Marriage & Money - Part IV
Calling All Free Spirits
You are my people. If you’re a Free Spirit, my mind probably works very similarly to yours. Yet, because of that, this final post on marriage and money is the hardest for me to write. I’ve had to take a look in the mirror and sometimes that’s just hard. Here’s what I see or have seen in the past about myself that I’ve had to change:
Follow the rules!
Nothing irks a detailed and plan-oriented Nerd like unexpected expenses, especially big ones. For Jeremy and me, we have a rule that any purchase over a certain dollar amount needs agreement from both of us. Whether it’s him or me who wants to do the spending, we are supposed to get buy-in from the other. This pains me to say, but very recently I found myself breaking this rule. Twice. In a row.
You see, we had a fabric storage ottoman type coffee “table” in our living room, which after 11 years, 2 kids, and 3 different dogs was pretty gross. It was stained and had become a big eyesore to me. One night in a mini-rant, I voiced all of this to Jeremy and I ended my spiel with “so I think we’re just going to have buy a new coffee table.” He sat in silence for a few seconds and then slowly said, “Oookaaaay.” I thought, ‘Huh! That was easier than I thought it would be!’ and went on my merry way. The next day I hopped online and ordered a big wood coffee table (no, not from Amazon!). When Jeremy came home to a new coffee table I found out that his “Oookaaaay” meant that he was acknowledging that a future conversation was needed. He hadn’t meant that I had his blessing to buy a new coffee table. Whoopsie-daisy! Now you might think (or hope, to be more accurate) that this story ends there but unfortunately it does not…
When my awesome coffee table arrived, I was so happy to move the old ottoman out of the way! But when I slid it over, I suddenly remembered why it had been positioned so precisely. Thanks to our puppy, there was a giant hole in the rug and the ottoman had been covering it. I thought, ‘Well, we certainly can’t have a big ole’ hole in the middle of the living room rug!’ So I hopped back online and found us a new rug. In the meantime, I put the puppy’s toy basket over the hole and waited for the new rug to come. Imagine my Nerd’s surprise (yet again) when he came home to a new rug to go with our new coffee table. Eek. I hadn’t even mentioned a new rug to him, yet here one was. Oh, y’all. I had accidentally broken the rule again. In my mind, I was solving a problem I had created, but because the solution was a big ticket item, I should have talked to Nerd about it first.
As a Free Spirit, I want to ignore the rules, or in this case, completely forget that they exist. But I have to remember that we put them in place for good reason and do my best to respect them.
The truth is, when it comes to managing our money, my natural tendency is to tune out. When I’m buying something, I want the money to be in the account. I want the little screen at checkout to say “approved” when I swipe my card, but other than that, I don’t want to pay attention to anything having to do with money. Did you notice that I just expressed what I want and don’t want three times? Yeah, I did too. Over the years I’ve come to realize that my attitude towards dealing with “money stuff” is selfish and even borderline bratty if I let myself go unchecked. So when Jeremy comes to me for a brief convo about money, the least I can do is be prepared, put away any distractions (physical or mental), and pay attention.
Appreciate the Nerds!
My natural tendency is to focus on how money talks are so dull and uninteresting, and then complain about them. What I have to do is shift my mindset to thankfulness. I choose to be grateful that my Nerd puts a lot of time and effort into our finances. It’s because of his diligence that I only have to engage in a brief conversation here and there. When looking at it that way, it’s much more tolerable. Now if your Nerd is anything like mine, you may need to remind them that your positive attitude isn’t because of interest (you know, just so they don’t get carried away in showing you their spreadsheets!), but because of the appreciation and respect you have for the effort and time they put into your financial wellbeing.
So if you are blessed enough to have a Nerdy honey who wants to take care of the family finances and the little screen always says “approved” when you do your shopping, why should you care about getting involved? Well, the reality is that for any number of reasons, you may need to jump in. There have been a few seasons in our lives when I have had to handle the family finances because I had time and Jeremy didn’t. Sometimes your spouse may need you to jump in and relieve some pressure, but if you aren’t involved at all, you’re probably not going to be able to do that. Other scenarios we’ve seen with friends or clients are when the Nerd spouse gets very sick, or even passes away, and the Free Spirit spouse doesn’t even know where all of their accounts are held. So, fellow Free Spirits, we really should care because one day our Nerd may not be able to handle everything for us.
This brings me to the second reason that we as Free Spirits should care… not caring can cause our Nerds stress. They are planners by design and it gives them peace of mind to know that their Free Spirit will know what to do if something happens to them. Refusing to be involved in the family finances can be a burden for your Nerd if they don’t feel like you’re at least generally knowledgeable in the event you have to pick up where they’ve left off.
Here are some questions that both Nerds and Free Spirits should be able to answer about the family finances:
How many accounts do we have, what are their approximate values, and where are they held?
What are our account logins/passwords if they offer online access?
Who holds our life insurance policies, what is their approximate value, and who is the beneficiary of each?
Is there a financial professional that we’ve been working with and, if so, what is their contact information?
Obviously this Free Spirit doesn’t always get it right. But when I do make mistakes, it’s easier for my Nerd to be gracious, knowing that I really do try to respect the boundaries we’ve created in our little world of money. I hope that you’ll talk to your Nerd about things the two of you might need to change to create a more harmonious environment in your world of money. Letting your Nerd know you appreciate them and sharing this list is a great starting point, so pour a couple glasses of wine and head for the porch with your Nerd to talk marriage and money.
P.S. This wraps up our series on Marriage & Money. If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can get caught up here.
And feel free to email me your specific questions!