• You can share this content with others through social networking sites. To do so, you will be leaving Schwab.com and accessing a third-party site. Please note that Schwab does not endorse these sites or the products and services you might find there.

  • Visit Schwab.com

Q: My husband has no interest in our finances. How can I get him involved?

Every couple figures a way to divvy up responsibilities according to their skills and preferences. But when it comes to money, it’s essential that both partners participate in some capacity—and that both are completely aware of what’s going on. In my family I’m more of the day-to-day person, but my husband is involved in every decision and knows whom to call if something comes up.

To me, that’s a crucial distinction—and one that you’re wise to address now. That’s not to say it will be easy to get your husband’s attention. It may be especially difficult because it’s harder to change behaviors once they’ve been in place for a long time. But it’s something that’s best to tackle sooner rather than later.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that every person has a different way of doing things. A colleague of mine who is a financial expert keeps a spreadsheet for all his investments and retirement projections, but his wife won’t even look at it. She sees all the numbers and long-term goals and her eyes glaze over. She, on the other hand, deals with the couple’s everyday finances and easily stays on top of accounts, bills, short-term needs, etc. Ironically, my financial expert colleague professes to be clueless about these daily basics—and says he would be lost if anything happened to his wife.

The moral of the story is that even financially savvy people can have a hard time staying involved in things that don’t fit their personal style. So it’s important to present your finances to your husband in a way that will make sense to him and pique his curiosity.

Fact: Nearly 80 percent of women in relationships bear the responsibility of managing household finances, often with little help from their significant others, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling.

Be Honest About Your Concerns

To me, it has to start with an honest conversation. Tell your husband that you’re concerned about what would happen should you no longer be able to handle the family finances. Be clear that you’re not asking him to take charge. Rather, you’re asking him for his help and advice—both for his well-being and for your peace of mind.

Talk About Life Goals

As a couple, you’ve probably talked a fair amount about your vision for the future. Do you want to travel? Will you relocate? Start a new business venture? Maybe you agree with each other, maybe not. But regardless, money is probably an important part of whatever lifestyle you select. At this point, talking about money may be less about numbers and more about what you want out of life. That can be exciting.

Look at the Big Picture

Before you get into the nuts and bolts of managing day-to-day finances, you might pique your husband’s interest by talking about the bigger picture—what you have, what you owe, and how you’re protecting yourselves. Here are some important points:

  • Net worth—This is a look at what you own (home, investment accounts, retirement savings) and what you owe (mortgage, credit lines, car loans, credit card balances). Are you in the plus? See My Top Ten Recommendations, page 1, for how to create a net worth statement.
  • Cash flow—How much money comes in each month and how much goes out? Is there a deficit or a surplus? Could you save more? See the “Cash Flow” box in Question 2, pages 18–19, for an easy way to set up a cash flow statement.
  • Retirement—Have you calculated how much money you’ll need each year in retirement? Are your lifestyle expectations realistic, or do you need to do some rethinking?
  • Insurance—Review your health, life, homeowner’s, and automobile insurance policies. Are you adequately covered? See Question 27 for more on insurance you need—and don’t need.
  • Estate plan—Do your wills and trusts reflect your current wishes? Do you have the appropriate powers of attorney in place for both health and financial matters? If you need to get started on a basic estate plan, see Question 38.

As you look at these items together, you’ll be able to spot trends. If you need to make adjustments to meet your future goals, use it as an opportunity for more thoughtful discussion on what’s important to each of you and discuss changes you might want to make.

Smart Move: Before you get into the details, make sure you’re organized. See Question 11 for ways to systematize and categorize financial paperwork.

Simplify the Details

This is where people’s eyes usually glaze over, so it will be up to you to make the details appear straightforward and simple. I’d start with a concise list of:

  • Advisors—Include contact information for your financial advisor, tax accountant, attorney, insurance agent—anyone your husband could turn to for advice. If he hasn’t yet met these advisors, perhaps you could set up a meeting to introduce him.
  • Accounts—List all your investment and bank accounts, with account numbers, location, and how much is in each. This could be an opportunity to consolidate accounts to make things even simpler.
  • Documents—Make sure your husband knows where to find all important documents, that is, loan papers, wills, trusts, insurance policies.
  • Everyday bill paying—Consider setting up automatic bill pay for most of your monthlies. This way your husband would only have to know which account the bills are paid from and how much of a monthly balance to maintain.
Smart Move: Don’t forget about passwords! In this increasingly online world, not knowing the passwords to your accounts can be a big hassle. Keep a list in a couple of secure places and make sure your spouse knows where it is.

Take It Step by Step

You’re probably not going to change your husband’s attitude overnight. And presenting all this information at once may serve only to convince him that he wants to stay on the sidelines. So make it a gradual thing. You might want to make a date once a month, go out for coffee or even for dinner, and plan to discuss one aspect of your financial life.

Then, once you have your husband’s ear, be sure to include him in all major financial decisions. He may never get down to picking stocks or rebalancing your portfolio, but he may find that, rather than being a burden, having a say in family finances gives him a sense of accomplishment and control—and ultimately brings you closer together.

Talk To An Expert: Next time you plan to meet with your financial advisor, encourage your husband to come with you. It might be a pleasant as well as eye-opening experience.

Part VI: The People in My Life, Question 46

Additional excerpts

You are leaving The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty website and linking to a third-party, unaffiliated site. Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. ("Schwab") does not endorse or make any warranty with regard to the site, its content, or its products and services.

Click here to continue to the linked webpage.