“If you are dependent on your husband or partner to support you, it is easy to lack the courage to speak up on behalf of yourself and your family.” Suze Orman
Marriage and Finances Go Hand-in-Hand… or They Should!
Finances in marriage are a tricky thing. This especially rings true when one partner works outside the home and the other doesn’t.
Women have a knack for taking care of everyone and everything but themselves. Stay-at-home moms are prime candidates for falling into this trap. I was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years.
Raising four girls and homeschooling them didn’t leave much time or motivation to stay involved in our household finances. Over the years, I fell way behind in any knowledge of our money and budget.
Marriage AND money should be a partnership in every way. Running a household, sticking to a budget, and managing the income is a joint effort. When only one spouse earns the paycheck, it’s easy for the other to feel left out of the family finances. It’s also far too common to believe the money doesn’t belong to you equally.
Never let yourself believe — or your partner tell you — that you’re not worthy of being informed about and regularly involved with household finances. It is YOUR money also, regardless of whose name is on that W-2 form.
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I used to wonder how much I would have earned if my 20 years of mothering had paid an income. Wearing the many job hats that a stay-at-home mom wears… let’s just say I’d be a millionaire a couple times over. Being a young wife and mom, I often doubted the worth of my hard work.
Each partner in the marriage contributes value, energy, and time. When you agree to live on one income to allow for a stay-at-home parent situation, it’s imperative to keep the finances in marriage consistently out in the open. This wasn’t the case in my partnership, and it caused much hardship.
God forbid that divorce is ever something that happens to you, or that you suffer the death of your spouse or partner. But life is real, and it’s messy, and just because you don’t want something to ever happen doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared.
Your value demands that you take time for hard conversations with your partner or spouse. This is not easy to do if you’ve been left in the dark financially, or have chosen to opt out of your finances. It’s especially hard if you’ve been fed the negative message that “it’s not your job.”
If you need help in this area, by all means, seek counseling or attend a finance workshop for couples. There are many free workshops offered at various times of the year by local churches and organizations. Call around and find one.
There is no guilt or shame in not being knowledgeable about your finances, but now is the time to change that. Taking your financial temperature and determining the next course of action is a very wise choice.
As married couples get busy with kids and jobs and homes, it’s easy to slip into the habit of doing things the same old way. If you haven’t had a budgeting meeting with your spouse in a while — or ever — schedule one now.
Ask your partner to sit down with you at the earliest opportunity and lay out all of the bills, accounts, investments, and debt that you have as a couple and individually. Sit together and ask questions if you need to.
Talk about strategies for better budgeting if you’re noticing a lot of unpaid debt. Be sure to discuss where the debt is coming from and make a plan to face it head on. Do not avoid a difficult conversation if you see things that concern you.
Personal Finance Must-Haves for Every Stay-at-Home Mom
There are FOUR critical personal finance tools every person should have. No matter what. Personal finance is just that… personal. When unexpected circumstances occur, money often plays the most vital role in how your quality of life pans out.
Four necessary personal finance tips:
1. A credit card in your own name. If you don’t qualify on your own, you should be able to qualify based on your spouse/partner’s income. This card is opened in your name only, with no second card in the other’s name. If this isn’t possible through your partner, you can start with a secured credit card and try qualifying for a regular card after several months.
2. A savings account of your own. You may already have a joint savings account, but open a separate one that is yours only. This is a vital step towards having a safety net of your own and becoming more in tune with your finances as an independent person.
You can fund it with your birthday money if you like. There are survey sites, job boards, and many other ways to make a little extra cash online. Rent out your car on Turo when you’re not using it. Get creative — the key is to put something in there as often as you can, no matter how small.
I’ve been participating in paid focus groups for years with two companies in downtown Denver. I always enjoyed escaping my domestic life and driving to the city for the evening. You can also sell unused gift cards, textbooks, technology etc.
3. You must know your FICO credit score. This is key for any future loans, renting a house/apartment, and even some job opportunities. If you don’t have established credit, getting that credit card in your name will help. You can build your credit with secured credit cards as well. Money Talks News offers 6 ways to get your FICO score for free.
4. A Spousal Roth IRA (individual retirement account) in your name. Even if you’re not the one with the paycheck, the IRS allows you to open your own account through the earning spouse. This is a spousal IRA account that’s in your name and under your ownership. Earning a little side money also qualifies you to open an IRA of your own.
For more specifics on the Roth IRA, and why I love it, read Roth IRA: The Rockstar of Retirement for the full scoop.
Being in the Dark Hurt Me Financially and Personally
I realize that this post sounds like a tough love message — and it is. I’ll tell you why. I don’t want other stay-at-home moms and spouses to go through what I did for 20 years. In my previous marriage, I was discouraged from knowing anything about our finances.
Never once did I pay a bill, look at bank account statements, or open a credit card of my own; and I take full responsibility for that. I was young, busy, and naive. I was also told that it was not my money, and that I’d never figure it out anyway.
This resulted in financial disaster for me (and bankruptcy for us). There were bad real estate investments I wasn’t told about, and over $100K of debt. I eventually got out of that situation and determined to always be involved with my finances from that time forward.
The best thing I did for myself was get educated in financial matters and topics of all kinds. I read many, many books and I still take online courses from time to time. Khan Academy offers free courses online in almost any subject, including finance and economics.
My all-time favorite resource has been Suze Orman’s book Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. I admire her nonjudgemental approach and passion for teaching beginners. Her enthusiasm and expertise motivated me to take control of my money, and gave me a serious interest in investing.
Don’t ever let someone intimidate you into thinking you can’t learn basic (or more advanced) financial and budgeting principles. It’s never too late to become an expert in something that fascinates you. We’re more than moms, and that’s always a good thing to remember.
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