This week, Maggie gets personal and talks about how she and her husband manage and talk about money within their marriage.
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In honor of Valentine’s Day, Maggie is getting personal about her own money conversations with her husband! It’s not all rainbows and roses, but having certain systems in place helps a lot.
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The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.
Maggie Germano (00:00): Hey there and welcome to the Money Circle podcast. My name is Maggie Germano and I am your host. Money Circle is a podcast for women who want to get their money right without being made to feel like failures. Each week, I answer listeners’ money questions and interview amazing women who are lifting women up with their own work. Thanks so much for tuning in and don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe in your podcasting app so that more people will hear about this podcast and listen. Feel free to also share this podcast with a friend or a family member that you think would benefit from it.
Maggie Germano (00:43): This week’s episode is brought to you by Stitcher premium. Listen to some of your favorite shows, ad-free with Stitcher premium like Unladylike, Being Boss, and more. Plus, you can get access to Stitcher originals like the Neighborhood Listen and Scam Goddess. Stitcher premium is only $4.99 a month or $34.99 a year, but if you use the code “moneycircle”, you can get your first month for free. Go to stitcher.com/premium to sign up today.
Maggie Germano (01:10): This week, I’m taking advantage of the upcoming Valentine’s Day to talk about love and money. More specifically how my husband and I manage and talk about money within our marriage. For more tips on how to have money conversations with your partner, visit my blog at maggiegermano.com. I have a blog up this week called revisiting the money talk with your partner. And it’s an addendum basically to one of my first blog posts from four years ago, which was about how to have the money conversation with a person that you’re dating and just starting to get serious with. So there’s some helpful tips there. So check it out. First off, I want to say that we are in no way perfect when it comes to talking about money, we still disagree and get in arguments, but none of our money related tiffs feel insurmountable.
Maggie Germano (02:00): And I credit that partially to our consistent conversations about money. I also credit it to the fact that Dan basically lets me own our finances. So the first thing about a really how we talk about and manage our money is that I really do take the lead when it comes to our finances. I’ve pretty much done this since we moved in together five years ago and obviously I’m a financial coach now, so it makes sense that I’d be the one to be handling the finances, but I wasn’t actually doing this work at that time in our relationship. But money and personal finance was always something that I felt pretty good at managing and something that I enjoyed doing and I enjoyed learning about. So it just seemed natural that I would be the one to kind of take sort of the lead with that. And when we first moved in together, we weren’t merging our finances.
Maggie Germano (02:53): So it’s not like I was, you know, I could fully see all of our stuff in one place or move money around. That was his, into mine or anything like that. Um, but we did have a shared credit card that we would use for expenses that we would share or going out to eat or whatever it might be. And that just made it a lot easier to split things. But, so I would basically pay the rent, pay the utilities, do all of those things and then let him know how much he owed me and he’d write me a check at the end of the month. And so he kind of just assumed I knew what was going on and and just paid me what I told him to. And I used to actually joke to him, you know, I could be, uh, sifting a little bit of money off the top if he wasn’t paying attention, I could be making a whole lot more money off of him.
Maggie Germano (03:43): But he trusted that I was not going to do that. Uh, but I still do think it’s important that even if one person is taking pretty much the lead and managing the finances completely, it’s important that the other person at least is dialed in and knows what’s going on and knows how much is going where and all of that so that nothing can kind of slip through the cracks or you know, if things do go South sometime in the future that both people know where the money is and how to access it. Since we bought our house together a couple of years ago, our finances have been much more intwined. So the purchase of our house really coincided with me also deciding to quit my job, which maybe doesn’t seem very rational, but that’s the way we decided to do it. And since Dan was going to be the one bringing in a consistent income and a salary that really made enough to cover most of our expenses, we set it up so that all of his paychecks would be going completely into a joint checking account that we shared and all of our bills would come out of there and all of our necessities like groceries and um, transportation and things like that, all of that would come out of that as well.
Maggie Germano (04:57): And so even though it’s his salary, really that’s covering all of our bills, I’m still the one that is looking at all of the accounts on a very consistent basis, seeing how much we’re spending, tracking our spending in a spreadsheet and in a budget app. And just understanding how close we’re getting to the limit of our spending budget at any given time. So, um, me as the point person is really working for us both because I’m the one who likes doing it. I feel like I’m pretty good at it. I’m pretty organized with it. I’ve had systems in place even before we met as a way to track and manage my spending. And so it just made sense that I would, you know, kind of take that over. And I’m also the one who’s honestly just more likely to do it. So, uh, Dan doesn’t love the money side of things.
Maggie Germano (05:54): That’s just not kind of where his interests lie. Of course likes earning money and spending money and somewhat saving money. But uh, the day to day management and the details are just not as much of an interest to him. So he’s a little less likely to actually login and keep track and put things in a spreadsheet and make sure things are going where they need to go. So for those two reasons, it really does make sense that I’d be the one to handle that. So like I mentioned, I have a spreadsheet and a budget platform and the budget platform hopefully will make it so that I don’t really need this spreadsheet anymore. But I do kind of like the hands on approach of the spreadsheet as well. And I do like the automated system of an app. So I currently am using both. So I have, like I said, it’s an Excel spreadsheet in Google docs where I have a bunch of different tabs.
Maggie Germano (06:53): I’m keeping track of pretty much everything. So I’m looking at the monthly snapshot of all of our expenses in comparison to how much money is coming in. I have an annual view of, you know, the annual and quarterly expenses that might be coming in, like car insurance or a homeowners insurance or you know, an annual fee for something. And just having that kind of listed out there as well as the goals we have for the year. So we have a whole bunch of financial goals for the year, which I’ll get into a little bit later. Um, but I have that in a spreadsheet and then I just have a tab that says, you know, this is how much we’re spending in these different categories and this is what it adds up to. And that’s basically what the app does as well. And so I’m currently using Zeta and then I’ll link to it in the show notes, but it’s an app that’s specifically for couples in managing their finances together, which has always been a complaint that I’ve had about Mint and other things like that where you can’t actually hook up other people’s accounts and see all of them in one place so that you can see the full financial picture of your household.
Maggie Germano (08:03): It’s really just made for individuals. So Zeta and there’s a couple others out there like Honeydue and Honeyfi that are being created to help couples work on their finances together and see that full picture. Even if they’re not merging everything, they can see everything in one place. So I’m using that and that’s, Dan has access to that as well. And I should also say the budget spreadsheet is also shared with him so he can see it and look at it any, any time. Uh, so that he’s has the full access to being in the loop, whether or not he wants it. Um, and so we can both log into the app and see, you know, how much money is in different accounts, what our transactions are and things like that. So it really just allows us both to have the full picture of each others’.
Maggie Germano (08:53): And that does include us seeing each other’s personal accounts. So we have, I mentioned our joint checking account, but we also each have our own personal checking accounts and we have joint savings accounts and separate savings accounts. And so we kind of view everything as one pot, but we do divvy it up in different ways. So we each have our own emergency fund, but we do view both of those funds as like our household emergency fund if something were to happen. Um, but we do like just having a little bit of our own money separately and then we’re saving up for things like travel and household, uh, projects and other things like that in joint accounts. So we have all of that. But with this app, I can see what his balances are in his own personal accounts and I don’t necessarily need to see what the actual transactions are.
Maggie Germano (09:46): I think he can actually turn that off if he doesn’t want me to see them. Um, but right now we just have it pretty much as an open book and obviously that means if one of us is buying a gift for somebody else, then we can see it. But I don’t look at his accounts consistently. It’s mostly just to kind of have that again, that full view of what’s going on and who has what and what’s going where. We also use joint credit cards, which usually looks like, you know, it’s a credit card in one of our names and then the other person is added as an authorized user. And so we have two cards that are the same number and we can use them for any joint expenses, which the way that we’re managing our household now is that, like pretty much anything either of us is spending is considered a joint expense and a household expense.
Maggie Germano (10:33): So, um, there’s not a ton that we’re kind of doing separately unless we really feel like it. Like Dan, and I’ll go into this a little bit more later, but Dan has his own personal checking account that a certain amount goes into every month for basically fund spending that can be used for whatever he wants. I have my own checking account and I have a savings account called my fun fund. And so any money going in there is basically used for like whatever. I can buy gifts for him out of that or I can go get a massage or whatever I want it to be. It’s kind of no questions asked. It’s our own money, but when it comes to the credit card side of things, it’s just so much easier to track along with our monthly budget if we’re using the same credit cards and can see those charges going up at the same time and can just really understand who’s spending what on, on what thing and how close we’re getting to our budget limit.
Maggie Germano (11:29): It also allows us to work on things like rewards points and travel points together so that we can use that to go towards, um, different trips we want to take and things like that. So, um, the only thing to consider really when it comes to sharing a credit card or adding someone as an authorized user is you really want to make sure that you, that person as much as possible. So a downside to having a credit card and adding someone as an authorized user is they could use that card, put charges on it that maybe you can’t afford to pay back yourself and maybe they don’t pay it back either. Maybe they don’t have the money that is needed to actually pay it back. So that would put you in a bad position cause it’s going to hurt your credit, it’s going to hurt your ability to be able to pay it back and those sorts of things.
Maggie Germano (12:21): So you want to make sure the four, you even consider adding someone as an authorized user on a credit card, that you trust them and that you know that they can be responsible with it. So a really important piece that drives how we talk about money and when we talk about money is uh, our family meetings. So we have a weekly family meeting each Saturday morning and I will start off by saying it is hard for us to actually stay consistent with this. And so I want you to understand if that’s something you struggle with too, that you’re totally normal. But getting up on a Saturday morning and sitting down and making a plan for the week and doing meal planning and all of that it’s not super duper easy all the time, but it’s something that I have found is super necessary. So what we do is we sit down over breakfast and we review basically an agenda.
Maggie Germano (13:16): So the first thing on the agenda is reviewing our schedules for the upcoming week. So looking at a Sunday through the following Saturday, what is each of us doing? And we do have a, we do see each other’s calendars on Google calendar, but it, we aren’t necessarily always keeping that up to date. So it’s helpful to sit down and see, you know, where are you going to be on a given night? What are your plans? Are you going to be out of the house? Are you going to be home for dinner? You’re not going to be home for dinner. And just having that basic over overarching understanding of what the other person’s schedule is for the following week. And then we use that to inform what our meal planning is going to be. So we don’t do a ton of meal prep. That’s just not something we’ve gotten really into. But meal planning and thinking ahead of what those different meals are going to be and who’s cooking them has been really key in preventing a lot of arguments.
Maggie Germano (14:14): So we’ll look at what the schedule is and we’ll see, you know. Okay. Maybe we’ll have tacos on Monday since we’re both going to be home and then we’ll have enough leftover for lunch on Tuesday. Uh, you know, I’m going to be at a event, maybe some money circle event on Wednesday. And so Dan’s the one who’s taking the lead on the cooking, but you know, making sure that there’s enough leftover so that I can eat when I get home and then we’ll still have leftovers for lunch the next day. So, being able to map out those meals has been a really big game changer. And then we write them down on a little chalkboard that’s on our fridge. And it just makes it easier because we don’t have to make any meal planning decisions when we get home, when he gets home from work or when I’m finishing up with clients for the night.
Maggie Germano (14:59): It just, just makes things, ways here. So I highly recommend that. Um, and then, you know, we’ll talk about other things like what our next date night might be. Any other like decisions or tasks that need to be done around the house. Uh, we also use Saturday mornings to split up cleaning duties around the house. So we’ll review like, who’s gonna do what, who’s going to clean, which room, uh, what needs to get done with that. And then we go down to an overview of the finances. So since I’m the one who handles the finances, I’m the one who takes the lead on that part of the agenda. And so basically what I do is I pull up the budget spreadsheet that I’ve been keeping up to date and I give an overview. Basically, I don’t go into super detail of like we spent this much on groceries and this much on going out because I like to look more at the big picture of how much money have we spent in comparison to what we’re able to spend for the whole month.
Maggie Germano (15:57): So I’ll basically say, you know, we spent this much money of our budget of this much money for the month. So you know, either we’re good to go or maybe we need to reel it in a little bit for the rest of the month so that we stay on track. And that has been really crucial because since Dan’s not necessarily looking at the expenses and the budget on a daily basis, like I might be, he’s not always aware of how much money we have left to be spending and if we’re tight or not. And that was often leading to a little bit of, you know, tension around him, say wanting to go out to eat and me having to say no because we, there wasn’t enough money left in the budget and then also feeling like the bad guy. And so having these check-ins where I can say this is how much money we’re working with for the next couple of weeks has given him even just that little bit of information lets him know, okay, I’m not gonna push at all for, you know, going out to eat or going to buy something or whatever it might be.
Maggie Germano (17:00): So it puts us on a more even playing field and it gets us on the same page so that we’re not going to be arguing, nobody’s in the dark. Everybody’s on the same page of you know, what’s going on and how much money we’re working with. And you know, if there’s something that needs to be changed around or money that needs to be moved around, we can talk about that. And so that’s made a huge difference. So I highly recommend having not just money dates but like family meetings with your partners, especially if you live with them, especially if you’re married. Um, just having those designated times to sit down and discuss like what’s going on, what needs to be addressed, what is kind of the state of affairs with the relationship and with the finances and with the household. It just, you the opportunity to sit down and see if there’s anything that needs to change and see if everybody’s on the same page.
Maggie Germano (17:57): And related to that, I think it’s so important to revisit the topic of money regularly. So I mentioned that when we first moved into our house after buying it, we set it up so that all of Dan’s paycheck was going into a joint account. Um, that basically just covered bills and our necessities. And initially that seemed to work out really well. But after a couple of months we noticed that there was a little bit more tension around finances when we would talk about them and a little bit more frustration if I would say, you know, ask Dan about a certain expense that I saw on the credit card statement or you know, asking him to kind of explain what certain things are because maybe I didn’t know what that expense was for. And there was definitely getting to be more frustration and tension around that and we had to sit down and talk about it and see what the issue was.
Maggie Germano (18:53): Like why are we arguing a little bit more about money? Why are you getting defensive about, you know, me asking about things. And the truth was, all of Dan’s pay was going into a joint pot of money that was for the household. And none of that was being relegated or set aside for him for fun stuff. Like if he wanted to go get a drink after work with a friend, if he felt like going to buy lunch that day instead of eating the leftovers or whatever it might be, he didn’t have any kind of play money that he could play with without me immediately seeing it and wanting to kind of categorize it for the budget. Right? So all we had to do was allocate a little bit of money to go direct deposit into his personal checking and he could use that for whatever he wanted.
Maggie Germano (19:43): So we set it up seriously. It was $50 a paycheck going into his personal account. He could use it for whatever he wanted, no explanation, no questions asked. And that made all of the difference. It basically ended those arguments and that tension. And a lot of times he’s not even necessarily using that money because we’re mostly just using the joint credit card and the joint checking account together. And you know, we’re not necessarily splitting things up a lot. And so often he has kind of a surplus in those account, in that account to be able to use it when he feels like it, when something comes up. So that made all of the difference. And we wouldn’t have necessarily figured that out if we weren’t talking about it and having those conversations. So even if you’ve set up your finances in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that that’s gonna work long term.
Maggie Germano (20:34): It doesn’t mean that you know someone’s not going to start getting frustrated about the situation or as life changes and as your circumstances change, the necessities around how you manage your finances might change. So make sure that you’re continuing to have those open conversations and that you’re open to making changes, um, and shifting how things are working so that people are happier and that things are more efficient and working better. So another thing that we do and something that I recommend to all of my clients and all of my listeners is that we set goals together. And this is important whether you’re partnered or not. So if you are not partnered, you should be setting goals with yourself. And if you are partnered, you should be setting goals with your partners. So, you know how often you’re revisiting and setting these goals is gonna kind of be up to you.
Maggie Germano (21:25): But we sat down at the end of 2019 to look forward at 2020 and get really clear on what we wanted our goals to be, whether those were financial or relational or whatever it was going to be. We sat down and you know, walked through some of those. So I talked about what I wanted my goals to be. He talked about what he was hoping to work towards and then we talked about what we wanted to work towards together. So just a couple examples. Dan just started a new job, which is really wonderful and it pays a bit more than his last job. So he’s going to try to max out his 401k contributions at his new job. And, uh, we’re both going to max out our Roth IRAs for the years. So we’re going to set up automatic contributions for our Roth IRA, which last year we were doing manually.
Maggie Germano (22:20): If there was like extra money around, we would, you know, throw it into that if we felt like we could afford it. But this year we’re going to set up automation so that it’s getting maxed out automatically without us having to think about it. Uh, and we also want to rebuild our emergency fund to a number that feels better. So if you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve probably seen that we want to start a family at some point soon. And so having a bigger emergency fund would make us feel a lot more secure and a more safe with, you know, bringing a child into the mix. So that is a big priority as well as saving up more money for travel. So we just got back from Japan and we went to Peru a couple months ago and so our travel fund is pretty depleted and we want to reprioritize building that back up so that we can take advantage of any other travel opportunities that come up.
Maggie Germano (23:24): So I recommend sitting down regularly, whether it’s annually or quarterly or whatever it might be to sit down and really just get clear on those goals together so that you understand your partner and what their goals are so that they can understand you and your goals. And then you can get on the same team and work towards together and get really clear on what you want to be working on together. It’s really important and it makes the money conversation more productive. It makes the conversation more fun and it helps you both to remember why you’re on this path with your finances in the first place because you want to hit your goals. And so last but not least, we look at the big picture and the smaller day to day picture. So like I said, I have this spreadsheet and one of the tabs is has our annual goals on it.
Maggie Germano (24:17): So I can see the actual numbers listed out of how much to be putting into retirement, how much to be building up the emergency fund, how much should we saving for travel and you know, some of those other goals. And seeing it all in one place and then boiling it down to the monthly basis. So then we have our monthly snapshot where we can see this is how much money needs to be going into these accounts every month in order to meet these bigger goals. And this is the amount of money that we need to be spending on those flex expenses so that we’re sticking within that framework and are able to be putting the money where it needs to go in order to reach those goals. So looking at that big picture, boiling it down to the smaller day to day picture, and then regularly checking in on that weekly basis so that we know are we sticking to this?
Maggie Germano (25:07): What needs to change? What do we have to shift around in order to stay on track? And it’s really, really important to allow yourself to make changes and allow things to, to be a little bit different if you realize they’re not working, just because you set things up a certain way or set a certain goal doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. You know, till you reach it. Especially if you realize that it’s not working for you or it’s not something you want anymore. So allowing yourself to make changes as that comes up as well, regardless of how the money conversation looks in your relationship, it’s so important to have it and to have it often. Money is a huge source of relational discord, but it doesn’t always have to be and it doesn’t have to feel so bad. So practice, honesty, openness and non-judgment. When you’re having these conversations and you’re already halfway there, good luck and happy Valentine’s day. If you have any followup questions or if you want to share how you’ve had these conversations and things that have worked or haven’t worked for you, please let me know. You can send me an email at [email protected] or send me a DM on Instagram @MaggieGermano. I would love to hear from you.
Maggie Germano (26:23): If you’d like to get more connected with Money Circle or with me. There are lots of ways you can do that. To join the free Facebook group. Visit facebook.com/groups/money circle group to stay informed of any upcoming events. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at maggiegermano.com/subscribe. If you’d like to join the virtual circle membership group, visit MaggieGermano.podia.com/inner-circle. To learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings, or just to read my blog, visit maggiegermano.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @MaggieGermano. Thanks so much for listening. Bye bye.
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