When you’re young and just starting your career, you may imagine a worst-case scenario of never making enough money.
You may not imagine getting married, making good money and still living paycheck to paycheck. But that’s a reality for more people than you probably realize.
If you’re in that position, what can you do to get your spouse on board with better financial habits?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
I Want To Tell My Husband of 20 Years That We Should Start Splitting Our Finances 50/50. What Do I Do?
My husband isn’t responsible with money and I want to split our finances. How do I go about telling him?
That’s what a listener asked on the June 29 podcast episode.
Asked Robin in Georgia: “How do you tell your spouse that you want to split financial responsibility so that it’s 50/50? Does that ever work?
“We’ve been married for 20 years and have tried everything. We still living paycheck to paycheck with decent incomes — around $210,000 per year. Your advice would be a lifesaver.”
Clark would go on to provide Robin with some advice on talking to her husband about her concerns with their financial future. But he first diagnosed the problem.
“So right now, one of you is carrying more of the must-pays every month than the other. And you’re both broke at the same time as a result,” Clark says.
“Because, I’m reading between the lines here, one of you loves to do lifestyle kind of purchases and has no money left over. And the other, you, you’re paying for all the monthly expenses and there’s no money left over.
“At an income of over $200,000 a year, you should be in a position where you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. But as I shared recently, one in four people who are high-income earners are living paycheck to paycheck. And at that level, it’s a people problem, not a money problem.”
How To Talk To Your Spouse About Their Spending Habits
Clark is a master at navigating sticky money conversations with honesty and kindness. So his advice to Robin on broaching the money conversation with her husband is insightful.
“Just having an isolated conversation about [going] 50/50 is not where I’d start,” Clark says.
“I really feel and I’m going out on a limb here because there’s things I’m presupposing and I don’t know. But when you don’t feel comfortable talking with your spouse about the spending issues, I think it would be really great for you instead to suggest that you sit down virtually or in person with a financial counselor. And talk through better ways to handle your money.”
Clark recommends a nonprofit called The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The trained professionals get you to fill out forms to share your savings, expenses and other related financial puzzle pieces. Then they discuss steps you should take to get to where you’re thriving financially.
You can make an appointment and learn how it works at NFCC.org. But many of their services are free or cheap.
“But the key is both of you have to be on board about doing it. And I think the way you do it is not when there’s a flashpoint with, ‘Oh, here’s this bill again.’ It’s just, ‘You know, I really am thinking about our future. And I’m worried how we’re going to be financially OK in the future,'” Clark says.
“You express your worry about that. [Say] you’d really love to talk with an expert about it. And so in a completely non-threatening way, you create this conversational environment to try to get buy-in.”
Initiating a difficult conversation about money can be challenging, even with a long-time spouse.
Clark suggests doing so not in a heated moment when you’re upset. Instead, he says to frame the conversation around your worries about the future. You want a non-threatening, collaborative discussion with an outside expert.
It will be difficult to get your spouse to change their long-time spending habits unless you get buy-in from them to work toward a common goal. So try your best to frame the conversation in order to get that buy-in.