Financial improvement is a family affair

If you're in a marriage or a long-term relationship, financial improvement won't happen unless both partners are committed to it. 

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File
Army Capt. Michael Potoczniak, left, and Todd Saunders, of El Cerrito, Calif., show their wedding rings after they exchanged vows at City Hall in San Francisco in June. Hamm writes that improving finances is something with which both members of a marriage or a committed relationship need to be on board.

I’m going to give you a quick sample of a key sentence or two from several recent reader emails.

Now if I could only get my husband on board.

The next stop? Getting the credit cards out of her hands.

Now I just need to convince her to stop using the debit card every time she wants something.

If my husband would stop golfing three times a week this would work out well.

She isn’t really on board with this so I don’t know how it will work.

Here’s a quick truth for you: if you’re married or in a long-term committed relationship, financial improvement won’t happen unless you’re both on board with it.

If your partner isn’t committed to spending less, then any spending you cut from your own personal expenditures will be quickly devoured by the lack of spending controls in your marriage. In other words, your partner will find a way to spend it because your partner isn’t motivated to cut spending.

There are a few financial moves you can make on your own if you don’t have a full family commitment.

You can contribute more to your own retirement plan. Just go to the human resources office and either start a retirement plan (if available) or bump up your own contribution.

You can start your own savings plan. Open a savings account at another bank and transfer money regularly from your primary checking to this private savings account.

The problem with both of these ideas is that they both reduce the pool of available money in your checking account and if it’s not also met with some spending changes on at least your behalf, it’s not going to fix anything on its own.

The key thing to remember is this: when you’re in a committed relationship with fully shared expenses, every dollar you spend or your partner spends costs both of you. It’s money that’s taken away from saving for the future. It’s money that’s taken away from your collective retirement savings. It’s money that’s taken away from your collective emergency fund. If you’re using a credit card, it’s costing you both in the form of interest if you don’t pay it off within a few weeks.

So, what do you do if your partner isn’t on board with the financial change you seek? I’d suggest that you both read Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach, but this would require your partner’s willingness to read such a book. If your partner isn’t even willing to think about it, I would suggest marriage counseling, as a deep fundamental disagreement as to what to do with the fruits of your collective labor is something that can very quickly damage a marriage to its very core.

This isn’t really an optional thing. You need a full family commitment to financial success in order to achieve it. If one partner isn’t on board with this or is secretly spending money, you’re never going to find the success you desire and that your family deserves.

The post The Full Family Commitment appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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