My wife is my hero. In terms of salary, I wouldn't call her the breadwinner (we need both our incomes to live), but she brings home the bacon. She also commutes nearly 2 hours a day each way to do it. This in addition to taking my daughter to sacrificing sleep, weekends, to being a devoted wife and mom. Being exhausted has never stopped her from taking my oldest to Dance class, the park, or playing games in the house. She paid for my principal certification and is extremely supportive of my career. She has the fancy finance MBA and I'm the teacher. But she is the one dodging the savings question while I am thinking about it non-stop.
I do understand her perspective. As long as both our kids are in daycare, she still has student loans, and we rent an expensive apartment, there isn't a lot more we can do. She comes home each day exhausted and doesn't want to spend time worrying about finances now. Truth be told, she doesn't spend frivolously. She's probably more frugal than I am in a lot of ways. I do believe we could be living in a smaller place right now. But if this along with a high quality daycare are our only real luxuries. When daycare and student loans are gone we should have an extra $2,500 per month. And that doesn't account for salary increases. We are both on a trajectory for more senior positions that pay more. We also both have parents that are in positions to help us and will. So the outlook is positive.
But what worries me is not having a holistic picture of where we are. I have an idea of our finances and I have some worries. I don't think we are saving enough collectively. But we also aren't in a position to right now. Our situation is not dire but it made think about the fact that finances are among the leading causes of divorce for many couples. So it made me think about when to have the finance conversation with your spouse. For the record given our other stresses I'm okay putting off our discussion. But I was wondering under what circumstances the conversation is necessary.
1. You or Your Spouse is Doing Something Destructive: If you notice a change in spending habits this can signal a need to talk. Money leaving your joint account, an increase in credit card charges. Do you suspect a problem with such as gambling, shopping addiction, or drugs. Ben Franklin said a stitch in time saves nine. Better to discuss a small problem before it becomes more serious.
2. You Haven't Set Goals or Contingency Plans: What are your financial goals whether it is buying a house, to be in a position to support children, retirement, or what you'd do in the event one of you were unable to work. Do you have a will or life insurance? I've known many people that haven't taken these important steps.
3. A Lack of Financial Collaboration: My wife and I both have our own bank accounts in addition to our joint account. We also divide which bills we pay. This has many advantages. I love the independence of not having to discuss every small purchase. But it also leads to inefficiency. My wife carries small balances on her credit card for no reason. It's not a lot of money but why pay interest when you don't have too. I'll admit I've not been as focused at lowering the electric bill as I should because I'm not the one paying it.
4. Future Planning: I think it is really important to set short and long term goals and to make sure you are working towards them. Whether it is saving for a home, college, retirement, or simpler things like the next family vacation, car, or home improvement it helps to have a plan in place.
5. Debt Management: When I got engaged I had 39k in student loan debt and 19k in credit card and car debt. My wife entered a full time graduate program at NYU and had car debt. Today our only debt is some low interest student loans of my wife's and we have a modest savings. That wouldn't happened without a plan.