Let’s face it- family finances can be stressful. I don’t know the exact number but roughly 25% of divorces are due to money issues. The funny thing is, 99% of couples deal with family finance stress, so why do some let it destroy their relationship and other get through it?
I believe that a lot of it can be boiled down to poor communication about family finances.
I want to share three powerful tools that my wife and I use to improve our communication around family finances. They have also been instrumental in helping us to build our personal wealth.
Family Net Worth Statement- I think many people, when they hear net worth statement, think this is only useful for the uber-wealthy. Why would anyone who has negative net worth need a net worth statement?
A net worth statement tells us where we are in our family finances right now? It is very important to know where we are so that we can set goals to improve our wealth.
A net worth statement is a list of all our assets (money, investments, cars, house, etc) and all our liabilities or debts (student loans, credit card debt, mortgages, car notes, etc). Add up all your assets and subtract all your liabilities and voilà you have your net worth.
Don’t be worried if you have negative net worth. The vast majority of young couples have negative net worth due to student loans and large mortgages. The goal is that each year your net worth is improving, either getting larger are at least less negative!
Each year (typically at the beginning of January) you can update your net worth statement and see the improvement over the year. It is incredible rewarding to see your family improve year over year!
Budget- If the net worth statement is a snap shot of your finances at point in time, a budget is the movie. It shows, typically on a monthly basis, what money came into the family from income and what you spent it on.
There are some great tools to look at to create a budget for your family. I hope to review them in another post but for now check out www.mint.com. If you don’t feel comfortable posting your information on a site you can create a budget in an excel spread sheet.
First list your monthly income at the top and then item by item your expenses below (rent, food, insurance, loan payment, etc). It will take some time at first to figure out how much you typically spend on each of these categories but within 3 to 6 months of tracking your budget you will have a good handle on it.
Monthly Money Date- The final step Is the monthly money date. How often do we let little tiffs about over spending flare up into full blow arguments? The monthly money date helps to alleviate this by giving you a time to speak about money each month.
My wife and I normally get a bottle of wine (or two) and go through how we did on the budget the month before. We identify the spots we saved and the ones that we need to improve. We also get to check in on how we are doing against our saving goals for the year.
Once a year when we update our Family Net Worth Statement we get to set financial goals together and we also look at these briefly in our monthly money date.
As you can see these are three very easy and very practical ways to improve communication about money in your relationship. Unfortunately the vast majority of us never spoke about money growing up and, more often than not, only saw our parents argue about money. I truly believe that if you implement these three simple tools into your marriage it will reduce the stress and lead to more happiness and fulfillment.