I serendipitously met Yulin Lee at an after party at FinCon. I was fascinated by her career and business. She runs Project M, where she coaches women through hard financial times. She has managed to create a career she loves while simultaneously serving others. It’s a mission that touched my heart, as I’ve seen the devastation things like divorce and death can impart on your finances. As if grief weren’t enough, financial hardship compounds these situations in a real and sometimes terrifying way. Today, Yulin teaches us how to get acquainted with our finances now, when things are good, so that we have less stress, learning, and worries to handle should the unthinkable happen.
While money is often a socially sensitive subject in many cultures, it is still surprising to encounter how many couples don’t really talk about money even at home. When I say “don’t talk about money”, I mean in a sense of discussing it in a deep philosophical and emotional way. What’s the point? Well, many couples go into a relationship with their own set of deep rooted values and subconscious emotions attached to “money” without realizing how different they may be from each other. Those differences could eventually creep up at the most unfortunate times.
As a Personal Finance Coach for women, I can’t emphasize enough of the importance of women being actively involved in their household finances. Creating that awareness and spreading the word is one of my top priorities because I have witnessed many women struggle and suffer tremendously as a result of not being prepared and equipped with financial knowledge, skills and savviness when a hardship hits. Whether it’s a divorce or an unexpected death of the spouse, compounding the logistical nightmare of a broken relationship or a loss of a loved one with the sudden financial pressure can be extra devastating.
Here are some simple tips on how to be more financially involved and ultimately more financially savvy:
- Create an open dialog with your spouse about household finances. If you are currently not involved at all (other than managing day-to-day expenses), then the first place to start can be the household budget. If your spouse has a budget, review it and ask yourself “Am I comfortable with the current income, expense and savings allocations?” If there is no household budget, help start one!Depending on the relationship dynamics, if you’ve been married for a while and have never being involved in household budgeting, it may feel awkward to bring up the subject with your spouse all of a sudden. One way to break the ice is to have a conversation about planning for retirement, and see how you two are working towards that goal. This is a very important step because it is also where you can start to explore and notice if there are any fundamental differences in your attitude towards money.
- Know where you stand and get your baseline by reviewing and understanding your tax returns. They can give you a high level picture of your total household income, assets and tax liabilities. Attend the annual meeting with your tax accountant with your spouse if you haven’t been doing so.
- I always say that saving is important, but we can’t save our way to retirement. We need to invest our savings to build a solid financial future. If your spouse has been doing investments, ask him how chooses the specific investment products, and then ask yourself: “does his investment philosophy align with mine?”
- If you have children, have a conversation with your spouse about what kind of money habits and values you would like to instill in your children. Remember, everything we do, we are modeling for them. In a case where the couple has vast difference in their money habits or philosophies, it can be very confusing for the children. Get in sync as parents and help your children build a positive and solid foundation around money.
I understand that for some, this list can seem intimidating. Just the words “tax returns” can turn many people away. My best advice is to Start Small, one small step at a time. More importantly, create a routine where you do a financial check-in with yourself on the regular basis. You can start with just once a month. Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar to sit down and review your budget, monthly bank statements, investments and financial goals. Think of it as going to a gym to build and maintain your financial muscles.
I sincerely hope that if you are happily married and are reading this, you will please know that this article was written with you in mind. I know that we learn best when we are in a good shape, and feel good about ourselves. By being proactive in financial affairs when you are not in crisis, you are giving yourself the gift of self care.
If you are currently going through a life hardship like a divorce or a loss of loved one, my heart goes out to you, and I want to tell you to remember that you are not alone, even if the world around you seem to be all falling apart. Reach out for support, help, a shoulder to lean on! We are in this world together.
That was super! As an HVAC guy, my hubby is always coming across older women who have lost their husbands and have no clue about anything, because “Harry” always took care of everything. So for that I’m thankful that I’ve always been in on all of our financial matters. My biggest concern is that should I ever need to get a job again, it will be difficult to get anything that pays well. I’ve been out of the work force for over 25 years and other than the internet, my computer skills are sparse. I also lost all of my employment records during our last move and have no idea who I would use for references. Plus, we have no investments, retirement funds, life insurance, nothing. Hubby just turned 60. I’m 54. Any suggestions would be great. (I know ~ PRAY!) 🙂
Displaced homemakers have it seriously rough, even if they have a college education. This could be a whole other post. In fact, it probably will be. In the meantime, I suggest following that link through and dropping Yulin an email. She’s pretty amazing.
As a single woman, I have no choice but to take control of my finances!
Go single women! Seriously, what screams empowerment more than I’ve done all this on my own, and no one can lay claim on my success?
Just starting the conversation is so valuable- I think a lot of women are scared of fighting with their spouse, but I read in Psychology Today, that spouses that sometimes fight are healthier than those who never fight (apparently, not sure how much I believe that, but whatever).
I think so many couples let dreams go unfulfilled because they never bother to take control of their money.
I theorize it has more to do with the mentality of never fighting means you’re never airing concerns and differences than that the act of fighting is good. I hope. My proposal is: even if you’re worried about fighting, open the conversation. It doesn’t HAVE to lead to a fight, but don’t be so afraid of one that you never talk about things.
Agreed. And then if you do fight, it’s all about how you do it. Opening up disagreements can be healthy if you find a constructive way to a solution rather than a destructive argument that damages your relationship and doesn’t resolve the core conflict.
This is really good advice. No matter how great things seem now, there’s so much uncertainty and it’s best to be prepared and stay informed of your financial situation because you never know.
So true. I always hope no one will ever encounter these circumstances, but the sad truth is that it happens everyday.
I’m actually the CFO in our family. So it’s more about making sure my husband is aware of what we’re doing with our money. I need him to know, just in case something happens to me. We’ve made a bunch of compromises on priorities and spending desires, so we seem to be going in a good direction. Thankfully.
Ditto. We’re both decent with money, but I tend to be the one that thinks (obsesses?) about things further down the road. Good point that as society is changing, both genders may need to take heed.
My wife prefers to not be involved in our finances. She knows what’s going on, but I do all of the budgeting and ultimately make the big decisions. The reason for this is because she was in charge of the finances for the first few years of our marriage, and it stressed her out…mostly because I was spending like crazy and didn’t understand how money worked. I was happy to take the finances over after I started to learn how to manage them.
Well I think everyone would must to be honest and have clearly his/her financial situation, then if you are in a relation is better to be honest from the beginning, lie into this field can ruins relations!!!
Lying about your finances is never good… Especially in a relationship!
PiC and I talk about what we’d want to see happen with LB’s financial education, and other aspects of hir education, a LOT. In some ways, it really helps us dig into why we think the way we do, what makes us comfortable, and what goals we should set. We didn’t start out being comfortable with talking finances, it took years to be, but the important part is that we faced up to the discomfort, repeatedly, until it was no longer a sensitive or personal subject.
Raising kids will definitely open up big conversations, and so many of them cut into some of our hardest held values! It’s good that you guys are having these conversations now rather than once you’re in the thick of it. Super smart!!!
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