you’re scared, overburdened, have a lack of security, fear the future, or are tired from dealing with the financial stress alone.

2. Tell your spouse you want to talk and set a time. “Hey, honey. I’d really like to discuss something important with you tonight after the kids are in bed.”

3. Clear your schedule, turn off the T.V., put the kids to bed–do whatever you have to make sure you’re alone with your spouse and you have their attention.

4. Share your emotions and reasons for wanting to work on your personal finances together. Don’t demand, nag, or bring up bad habits. Just share your heart and begin a conversation–be sure to listen.

“Sweetheart, I feel really scared about our finances and I need your help.”

“Baby, I’m feeling really stressed dealing with the bills and collectors, can you help me?”

If you have a decent marriage, your spouse will hear your cries for help and gladly step in. They might not have known you were feeling this way or known the extent of the problem.

If you share this and your spouse still turns a deaf ear, then there is a chance you’ve got serious marital issues that require a consultation with a counselor or clergy member.

5. Have a Plan- If your spouse agrees, then have a plan or idea of what to do next. Start a budget, meet with a financial coach, attend Financial Peace University, or have another plan of action that you can both agree on. [Budgeting for Couples and Common Money Fights]

If you follow these steps, you’ll be pulling out of the station on the same financial train heading towards a better marriage and financial situation. All aboard!

Have you ever had to convince a spouse to get on board with your finances? How did you accomplish this?

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
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  • Agreed! I remember how frustrated my BF was when I wasn’t understanding why we needed to cut back so much. The thing with different perspectives is the bitter feeling and resentment that may result out of it. If my BF and I hadn’t talked about it and got on the same page, I guarantee I would have resented him for not being able to spend our money…but now that we both agree we need to save, and what goals we are saving for, it’s way easier to agree on how to spend our money.

    • So glad ya’ll hold the same values on money now. I’m sure it’s much easier.

  • Brent, I’m so lucky that my spouse and I share the same money values. It’s really wonderful that money is hardly ever an issue with us.

  • I’m lucky in the fact that my girlfriend and I are on the same page… I think it’d be pretty hard to get someone who isn’t interested at all on board but your suggestions are a great start!

    • It is super hard! That is why having many open and frank discussions before marriage is key.

  • krantcents

    Funny that this was never discussed before you get married or get serious. Money is the biggest reason for divorce! My wife defers to me to take the lead because of my financial background.

    • Unfortunately many couples don’t take premarital counseling, which would include finances. My wife and I actually took pre-engagement counseling that sparked many conversations and helped us to decide about marriage.

  • AverageJoe

    This is SUCH a difficult discussion to have. I love the part about expressing your emotions. By sharing this way instead of saying “you never” or “you always”, you’re winning already. Cool tips.

    • True, very tough discussion. I hope this helps some couples get on the same page.