Reader Question of the Week: He Won’t Take Our Finances Seriously!

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a reader, who would like her husband to be more involved in financial decisions:

I am hoping maybe I can get some feedback from you or maybe the readers of your blog on this; in my marriage I am the one that handles the finances and it’s because I like playing with the money ~ lol!

The problem is that when I do want to talk to my husband about money issues, questions or such he gets annoyed with me and wants to have nothing to do with the conversation. I know that the reason he does this is because our money problems, mostly the lack of money, really makes him feel like he isn’t providing for his family the way he should.

I have never made him feel like our financial situation is his fault, but I do feel that as the head of the household he should be somewhat involved and its nice to talk to him about these things because you can’t go to your BFF and discuss something as personal as money.

Can I get him to stop feeling like money problems are his fault or is this something that I’m just never going to be able to talk with him about?

 

What do you think?  How can she better involve her husband in talking about finances?

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Comments

  1. You need a plan before you guys have a sit down. List all you expense and income. Then make plans one night just the two of you to work on this and tell him that as a married couple you need to look like at your budget for the kids benefit and your relationship. If he starts to say he knows that he is not providing enough tell him that is not the problem we just need to know where the money is going. Then balance your budget with a little bit of breathing room. When making cuts to your budget ask yourself is blank worth the stress in my marriage. I know this will be hard, but if it is not fixed it will ruin your marriage and your bank account. If this problem is handle early the money issue will become less of a headache in your marriage.

  2. I was this husband! For years I let our finances descend into disarray, despite my wife constantly telling me we need to budget and plan and fix our money issues. I think the reader is correct, that a lot of it stems around the fact that if we are having money issues, we feel like we are not providing, and it’s true! If you aren’t providing, you are not a good provider. But the answer is not to shrink and hide, it is to step up and take control.

    3 years ago I finally snapped out of it and took control of our finances. We went from bring a paycheck-to-paycheck family and started budgeting basically overnight. 3 years later, we have a plan to get rid of our debt and we’re working towards it. We have an emergency fund of $5000 and I get nervous if we don’t have $10,000 in liquid assets that I can’t access by the next business day. Compare this to a life where we used to constantly run at a -$5000 overdraft, and a good month was when we were above $0 in our account.

    In my opinion, he needs to take control. I’ve helped a few families in the same situation now that we’re working out of ours and one thing is always in common: they seem to have to hit some sort of personal bottom before they are willing to turn around. For one family that meant borrowing $10 from their 10 year old to have gas money to go to work, not because they didn’t have cash, but because they didn’t have any money.

    I’m more than willing to share any help in this regard, I think finances are a huge issue. The Bible has more verses about money, finances and wealth than any other topic. There are 5x as many as for prayer or faith. I think God knew how much of an issue this would be and unfortunately, we are no longer being taught how to manage money in school or at home. Even my friend who is a professional account has a mess for family finances. He manages millions of companies money, but can’t handle a family budget.

    This is something we as parents need to fix with whatever help we can get, and then teach our children, so they don’t repeat our mistakes.
    Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…How do I get my wife or husband to do [blank]?My Profile

    • I should clarify, that when I say he needs to take control, he can delegate that task to you, since you like handling money. But he needs to be involved. He needs to understand it, even if he’s not involved in the minutia. Likewise, though I handle the finances in our household, I send my wife a weekly report so she knows what her budget is for things like groceries, clothing, etc,: the household things she is responsible for.
      Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…What does household leadership mean for the husband?My Profile

    • learning is fun! says:

      I’d heartily agree with most of what you say here, Jay Dee. Where my opinion differs is that I don’t know that I’d be insistent that he ‘take charge’ of the finances, but he does need to pull his head out of the sand and be involved in them. By avoiding it, he is also avoiding responsibility for the finances. That also means that he avoids accountability as well. First off, that’s really not fair to his wife, by saddling her with all the financial worries and stress, while he remains blissfully unaware. As for the whole ‘not wanting to talk about it because he thinks I’ll just make him feel bad that he’s not providing enough’ thing – all I have to say is grow up, dude. Maybe you NEED to realize that you’re not providing – and formulate a plan to fix it, either by earning more, or by altering your spending. Or perhaps, by tracking your expenditures and budgeting, you can find out where your ‘perfectly adequate’ income has sprung a leak. Maybe he doesn’t want to face the reality of curbing his spending, or admitting to frivolous purchases. As Jay Dee pointed out, the Bible has a great deal to say about money, and material things, so it’s also not a surprise that money is also the largest source of marital discord. It’s really vital that you and your spouse get on the same page.

      There are other reasons to be involved in finances, too: first of all, if there are kids in the house, they need to see financial responsibility being modeled, and taught to them. They should SEE you going over your budget together, and paying the bills together, so that they get used to the reality that ‘life’ doesn’t get paid for by magic. Furthermore, involvement in the finances helps both partners prepare for the future, and by that, I mean both future in terms of retirement, but also in terms of that day when ‘God, by death, shall separate them.’ Think of the panic he’d be in if his wife were to pass away, and he has no idea what the passwords to the bank accounts are, or where the investments are, etc.

  3. My husband doesn’t care very much about the nuts and bolts of the family budget, either. It’s just a personality thing for him. He’d rather not manage that. He doesn’t even care that much when I report our good news to him!

    Back when we had less money, it did bother him, I think, for me to bring up the topic of shortfalls in money. This was probably because he was already doing absolutely everything he could, and all the corners that could be cut were cut on the spending side of things, so what sounded like “talking it over” to me sounded like complaining to him. I learned quickly that unless there was something concrete I needed from him (could you please only eat lunch out once this week, for instance), I just stopped talking about it. Sometimes women think they’re communicating when they’re really just letting off steam.

    OTOH, that was *us*. I don’t know about you. If your husband has a spending problem, for instance, but is expecting you to figure out how to deal with the shortfall, or if you aren’t really as good a manager as you think you are (just examples!), or if you don’t have the same way of looking at money, the problem could go much deeper than that.

  4. You may to compromise on this at least to begin with. I don’t like to talk money or figures. I like to see money or figures. By that I mean your “conversation” needs to start with him just having the facts so you know where you currently are. Nothing bigger than a 3×5 card. Short and sweet. Neat handwriting or computer generated, a little but not too much color helps. Income, outflow, current debt, current savings, any past due and then one blessing &/or one prayer or trouble item if there is one (but you might want to leave this off the first one or two).

    This will get the ball rolling and with time he will feel ready to talk or have questions. But right now you are asking him to have a conversation and admittedly it his fault, at least a large part o it, but he has nothing to converse about. He doesn’t have any facts. You want a conversation and he can’t converse about something he doesn’t know about. He not only if you are correct feels powerless with his earnings but then you are setting up a situation that doubles that if he doesn’t have the facts/info needed. And numbers are something best communicated non-orally, especially to a man.

    Most times this will at least generate questions, and that’s when you get to talk about. But remember do not overload…short and sweet.

    • Quote: “..By that I mean your “conversation” needs to start with him just having the facts so you know where you currently are. Nothing bigger than a 3×5 card. Short and sweet. Neat handwriting or computer generated, a little but not too much color helps. Income, outflow, current debt, current savings, any past due and then one blessing &/or one prayer or trouble item if there is one (but you might want to leave this off the first one or two). ”

      Sadly; this is how I work with special needs children in my job. Sorry, but he needs to grow up; set aside the ego and start taking responsibility. It appears that male ego is the real problem in this situation.

  5. Maybe address one specific question at a time, and make it clear you’re coming to him for advice. Try: I am looking at our bills and trying to decide which credit card to pay first – here are the options, what do you think? That question is less threatening than an entire budget discussion. That can come later as he gains confidence by helping you solve smaller money problems.
    Leanne recently posted…The top 5 (times 2)My Profile

  6. Try going through the Dave Ramsey book “Total Money Makeover” or even better his class “Financial Peace University.” It will probably help both of you figure out this money thing better.
    Ticia recently posted…Easter family devotionalMy Profile

  7. Money can be such an emotional issue! Back when my husband and I were engaged we went through a financial counseling course and I’ll tell you… that has saved our marriage, over and over. Back then Larry Burkett was the go-to guru, but whatever – Dave Ramsey, WNAB (We Need A Budget), or ??? Maybe you can find something you go to together. If you can’t afford a class, see if there is a couple in your church that would counsel you – it is SO WORTH IT!

    To my husband, money is like water – impossible to hold – so he delegates that responsibility to me. For the most part, this is a good thing (more my skill set) but then sometimes he resents it. So this is what I’ve done…

    1. Pray about it first!

    2. I try to make it clear (by my words, actions, attitude, etc.) that I am committed to living on what he makes. When I do come to him with a problem, I try to preface it with some positive comments – I know he’s working hard, he’s doing a great job, the slow economy isn’t his fault… etc.

    3. We’ve set a dollar limit that neither of us will spend over without consulting the other (outside of paying routine bills). This does a couple of things – it protects your budget (!) and it gets you talking.

    4. Keep track of the money. You have to write it down. I know it’s a pain, especially if your income fluctuates (believe me, I’m living it), but write it all down. Then you can both SEE where it’s going and what needs to change.

    And, I don’t know, maybe he just doesn’t want to deal with it AT ALL, EVER.

    Well, the load is on your shoulders, then.

    Sometimes I get frustrated with that, myself! But I console myself that it’s better than the opposite – I’d go nuts if I had a husband who kept all the control/information/money and didn’t give me any say!

    Julie
    Julie recently posted…Turkey Pot PieMy Profile

  8. Lemme tell ya something – you will never be able to make him feel like it isn’t his fault. Providing for their families is something men take very seriously. It’s hard-wired into them. My husband and I are working through financial problems and the guilt he felt for allegedly not being a good enough provider was crushing for him. It was when I validated that instead of trying to erase it that we began to make progress. I said to him that I understood he felt that way and I didn’t blame him. I told him regardless of how he felt, I felt he was a great provider and that I believed in him and that I was in full support of him and we worked through the issues together.

    Two things that have helped us: Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and the book “Your Money God’s Way” by Amie Streater. She doesn’t deal so much with the “how” as with the “why”. What the core reasons behind our financial struggles are. It’s a quick, easy read. You can find it on Amazon. It might help you understand what’s going on in your husband’s mind and figure out how to communicate with him.
    Melissa recently posted…Trauma at the Hand of FictionMy Profile

  9. If you have honestly tried to bring it up, and he feel so threatened, it might be time to seek outside help. On the other hand, are you sure you’ve actually brought it up? I have a tendency to think that I have and that Hubby isn’t interested, when really, I’ve approached the topic so round about that he had no idea that’s what we were talking about.

    In all, though, money is something you both ought to be talking about. You NEED to be on the same page about finances. And if it takes outside help to get there, get the outside help. If he can’t talk about it without getting upset and emotional, it is time to seek help. There have been good suggestions here so far, just make sure you do it.
    Rachael recently posted…Camping plans and preparationsMy Profile

  10. Run, don’t walk to the nearest Financial Peace University class. It will help you both get on the same page with finances. http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/classfinder/#center=30.467699,-84.131699

  11. I need help with this too! My husband handles all the finances, and he never talks to me about it. I have told him that I want to discuss it together and come up with a budget together, because I want to be more involved with our finances. But he completely avoids the subject. I think maybe he is either trying to “protect” me, or he is defensively assuming I must not trust him.
    I praise him for being a wonderful provider. And I’m not worried about money, knowing that God will always provide. I just want us to be a team.. I feel left in the dark.
    My husband won’t do counseling or even a class together. And he does not go to church with me. (It’s another whole issue when he tells me we dont have enough for me to tithe my paycheck).
    I guess I just need to find a way to talk to him that won’t make him feel threatened. (Is that even possible?) I just wish he could understand that I support him and we’re on the same team!

    • Nellie, that’s a very common problem. I’ll try to write a piece about this really soon, because I do believe that you both NEED to know about the finances. It really is essential.

  12. Since 1997 I have used a software program to track all our finances. Every year I prepare a budget in January (the software suggests a budget which can be amended as you wish) and then give my wife a report every month showing what we have earned and spent against our budget. (I was a banker for over 40 years). We are retired now so our income consists of pensions and investment income. She has always left me to look after the money but I always keep her informed. She quizzes me on items which are over or under budget by more than nominal amounts. She is concerned that if I die first then she will be rather “out in left field”. Fortunately our son is an accountant so he can help her.

    I think a realistic budget is a must for any marriage and both spouses should be aware of the finances even if it is left to only one to do the record keeping.

  13. Stephanie says:

    You said that you “have never made him feel like our financial situation is his fault” but maybe you just don’t know that you have. Thankfully, my husband has become a lot more in tune with his emotions about our finances and through tough conversations, we have learned better to communicate about it. For example, if I come from work and say something as simple and seemingly innocent as “man, I’m really tired tonight, I feel like maybe I’m doing too much.” I think I’m trying to start a conversation about what I can cut back in in my life to make more time together, but he feels like I feel like he doesn’t earn enough money, when that wasn’t my intention at all!

    I’m not sure if I am making complete sense, but my point is maybe that you could start with a conversation about how and when he wants to be talked to about finances. When you think that you are communicating lovingly, it might not be HIS way of loving communication, and that is something that I have learned the hard way.

  14. Ann Noskowiak says:

    I have heard before that as the head of a family he DOES have the CHOICE to let you handle all of the decisions regarding the money God has entrusted with your family. So if he’s delegating that to you don’t feel like he’s not the “head” of the family. If you need someone to talk to about your money situation and he really-Does-Not want to be involved in the discussion maybe you could ask him if you could take a class on money management and if it would be ok to talk to a teacher or counselor that God would provide? Of course it’s a different situation if he won’t follow the budget that you have put together.

    • IMO, it’s not wise to leave the finances (or anything necessary) to just one person. BOTH need to know what’s up, because what happens if either spouse dies or is severely injured? My FIL died a year and a half ago and my MIL knew *nothing* about their finances, and she had to learn it all in the weeks following his very sudden death. Bills don’t wait.

      At the very least the person doing the finances needs to update the other person regularly, and the other person at the very least needs to know where the main finance-er keeps stuff (checkbook, passwords to online banking, credit cards, etc.) and if they’re in huge debt or what.

      • I agree 150%! I’ll be writing about this this week, but I don’t think it’s ever a healthy situation if only one person knows what’s going on.

  15. I was once married to a man like that. What I did, was get two separate checking accounts. I placed in his hands, the phone, power, and water bill, I handled the mortgage, insurance and groceries. Be prepared to sit in the dark without a phone running to the neighbor’s house to use the bathroom…but change rarely comes without pain. Let him feel the pain of missing payments.

    It will be tempting to harras him to pay the bills, but don’t. You can write due dates on his calendar, but do not intervene. Let him feel the consequences.

  16. My husband is the same way! I could never make a budget work because he just swiped his card never told me how much he spent nothing. And honestly, what made him realize we needed a change was the bank cancelling our overdraft protection and returning checks. (Which just recently happened) he now understands what i have been talking about. Today he called and told me how much was in the bank that he was not swiping his card for anything but fuel in our vehicle. And he withdrew cash for groceries and one of our other bills. Until this happened, he was terrible about spending. And yes, i am putting the “blame” on him- i never go anywhere i leave the house MAYBE once a week, while with him. If i want a drink i use our change thats laying around and i have to pay because he will not use change. I think having the problem with returned checks finally got through to my husband. We will be sitting down tonight discussing a budget. Good luck!

  17. I obviously don’t know your husband, so I don’t know if this story will be useful to you, but here you go anyway. :)

    I know that my husband was always scared of money… and thus never wanted to talk about it. He couldn’t fully provide (this economy is not great, on top of chronic health problems) and felt guilty that I have to work and that we have to budget so carefully.

    To help him get over his fear, I asked him to take over the finances (and laundry lol) 100% for a couple months. I asked him to start doing this from basically right before I had a baby to when she was about 2 or 3 months old. I really did need his help (although I *like* doing the finances, just like you do) just because I was finding it difficult to get anything not essential for basic life done.

    He agreed, mainly because he knew I was overwhelmed, and he got familiar with how to do things. I didn’t remind him to pay bills so we had a few late fees, and when I took over again there were a few discrepancies — but at the end of the day, he isn’t afraid of money anymore, and he knows basically what bills we pay and budget for, including the yearly bills like vet bills, car licensing, netflix, etc.

    Do you and your husband both have jobs? If so, then it’s easier to tell him that your financial situation isn’t only his fault. :) If you don’t, can you think of some way where you have spent more than was wise or not looked ahead like you should have? Confessing where you have fallen short can sometimes help the other person understand that you aren’t blaming him, plus it’s beneficial for you, too.

    I seriously doubt that trying to enroll him in a class or read a book will help the situation. If he won’t even have a minute-long healthy conversation with you, his wife and therefore hopefully his most trusted ally, there is no way he’ll spend the time (or money! can I just say that I think it’s funny that some people are recommending spending $$ when you’re talking about financial trouble? lol) to do that. That would be a good step for later, IMO.

  18. My wife and I have been married for 16 years. She has always taken care of the finances. It seemed like the only time that she would even discuss financial things w/ me was when there was a problem. This did nothing but make me feel like failure. I never got to hear about anything but the negative. I know that I should have been more involved in the finances, but there has been several times over the years when I have asked financial questions and got shot down. I did make attempts to be more involved but it was like she did not want me to know what was going on. As of about 1/1/13, she has all of a sudden quit balancing the checkbooks. We have 2 checking accounts, one for farm use and one for the rest. Without any notice she just quit balancing the books after all this time of doing it. I am not even sure if the bills are getting paid. Our marriage is not good at all and really looks like we headed for divorce. I do not want this at all but I don’t think there is anything I can do to stop it. I have tried all I know. I am afraid to ask her if the bills are getting paid because I know that it will end up in a big fight. I have been calling 1-800 numbers to check the balances on the checking accounts to make sure there is still money in them to avoid overdrafts. It seems to me that she is trying to destroy my credit before she kicks me out since most of the bills are in my name. I don’t know if this is the place to post but I could use some help. This is really hurting me.

  19. Peter uk says:

    Hmm lots of advice here on how to handle your finances, but that is not what you asked is it?
    You want to know how to handle your husband’s sense of failure whenever you try to discuss the finances. I am guessing that you are the numbers person in your relationship, and probably get a great sense of security from knowing exactly where the money is in terms of budget and expenses.
    My wife of 36 years in two days time is the same.
    And yes it made me feel inadequate as a provider too, which is where your husband sits right now. You have taken control of the family finances so a man automatically assumes it is your job to do that bit and by simple progression that leaves him with providing as a his part!
    Now if you come to him with an issue that there is not enough money for the whole month then he will feel inadequate! You may try hard to tell him that is not the truth, but it is what he will hear! It is the same as him saying I like the look of so and so in her swim suit, you hear that she is prettier than you! Not his intention but it is what is heard!

    So advice. You need to do the money managing together, you need to ask him to solve the balancing of the account occasionally, you need to ask for help over little things, do not exclude him and then come and say – you are the head what do you think should give, food or car? Get him involved in the small details too. The more you do this together the better. It will take time as you have made this job yours, you will need to play the helpless female that needs my man to help me a few times, make him feel like his input makes a good difference, not that you only come to him when he has failed to provide enough!

    Just as you need to know where the money is, he needs to know that he is providing. These are two key parts of how we (men and women) see finances differently. To you it is security, to him it is his provision. Both are seriously undermined by asking questions in the wrong way.

    I hope this helps, as I say my wife and I have been at this 36 years and we rarely argue over money issues, many other things but not money.

    Pete

  20. Late to the game, but I want to share how my husband and I handled this almost identical situation. Over time (and after reading lots of books on the subject), I realized that he flat-out wants me to oversee the finances and, as his helper and as the budget-minded person, I should. There’s nothing wrong with that, IMO. The trouble is, this setup CAN enable him to shove his head in the sand. I agree with you that, as leaders of the family, husbands need to know what’s going on. I finally took a sort of CFO approach. Once a week, I compile an at-a-glance report of where we are, and I email it to him. Once a month, I put together a short “list of recommendations” with regard to either how we did well or how we could do better, and I email it to him. Results: he actually looks at them (it’s essential that I keep them brief), and if there’s an issue he’ll actually talk to me about it (I think he feels much less pressured when he’s the one to bring up the topic), but I tend to go into way more detail than he would, so I watch for the old glaze-over lol! I guess, long story short, you can’t force him to engage, but you can find ways that work for him. Dave Ramsey says that there’s always one in a relationship who’s the numbers person, the budgeter, and that it’s almost guaranteed the other hates it – and that we have to respect those differences. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck!
    Julia Weston recently posted…For writers, Journaling is the housekeeping of the mindMy Profile

  21. The BEST thing I can say is if you want to work towards FINANCIAL PEACE you need to check out Dave Ramsey’s class FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY. You AND your hubbs can work on the things that got you to where you’re at right now, individually AND together. It’s a great place to start…

    DON’T follow any plan that you and your hubbs haven’t agreed upon together. No one can tell you how you should handle your individual situation. And I agree with others who said that it’s not your fault nor your job to work on the fact that if feels bad about his providing stance. My husband is the same way, but when things get difficult we go back to the plan we agreed upon. That’s thanks to taking Dave’s class!!

  22. I am loving all the advice! We’re in same situation. I’ve asked several times (even begged) for my husband to take over finances. I’m not neccessarily great at it but I’m the “penny pincher” so to him that makes me qualified, lol! I have been taking it so personally that he didn’t want to and his irritation with me when we discuss money made me feel alone in it. But our most recent argument gave me some insight that I’m hoping will help us both. He just wants to provide and worry about bringing in the money so that I don’t have to and be able to do things I’ve dreamed of (like homeschool) …. and this sentence are his words not mine. If it were left to him he’d stay in the dark because as just stated, he only wants to worry about making it not organizing it. He did say if we HAVE to talk to about money ( which I reiterated it’s a must even at the most minimal level) then he wants hard facts for ex: what we have, what’s going out, what needs paid first and how much money we can spend on what. So maybe taking the advice of previous commentors to share a financial overview with him would be helpful. The other thing my husband painfully pointed out was his lack of interest in cutting out unnecessary expenses when he feels I don’t always follow my own advice. Ouch!!! I got defensive feeling like he was passing the buck but when he started spouting examples (wanting to spend a monthly allowance on home beautification like curtains, new rugs, etc when if fluffing my nest is the goal then to him it didnt make sense as to why I hadn’t used what we had on hand like pictures not hung.) So be willing to hear his side if you do get him talk even if he’s yelling. Ask for God’s wisdom to see it from your husband’s perspective. Also be willing to not make your husband the enemy, it’s actually sin and you’re both sinners trying to handle money. When he knows you love him more than being right about your finances you’ll probably find he’s a little more willing to discuss it. Good luck

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