Chances are, if you are reading this article, you are the money nerd in your family. You spend hours thinking about how to fund your retirement. You balance your checkbook – to the penny. You create a detailed, down-to-the-last-dollar budget. You work hard to save money and you are focused on the future.
In my family, I’m the money nerd. My wife? She’s the free spirit. She works very hard at her job and she does a great job as a mommy. But, she’s not all that interested in the day-to-day management of our finances. She leaves most of the bill paying and investing to me.
So, how do we coexist and keep things running smoothly?
As the money nerd –
I (try) to remember that it’s our money and not my money. This can be very hard for the money nerd, because the money nerd really likes to be in control.
I don’t make decisions. We make decisions. Sure, I like to run the numbers and create the spreadsheets, but I don’t pull the trigger on any major financial move until we are both comfortable with what we are going to do.
I am not the budget-master. Here’s how we create our monthly budget. I enter the data into my favorite budget software – You Need A Budget – and I print out a copy of our preliminary budget. I hand the budget to my wife and I walk away. She makes whatever changes she wants to make – and that is our budget. (When we first started using a budget, it took some time to get on the same page, because we were both used to just spending money, without any guidelines. But, over time, it gets easier and easier. Now, we pretty much use the same budget, from month to month, with just a few minor changes.) The only reason we don’t sit down together and do our budget is that my wife, quite frankly, just isn’t interested in watching me goof around with the numbers!
As the free spirit –
She realizes how much this means to me (and, ultimately, to us). My wife is the greatest. She knows that I’m doing my best to ensure that we have an awesome future together. So, she puts up with all of my nerdiness and my need for crossed t’s and dotted i’s. Sure, she’s pretty much convinced that I’m insane, but she still puts up with me!
She actually participates in the process. Instead of leaving all of the work – and all of the worry and headache – to me, she contributes to the planning process.
She sticks to the budget. I’ve know many married couples where one spouse hides spending from another spouse. By working, together, to create the budget, we avoid the money squabbles that ruin many marriages. But, the budget doesn’t work unless you actually stick to it.
The money nerd in the family might be the husband or it might be the wife. And, some families might have two money nerds. Or, both husband and wife might be free spirits. But, usually, there’s one money nerd and one free spirit. If the nerd and the free spirit will work together, a family can make great progress. The money nerd needs to learn to involve the free spirit in decision making – and the money nerd most avoid, at all cost, becoming the money-dictator. And, the free spirit can help the money nerd loosen up a bit, and learn to enjoy the present (instead of always worrying about the future!).
Side note: For the purpose of this article, I’m using the terms money nerd and free spirit in the most positive of lights. I was trying to find terms that were easy-to-understand, which would also convey a little humor. And, for those who might be tempted to think that money nerd = boss of the family, then you need to talk to my wife! My wife is MORE than capable of managing our household finances, but, she knows that I enjoy working with this stuff. So, she lets me.