Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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finsterfolly
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Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by finsterfolly »

We are in our 50s, and I am the income earner. I also control all the finances and investments. My wife has an interest, although not quite a desire, to learn more about our personal finances, which I highly encourage. Her eyes gloss over very quick when I have discussed things with her in the past, so I think I need to break it down in smaller chunks. I am thinking a category every few days like income, budget, investment accounts, IPS, etc. The plus side is that it is also forcing me to become more organized (actually make an IPS, etc.).I am also considering setting up a joint checking account which I will fund and letting her handle all the bills.

Anyone else approached this before. Any guidelines to simplify and make it more approachable?
retiredjg
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by retiredjg »

You may find that the information presented here is helpful. Especially the videos.

https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Getting_started
shell921
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by shell921 »

I don't know what the answer is if your wife isn't interested like I wasn't. My 3 closest women friends
are clueless about how to manage finances - their husbands take care of everything like mine did. I urge them
to develop an interest and get educated so they don't have to learn the hard way like I did. Still they
do not. I read that 3 out of 4 married women over age 65 will become widows. I made it to age 66.

I am a retired teacher and I knew what my pension
amount was. I knew what DH's was but I had no clue what our property taxes were or
how much emergency cash we had or even what our monthly bills were-! I was foolish not to
become educated about our finances.

For years before my husband died, he tried to explain our finances and how he tracked everything by showing me spreadsheets.
I could not understand and all this made me feel stupid and uneasy.

In 2014, my beloved husband and partner of 40 years died suddenly and, fortunately for me, he
had prepared a one page list of instructions that included accounts and phone numbers and steps to take.
DH reviewed the one pager with me several times. I wish we had done it even more.
Actually it was 2 pages plus a form from the Federal government's
OPM - "Office of Personnel Management". He was a retired Federal employee.
He even filled out his own death benefit form ! All I had to do was fill in his death date and
mail the form with a copy of his death certificate to OPM in Boyers PA !!!

DH became ill suddenly and unexpectedly Jan 21 of 2014. He entered the hospital
Feb 11. 6 weeks later he was dead. While in the hospital the 2nd week, he asked me to bring him
the "mortality file" which was in his office at our home in a folder beside his computer.
I did and we went over it and he even wrote a few notes. At this point we were
still somewhat hopeful the treatments he was getting in the hospital would be successful and it
seemed so surreal to be going over this paperwork but I am very glad we did.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by JoeRetire »

finsterfolly wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:20 am Anyone else approached this before. Any guidelines to simplify and make it more approachable?
One of the reasons we have a fiduciary fee-only financial advisor is that my wife isn't interested and willing to put in the effort to understand and deal with our personal finances.

With this arrangement she will be well cared for financially when I am gone and won't have to take on a burden she would rather avoid.
It's the end of the world as we know it. | It's the end of the world as we know it. | It's the end of the world as we know it. | And I feel fine.
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abuss368
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

shell921 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:46 am I don't know what the answer is if your wife isn't interested like I wasn't. My 3 closest women friends
are clueless about how to manage finances - their husbands take care of everything like mine did. I urge them
to develop an interest and get educated so they don't have to learn the hard way like I did. Still they
do not. I read that 3 out of 4 married women over age 65 will become widows. I made it to age 66.

I am a retired teacher and I knew what my pension
amount was. I knew what DH's was but I had no clue what our property taxes were or
how much emergency cash we had or even what our monthly bills were-! I was foolish not to
become educated about our finances.

For years before my husband died, he tried to explain our finances and how he tracked everything by showing me spreadsheets.
I could not understand and all this made me feel stupid and uneasy.

In 2014, my beloved husband and partner of 40 years died suddenly and, fortunately for me, he
had prepared a one page list of instructions that included accounts and phone numbers and steps to take.
DH reviewed the one pager with me several times. I wish we had done it even more.
Actually it was 2 pages plus a form from the Federal government's
OPM - "Office of Personnel Management". He was a retired Federal employee.
He even filled out his own death benefit form ! All I had to do was fill in his death date and
mail the form with a copy of his death certificate to OPM in Boyers PA !!!

DH became ill suddenly and unexpectedly Jan 21 of 2014. He entered the hospital
Feb 11. 6 weeks later he was dead. While in the hospital the 2nd week, he asked me to bring him
the "mortality file" which was in his office at our home in a folder beside his computer.
I did and we went over it and he even wrote a few notes. At this point we were
still somewhat hopeful the treatments he was getting in the hospital would be successful and it
seemed so surreal to be going over this paperwork but I am very glad we did.
God bless you. I would hope many others learn from your post.
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

1) I wrote a simple couple of pages letter with instructions.
2) We really simplified and consolidated/closed accounts now.
3) Once Vanguard started their service, I told my wife there was no need to learn investing and to call Vanguard. I even printed out the website and attached to the letter.
4) Unless anything unexpected happens things should continue to consolidate and close. Much more simplicity.
Last edited by abuss368 on Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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livesoft
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by livesoft »

One way to start small is to make a spouse responsible for paying one bill a month. Say the phone bill or a credit card bill. Add one new bill every quarter. See what happens.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by RickBoglehead »

Everyone's situation is different. I've written a letter, but often forget to update it. I use Quicken for everything (and I mean EVERYTHING), so it's all there. I've told DW to plan on having Vanguard PAS handle the investing for a while, and that she needs to immediately tell my sisters that managing my mother's funds, which I do, is not her responsibility effective immediately.

You might suggest one of the Boglehead books. In my opinion, The Boglehead's Guide to Investing is the most basic.
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Stinky
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Stinky »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:31 am 1) I wrote a simple couple of pages latter with instructions.
2) We really simplified and consolidated/closed accounts now.
3) Once Vanguard started their service, I told my wife there was no need to learn investing and to call Vanguard. I even printed out the website and attached to the letter.
4) Unless anything unexpected happens things should continue to consolidate and close. Much more simplicity.
This is excellent advice.

In addition to pointing toward Vanguard PAS, I've provided the instruction letter to my son. He is pretty financially savvy, and should be in a position to assist his mother a lot if I pass away before DW.
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Mr. Rumples
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Mr. Rumples »

I faced this with my late husband and partner of 41 years. Like my mother did with my father, I was the one who handled the household books so to speak and like my mother I gave my husband his weekly spending money; I handled the investing. As we approached retirement, I thought he needed to learn so we started slowly. First, and I know I took this too an extreme, we wrote down every penny we spent for a year (one plus I found out is that doing this cuts down on little expenses since that is just more work); at the same time he did the allowances and the bills for six months. I had two reasons for this: first, so he'd learn where the money went on things I took care of and secondly, to make sure our baseline for weekly retirement spending was set (since then weekly spending only increases by the COLA's. Then he did the allowances and bills for the next six months and had to learn to understand the monthly reports from our investment companies. That also included how to budget for items which happened only occasionally such as insurance premiums, pet care and so on.

Then I found that was his limit. Its a lot for someone for whom its stressful and it stressed him out. So we decided at that point, if something were to happen to me, we would turn over the funds to Fido to manage and I outlined a simplified portfolio. But he still had to learn how to oversee them and understand average returns, yield, fees and so forth. Of course, he passed away and now I am having to start over some of it with my nieces and nephew. My rule of thumb to him was if you can't explain your investments to someone, you shouldn't invest in it. If that meant he would just have to put it all in CD's, so be it.
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
MikeG62
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by MikeG62 »

finsterfolly wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:20 am We are in our 50s, and I am the income earner. I also control all the finances and investments. My wife has an interest, although not quite a desire, to learn more about our personal finances, which I highly encourage. Her eyes gloss over very quick when I have discussed things with her in the past, so I think I need to break it down in smaller chunks. I am thinking a category every few days like income, budget, investment accounts, IPS, etc. The plus side is that it is also forcing me to become more organized (actually make an IPS, etc.).I am also considering setting up a joint checking account which I will fund and letting her handle all the bills.

Anyone else approached this before. Any guidelines to simplify and make it more approachable?
Yup, in the same boat. Written posts on this before. Here are a few that you may find helpful (or not). There is no one size fits all solution.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=284807&p=4625870&hi ... s#p4625870


viewtopic.php?f=2&t=222620&p=4024157&hi ... s#p4024157

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=244748&p=3842434&hi ... s#p3842434

I hope you find this useful.
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aristotelian
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by aristotelian »

I am going to make a big push this year to have my wife do our tax return.
delamer
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by delamer »

Your wife needs to be prepared in the event that you either die unexpectedly or are incapacitated for an extended period (like in the hospital for a couple months).

There are bills that will need to be paid. So focus on that before worrying about investments.

Show her shell921’s post above. It is OK if it upsets her, if that is what it takes to get her attention.

A list of instructions is a good start. But your post implies that she doesn’t even have access to a checking account. So yes, open a joint or individual account. And make sure she has a credit card that she can use. If she is an authorized user on one of yours, she’ll lose access to it if you die first.

Tax returns and investing can be outsourced. It is much harder to do that with day-to-day bills, although there are money managers who will do it. But someone has to know what the bills are.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

livesoft wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:35 am One way to start small is to make a spouse responsible for paying one bill a month. Say the phone bill or a credit card bill. Add one new bill every quarter. See what happens.
I employed this strategy as well. I started writing out the bills due for the pay period and having my wife right them in the checkbook to become familiar with transactions. It worked.
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

Stinky wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:47 am
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:31 am 1) I wrote a simple couple of pages latter with instructions.
2) We really simplified and consolidated/closed accounts now.
3) Once Vanguard started their service, I told my wife there was no need to learn investing and to call Vanguard. I even printed out the website and attached to the letter.
4) Unless anything unexpected happens things should continue to consolidate and close. Much more simplicity.
This is excellent advice.

In addition to pointing toward Vanguard PAS, I've provided the instruction letter to my son. He is pretty financially savvy, and should be in a position to assist his mother a lot if I pass away before DW.
Thanks. We are pretty streamlined and consolidated now. It should only get easier - when life insurance is no longer needed, close a couple of credit cards, college funds are exhausted and closed, mortgage paid off, Traditional IRA converted.

I expect my three page letter to be down to one page!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
mhalley
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by mhalley »

I have tried but it is extremely difficult. I go over a summary of our finances annually, show her how to do bill pay and have the letter of instruction in the safe, including the rec to use vanguard PAS. Horse water etc.
Supurdueper
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Supurdueper »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
Your DW and my DW must be friends. Apparently I’m the only person in the world that does a budget by line item.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by HomeStretch »

You are on the right path with starting to involve spouse in financial matters.

The household bills, balancing the checkbook and moving money from savings to checking to fund the bills is a good place to start. If you use electronic bill pay in a joint checking account at a bank, spouse will probably be required to have their own online access setup which may mean bill pay has to be set up in each individual user account. A joint CMA like Fidelity’s works well for bill pay as there is only one payer list to maintain.

After that, knowing how to access vendor and other info is key (like how to contact a vendor, statements with account #, oil price agreements, insurance policies, etc). Consider keeping paper files to help spouse “see” the bills. Otherwise, electronic files may be “lost” on your computer or in your email account.

I created a gmail account we share for joint access to vendor notices, etc.

Make sure all utilities are in joint name and if not possible then spouse is listed as an authorized user.

Keep at least one major credit card in each individual spouse’s name.

I also created a one page calendar with 12 blocks (one for each month) and added bullet points in each monthly block for key dates (i.e., various insurance renewal dates, when to call annually for lawncare prices and arrange service, alarm monitoring renewal date, etc.).

shell921’s posts on this topic are right on target IMO. I have seen first-hand (and been asked to help out) after divorce/death/incapacity what happens when one spouse is not involved in the finances. While I understand not everyone likes to handle financial matters, it seems to be a a dangerous luxury to be uninvolved and unable to handle your household’s finances.

ETA - it’s important to aim for “simple”. Whereas I pay some bills through vendor websites in order to pay with a cash-back card, multiple points of payment made it too complex for spouse when paying bills. So I keep all vendors set up in bank bill pay so spouse can pay all vendors from one place.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by FrugalConservative »

shell921 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:46 am I don't know what the answer is if your wife isn't interested like I wasn't. My 3 closest women friends
are clueless about how to manage finances - their husbands take care of everything like mine did. I urge them
to develop an interest and get educated so they don't have to learn the hard way like I did. Still they
do not. I read that 3 out of 4 married women over age 65 will become widows. I made it to age 66.

I am a retired teacher and I knew what my pension
amount was. I knew what DH's was but I had no clue what our property taxes were or
how much emergency cash we had or even what our monthly bills were-! I was foolish not to
become educated about our finances.

For years before my husband died, he tried to explain our finances and how he tracked everything by showing me spreadsheets.
I could not understand and all this made me feel stupid and uneasy.

In 2014, my beloved husband and partner of 40 years died suddenly and, fortunately for me, he
had prepared a one page list of instructions that included accounts and phone numbers and steps to take.
DH reviewed the one pager with me several times. I wish we had done it even more.
Actually it was 2 pages plus a form from the Federal government's
OPM - "Office of Personnel Management". He was a retired Federal employee.
He even filled out his own death benefit form ! All I had to do was fill in his death date and
mail the form with a copy of his death certificate to OPM in Boyers PA !!!

DH became ill suddenly and unexpectedly Jan 21 of 2014. He entered the hospital
Feb 11. 6 weeks later he was dead. While in the hospital the 2nd week, he asked me to bring him
the "mortality file" which was in his office at our home in a folder beside his computer.
I did and we went over it and he even wrote a few notes. At this point we were
still somewhat hopeful the treatments he was getting in the hospital would be successful and it
seemed so surreal to be going over this paperwork but I am very glad we did.
Very touching post. Thanks for taking the time to share, I'm sure it wasn't easy.
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Dendritic Tree
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Dendritic Tree »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
My wife and I review our accounts online almost every day but don’t really have a physical ledger to balance. We write probably only 2 or 3 physical checks per year, though (we’ve never gone through an entire book of checks before - we still have the same starter pack of checks after 13 years!). I would argue that if you’re rigorous about keeping tabs with your electronic accounts in real time, it’s just as good as balancing a checkbook. We’ve caught several discrepancies over the years this way.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by delamer »

Dendritic Tree wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 12:42 pm
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
My wife and I review our accounts online almost every day but don’t really have a physical ledger to balance. We write probably only 2 or 3 physical checks per year, though (we’ve never gone through an entire book of checks before - we still have the same starter pack of checks after 13 years!). I would argue that if you’re rigorous about keeping tabs with your electronic accounts in real time, it’s just as good as balancing a checkbook. We’ve caught several discrepancies over the years this way.
Yes, I can’t remember the last time that I balanced a physical checkbook. But once per week, I download all our checking transactions into Quicken and reconcile the balance.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Sandi_k »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am
Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
I don't balance a checkbook, either. I pay bills once per month. The only checks we write are to the lawn guy, and the 1x per month housekeeper. Everything else is paid electronically.

We then have cash in the account for the month. Groceries, eating out, Costco, spending cash are all "locked down" to be the same each month.

We use a CCd for gas and entertainment, and pay it off the following month.

I leave a $100 cushion each month, and check about halfway through the month, and again a week before the end of the month in case anything edges toward -0-. No biggie.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
Ha! I balance the checkbook too, when I get around to it.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

Dendritic Tree wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 12:42 pm
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
My wife and I review our accounts online almost every day but don’t really have a physical ledger to balance. We write probably only 2 or 3 physical checks per year, though (we’ve never gone through an entire book of checks before - we still have the same starter pack of checks after 13 years!). I would argue that if you’re rigorous about keeping tabs with your electronic accounts in real time, it’s just as good as balancing a checkbook. We’ve caught several discrepancies over the years this way.
Thanks! Kids are still in school so we end up writing checks for functions. This will change someday!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

Sandi_k wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 12:58 pm
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am
Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
I don't balance a checkbook, either. I pay bills once per month. The only checks we write are to the lawn guy, and the 1x per month housekeeper. Everything else is paid electronically.

We then have cash in the account for the month. Groceries, eating out, Costco, spending cash are all "locked down" to be the same each month.

We use a CCd for gas and entertainment, and pay it off the following month.

I leave a $100 cushion each month, and check about halfway through the month, and again a week before the end of the month in case anything edges toward -0-. No biggie.
And it works!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
azianbob
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by azianbob »

My wife is similar to yours. She has no interest, doesn't even ask where our money is or how much. She buys stuff on her credit card, which is paid automatically in full each month from her checking account. I even handle her 401k and IRAs.

I have a paper that lists all the accounts we have. I should add in phone numbers. I am hoping she would know how to google those, but then again, there are a lot of tricky websites nowadays.

I have also consolidated, we only fewest as possible. My goal at retirement is to have only 3 accounts for each of us (1 checking, 1 brokerage, 1 credit card)
mancich
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by mancich »

azianbob wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:31 pm My wife is similar to yours. She has no interest, doesn't even ask where our money is or how much. She buys stuff on her credit card, which is paid automatically in full each month from her checking account. I even handle her 401k and IRAs.

I have a paper that lists all the accounts we have. I should add in phone numbers. I am hoping she would know how to google those, but then again, there are a lot of tricky websites nowadays.

I have also consolidated, we only fewest as possible. My goal at retirement is to have only 3 accounts for each of us (1 checking, 1 brokerage, 1 credit card)
Agree. My wife is similar. She has little interest. I take her through numbers periodically, but she doesn't have an interest in personal finance or investing, or even bill paying. I do it all, but do have a file on the computer with instructions in case I die first.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by alrick »

Every January I update our "Family Financial Planning" document and share and discuss with wife and two adult sons. This document starts with an overview of the past year and the major financial and other personal changes that might have been made...assets bought or sold, funds moved or consolidated, other personal or health related matters addressed, etc.

Then all the other financial and personal information is updated. Mortgage balance, home improvements, automobile payoffs, asset allocation, names and contact information for financial planner and estate attorney, and account balances, and beneficiaries, for all taxable and retirement funds. We also include the 529 balances for our grandchildren, the pattern of our RMDs, and the pattern of property and income taxes paid.

A section on our thinking about how to handle family trust funds and Roth and traditional IRAs follows, trying to address "stretch" strategies, minimizing tax liabilities, and alerts to any new laws or rules on the horizon (SECURE, estate tax changes, etc.)

Finally we close with some of our objectives for the up coming year.

When we first did this about 10 years ago it seemed a bit awkward and our sons did not quite know how to "handle" it. But now that it's a regular routine we and they have a set of historic documents that provides a running history of our financial and personal journey.....and make them fully aware and comfortable with how they will eventually fit into the picture.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by fru-gal »

I have written before that my big wake up call about managing my finances was when I was a teenager, reading in the news about 2-3 famous women whose husbands had managed their money and then died, leaving things in a gigantic financial mess. The women should have been set for life financially, but instead they were deeply in debt, to the IRS, etc. I think one was Doris Day.

If I were married and my spouse had no interest in finances, I would document the heck out of everything (I do this now, for my executor, having been my Mom's executor/trustee so I know what information is needed,) and be sure he knew where the documentation was. I have this not only at home, but in my safe deposit box.

I think that's the best you can do if someone with some basic intelligence just refuses to deal with this while you're managing it. Needs must when the devil drives. If you have trusted relatives or a financial adviser, so much the better.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by finsterfolly »

Thanks for all the replies and personal stories. I read all the responses, and it helps. The big driver of this is my wife's father-in-law passing (recent 2nd marriage). She spent the last 4 weeks with her mom helping to resolve the estate, and it was eye-opening for her. And for me, one of the reasons my parents split up is that my mom was never a partner in that aspect of the marriage. My dad was an accountant and just handled it and told her what she needed to know. My wife and I have separate accounts, but I've always been transparent in what we have, and encouraged her to be involved if she wanted.

We also have both been participants in a little lifestyle creep. Nothing crazy that can't be fixed immediately like car or credit card debt. Primarily, it is eating/drinking out for me and Amazon for my wife. So, the driver for me is too get her to understand our expenses and agree to a budget. Fortunately, the solution to reduce expenses and increase savings is the same solution.

I had a first go last night that was very successful. I hid the spreadsheets but did do a formal powerpoint, lol. Last night's topic was income, deductions, and order of investments. Next I plan on reviewing all our investment/bank accounts. Last, will be the big one - budget. There will be a lot of numbers in that one, and I think a few surprises.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by JohnFiscal »

finsterfolly wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:51 am I had a first go last night that was very successful. I hid the spreadsheets but did do a formal powerpoint, lol. Last night's topic was income, deductions, and order of investments. Next I plan on reviewing all our investment/bank accounts. Last, will be the big one - budget. There will be a lot of numbers in that one, and I think a few surprises.
finster, you're an inspiration to me on this matter. Thank you.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by MikeG62 »

finsterfolly wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:51 am Thanks for all the replies and personal stories. I read all the responses, and it helps. The big driver of this is my wife's father-in-law passing (recent 2nd marriage). She spent the last 4 weeks with her mom helping to resolve the estate, and it was eye-opening for her.
This should help you a lot in your efforts to get her more involved. Nothing like real life experience to open one's eyes.
finsterfolly wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:51 am I had a first go last night that was very successful. I hid the spreadsheets but did do a formal powerpoint, lol. Last night's topic was income, deductions, and order of investments. Next I plan on reviewing all our investment/bank accounts. Last, will be the big one - budget. There will be a lot of numbers in that one, and I think a few surprises.
I will recommend again that you use charts (bar or pie) for the budget talk. Especially if she is not likely to want to engage in that discussion. Showed my wife a pie chart of our actual spend and one slice was the pocket money she spends. When she looked at it she said something along the lines of "there is no way I spend that much". I then did the math for her - $XXX every two weeks x 26 weeks. She seemed stunned. I said, little amounts add up. Now she has not changed her spending of pocket money (and that was not the point), but the whole pie chart thing really opened her eyes to how we are spending our money.

Tried this with a spreadsheet of numbers previously and the discussion went nowhere.

Good luck.
Last edited by MikeG62 on Sat Aug 31, 2019 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by pennywise »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
There is no reason anymore to balance a checkbook, as defined by manually subtracting and adding funds.

Checking account registers are now online, so as long as one has a record of the checks issued and deposits made the only requirement for managing the account is to log on periodically and review. In the exceedingly rare case that there may be an error, the account holder can use the check/deposit records to have it correcte.

But it is certainly accurate to say that there's absolutely no need or reason for anyone to still be 'balancing a checkbook' today.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

pennywise wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:06 am
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
There is no reason anymore to balance a checkbook, as defined by manually subtracting and adding funds.

Checking account registers are now online, so as long as one has a record of the checks issued and deposits made the only requirement for managing the account is to log on periodically and review. In the exceedingly rare case that there may be an error, the account holder can use the check/deposit records to have it correcte.

But it is certainly accurate to say that there's absolutely no need or reason for anyone to still be 'balancing a checkbook' today.
Thanks and I would agree there is no need with real time transactions and access today. Unfortunately we personally have not yet reached that point as we are still recording transaction manually in a register and checking them off. I will need to discuss with my spouse as it is a time consumer.

I believe there was a thread with good feedback. I may need to search for that.
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Watty »

When I retired one of my goals was to simplify our finances and put it on automatic pilot as much as possible.

This was not only so it would be easier for my wife to manage someday if she needs to but also to make it easier for me to manage as I age and may become less financially capable.

When I retired I ended up moving most of our funds into target date funds in part to make it easier to manage when we are older.

I have also kept getting paper bills just to make it easier for my wife to manage if something happens like I suddenly end up in the hospital.

One of the early signs of dementia can be making bad financial choices and there have been posts about situation where someone managed their finances find for decades but then started making really bad decisions when they were in the very early stages of alzheimer's.

Having simple finances is important not only so that you have few decisions to make then but also to make it easy for a spouse to see that something has changed.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by Watty »

abuss368 wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:19 am Thanks and I would agree there is no need with real time transactions and access today. Unfortunately we personally have not yet reached that point as we are still recording transaction manually in a register and checking them off. I will need to discuss with my spouse as it is a time consumer.
I would highly recommend getting duplicate checks so that each time you write a check you have a "carbon" copy of it. This eliminates the need to write the amounts in the check register.

You will also have a copy of it with any information in the memo field which can be useful since at least at my bank they don't always have an online image of the cashed check anymore.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

finsterfolly wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:51 am Thanks for all the replies and personal stories. I read all the responses, and it helps. The big driver of this is my wife's father-in-law passing (recent 2nd marriage). She spent the last 4 weeks with her mom helping to resolve the estate, and it was eye-opening for her. And for me, one of the reasons my parents split up is that my mom was never a partner in that aspect of the marriage. My dad was an accountant and just handled it and told her what she needed to know. My wife and I have separate accounts, but I've always been transparent in what we have, and encouraged her to be involved if she wanted.

We also have both been participants in a little lifestyle creep. Nothing crazy that can't be fixed immediately like car or credit card debt. Primarily, it is eating/drinking out for me and Amazon for my wife. So, the driver for me is too get her to understand our expenses and agree to a budget. Fortunately, the solution to reduce expenses and increase savings is the same solution.

I had a first go last night that was very successful. I hid the spreadsheets but did do a formal powerpoint, lol. Last night's topic was income, deductions, and order of investments. Next I plan on reviewing all our investment/bank accounts. Last, will be the big one - budget. There will be a lot of numbers in that one, and I think a few surprises.
In this situation one has to drive the personal finance aspect down to the easiest solution. Personally we have one bank with one joint checking account and one credit card. Everything else is at Vanguard.

I have pretty much removed, shredded, and disposed of everything else. Our home office is getting pretty light. Best part is I have found it to be less of everything (so not only my spouse): stress, records maintenance, moving money, and year end reporting. As a result I have found that my spouse is more open and engaged.

These simplicity folks? They are definitely on to something!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by RickBoglehead »

With autopay tied to a credit card or bank account, and banks mailing checks for free, who actually writes checks anymore? I have not written a check myself in years.
Avid user of forums on variety of interests-financial, home brewing, F-150, PHEV, home repair, etc. Enjoy learning & passing on knowledge. It's PRINCIPAL, not PRINCIPLE. I ADVISE you to seek ADVICE.
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finsterfolly
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by finsterfolly »

MikeG62 wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:47 am I will recommend again that you use charts (bar or pie) for the budget talk. Especially if she is not likely to want to engage in that discussion. Showed my wife a pie chart of our actual spend and one slice was the pocket money she spends. When she looked at it she said something along the lines of "there is no way I spend that much". I then did the math for her - $XXX every two weeks x 52 weeks. She seemed stunned. I said, little amounts add up. Now she has not changed her spending of pocket money (and that was not the point), but the whole pie chart thing really opened her eyes to how we are spending our money.
I definitely took guidance from your first post and links. I kept it to two simple charts and a table. Originally had them in excel, but even that looked too technical and busy. Put them in Powerpoint.
abuss368 wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:32 am In this situation one has to drive the personal finance aspect down to the easiest solution. Personally we have one bank with one joint checking account and one credit card. Everything else is at Vanguard.
I think we are part of the way there, but definitely an opportunity to improve. We will probably revisit once we get aligned on our finances. In general we are, but we have never actually sat down and agreed on an exact budget. I can't remember the specific reasons we kept things separate when we got married. Honestly, I think originally we were both employed and I wanted a little autonomy to go out and buy something that I wanted. These days, since my wife is unemployed, I think it is healthy for her to have some money that she can make her own decisions on.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by abuss368 »

finsterfolly wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:56 am I think we are part of the way there, but definitely an opportunity to improve. We will probably revisit once we get aligned on our finances. In general we are, but we have never actually sat down and agreed on an exact budget. I can't remember the specific reasons we kept things separate when we got married. Honestly, I think originally we were both employed and I wanted a little autonomy to go out and buy something that I wanted. These days, since my wife is unemployed, I think it is healthy for her to have some money that she can make her own decisions on.
It takes time. I always say that simplicity is not a destination but rather a journey that evolves with time. The older I get the more I believe that!
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by teen persuasion »

alrick wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:21 am Every January I update our "Family Financial Planning" document and share and discuss with wife and two adult sons. This document starts with an overview of the past year and the major financial and other personal changes that might have been made...assets bought or sold, funds moved or consolidated, other personal or health related matters addressed, etc.

Then all the other financial and personal information is updated. Mortgage balance, home improvements, automobile payoffs, asset allocation, names and contact information for financial planner and estate attorney, and account balances, and beneficiaries, for all taxable and retirement funds. We also include the 529 balances for our grandchildren, the pattern of our RMDs, and the pattern of property and income taxes paid.

A section on our thinking about how to handle family trust funds and Roth and traditional IRAs follows, trying to address "stretch" strategies, minimizing tax liabilities, and alerts to any new laws or rules on the horizon (SECURE, estate tax changes, etc.)

Finally we close with some of our objectives for the up coming year.

When we first did this about 10 years ago it seemed a bit awkward and our sons did not quite know how to "handle" it. But now that it's a regular routine we and they have a set of historic documents that provides a running history of our financial and personal journey.....and make them fully aware and comfortable with how they will eventually fit into the picture.
I love this approach. I'm not to the point of making these reports up for the family (yet), but it's a good goal to get there eventually.

I've been mostly taking any opportunity to discuss little bits of financial information with DH, and individually with our young adult kids, whenever they'll listen. Mostly they roll their eyes (mom's talking taxes again!), but they do call me when they've got an immediate question (starting a new job, what withholding to set and what about an HSA, and how much 401k to contribute..) and I try to hit the important ideas and how they interact.

There's no way I'm going to teach them everything in one or a few sessions; I'm trying to plant key ideas in their heads when they are receptive to them, but not reach the point they tune out. It's a long term project.

DH was resistant to anything financial ("money's not real, it's all belief based") for a long time. I'd talk about new ideas I'd learned after discovering FIRE and Bogleheads, just toss out basic tidbits, and he'd joke the stock market was all fake, he never expected to be able to retire. I kept updating him on the growth of our retirement savings. Finally, one day when he was getting fed up with his work situation, he asked me if it was really possible to RE. Now I had his attention! We weren't quite ready to fully quit working, but we had enough flexibility that he could take some time to try a different field. He was much more interested in finding out all his options before quitting (sick time + PTO payouts, 401k totals, payout choices, etc), something he previously couldn't be bothered to research and implement.

These days he pays a bit more attention to his retirement account balances, and notices when the market is up or down. I've got most of our frequent bills on autopilot (goes to CC whenever possible, CC auto paid in full monthly), and the once or twice yearly ones I mostly manually pay, but he's done a few recently (so I know he CAN, he just needs to remember).

To this point, I've done all the taxes and FAFSA applications (which are highly intertwined). He could walk thru TT and the FAFSA online, but he'd find it extremely frustrating, and he'd certainly not optimize them as I do. Hopefully we can get past the college aid years without him having to deal with it. Then our taxes will be much simpler w/o any EITC, CTC, AOTC, claiming taxable scholarship income, etc.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by iamblessed »

I think a simple finance life is the best. Something like
-two credit cards
-one checking account
-one investment account
-pick one LifeStrategy fund

I would go for something like this. Getting the other person on board is more important than getting the last nickle out of the market.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by lexie2000 »

My DH worked in corporate finance for an aerospace company almost his entire career and has no clue about personal finances nor does he want to know. He retired over 6 years ago and although I have tried to engage him, he has no interest whatsoever. He thinks that if I should die first, he'll just hire "someone" to take care of it all for him. We were talking about Medicare the other day (we're 62) and he thought it was free!! I did put together a finance binder and made it as simple as I possibly could, but I am a little concerned that he may be overwhelmed (401k, IRA, MM, CDs, checking, etc.). I also pay all utilities for an entire year in advance every January to make the everyday stuff simple. Hopefully, if I go first, it won't be in December!!

I was able to FINALLY train him on which credit card to use for which purchase (for points) - we have none that have rotating categories as that would never work.

I've done everything that I can think of that I can do to prepare him if I should pass first. I've pretty much waved the white flag.
shell921
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by shell921 »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:28 am
shell921 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:46 am I don't know what the answer is if your wife isn't interested like I wasn't. My 3 closest women friends
are clueless about how to manage finances - their husbands take care of everything like mine did. I urge them
to develop an interest and get educated so they don't have to learn the hard way like I did. Still they
do not. I read that 3 out of 4 married women over age 65 will become widows. I made it to age 66.

I am a retired teacher and I knew what my pension
amount was. I knew what DH's was but I had no clue what our property taxes were or
how much emergency cash we had or even what our monthly bills were-! I was foolish not to
become educated about our finances.

For years before my husband died, he tried to explain our finances and how he tracked everything by showing me spreadsheets.
I could not understand and all this made me feel stupid and uneasy.

In 2014, my beloved husband and partner of 40 years died suddenly and, fortunately for me, he
had prepared a one page list of instructions that included accounts and phone numbers and steps to take.
DH reviewed the one pager with me several times. I wish we had done it even more.
Actually it was 2 pages plus a form from the Federal government's
OPM - "Office of Personnel Management". He was a retired Federal employee.
He even filled out his own death benefit form ! All I had to do was fill in his death date and
mail the form with a copy of his death certificate to OPM in Boyers PA !!!

DH became ill suddenly and unexpectedly Jan 21 of 2014. He entered the hospital
Feb 11. 6 weeks later he was dead. While in the hospital the 2nd week, he asked me to bring him
the "mortality file" which was in his office at our home in a folder beside his computer.
I did and we went over it and he even wrote a few notes. At this point we were
still somewhat hopeful the treatments he was getting in the hospital would be successful and it
seemed so surreal to be going over this paperwork but I am very glad we did.
God bless you. I would hope many others learn from your post.
Thanks- abuss - I hope so too as I would want to help anyone avoid what I had to endure.

There are so many women who need to become financially educated. Here in my area, a widow about
my age put on 2 free financial planning workshops for women about 2 years ago and again one year ago. She had a lawyer speak
and there were other speakers as well. She did this as she had been like me- clueless - and she had to figure everything out herself after her husband passed.I encouraged my women friends to go -none of them did. :( . I would have gone myself
just out of curiosity and to make sure I am doing all as best as I should be, but I was out of town both times.
If she puts on that workshop again, I am most certainly going to go!
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by cognovimus »

finsterfolly wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:20 am We are in our 50s, and I am the income earner. I also control all the finances and investments. My wife has an interest, although not quite a desire, to learn more about our personal finances, which I highly encourage. Her eyes gloss over very quick when I have discussed things with her in the past, so I think I need to break it down in smaller chunks. I am thinking a category every few days like income, budget, investment accounts, IPS, etc. The plus side is that it is also forcing me to become more organized (actually make an IPS, etc.).I am also considering setting up a joint checking account which I will fund and letting her handle all the bills.

Anyone else approached this before. Any guidelines to simplify and make it more approachable?
This thread has taken a lot of twists (i.e. if checkbook balancing is necessary), but please start by ensuring that wherever possible, your finances are joint with rights of survivorship so that your wife (or you) won't have to undergo unnecessary hoops to get access if one of you dies unexpectedly. Likewise, titling on vehicles, etc. Likewise, check to be sure you have beneficiaries on all accounts.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by LilyFleur »

abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am
Jack FFR1846 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:39 am Understand that your spouse may have zero interest in finance.

When I try to talk with DW about anything financial, she reacts in one of 2 ways. She either gets extremely angry and yells at me or she cries. Obviously, I handle everything financial. She thinks I'm strange because "nobody balances their checkbook". Just me, I guess.
I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
There are lots and lots of people who hardly ever write a check. On the very rare occasion that I need to write a check, I go online and do it through bill pay in my credit union. The credit union prints the check and mails it for me. And, as soon as I set it up through bill pay, it subtracts the amount of the check from my checking account balance so I don't accidentally spend money that is needed to cover the check.

If I were married to someone who balanced a checkbook, I might yell or cry in frustration because, yes, most folks I know don't balance a checkbook or even HAVE a checkbook.
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by LilyFleur »

abuss368 wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:19 am
pennywise wrote: Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:06 am
abuss368 wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:35 am I have family that stopped balancing their checkbook over ten years ago. They just write any checks issued in the log and say everything else is in real time. Personally I have not been able to get to this step yet!
There is no reason anymore to balance a checkbook, as defined by manually subtracting and adding funds.

Checking account registers are now online, so as long as one has a record of the checks issued and deposits made the only requirement for managing the account is to log on periodically and review. In the exceedingly rare case that there may be an error, the account holder can use the check/deposit records to have it correcte.

But it is certainly accurate to say that there's absolutely no need or reason for anyone to still be 'balancing a checkbook' today.
Thanks and I would agree there is no need with real time transactions and access today. Unfortunately we personally have not yet reached that point as we are still recording transaction manually in a register and checking them off. I will need to discuss with my spouse as it is a time consumer.

I believe there was a thread with good feedback. I may need to search for that.
I pay a lot of my bills with credit cards that earn cash back for me (I pay all prescriptions, medical co-pays and health insurance premiums on a credit card as well). It's easy at tax time to get a total for medical expenses online on the "spend summary" for the credit card to determine if I will be itemizing. Also, there are consumer protections when you pay with a credit card, which is why I pay my Verizon phone bill with my credit card. It is so difficult to get Verizon to refund money when they have made an error; if I cannot resolve something like that with one phone call with Verizon, I just dispute it with the credit card company. They refund the money to me immediately. On the one occasion I did this with Verizon, I kept the money.

For my HOAs, the property management company does not accept credit cards, so I have set up online with my credit union a check to be written every month for my HOAs. The credit union prints the check out, subtracts it from my balance in my checking account, puts the check in an envelope, and mails the envelope for me. Easy-peasy!!!!
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Re: Educating Spouse on Personal Finance

Post by 3-20Characters »

On balancing the checkbook, not for 10 years. I write 3 checks per year. CC for anyone who accepts payment without a fee, Bill Pay for pretty much anyone else, online transfers for things like moving money from bank to vanguard and back. Also, email/text alerts for everything. I use a spreadsheet for tracking all expenses but I will leave it to her how she wants to handle that part—as it may be more detailed than she is willing to keep up. It’s more important to know the purpose of why we do things than to follow a particular way by rote.

On the other matters, I started this about a year ago and realize I still have a long way to go. I currently have multi page doc that should get the job done but I find it needs to be on my mind or updated more than I’d like. I will entertain the PowerPoint idea but not sure how it will workout. I am talking with my wife and she seems to be reaching a place where is now willing of look at things. We are only at broad strokes at the moment.

At the very least, one should get his/her house in order—passwords, beneficiary designations, etc—and leave a written doc of that info. With all that’s going on during a stressful time, your spouse doesn’t need the added burden of getting locked out of crucial accounts or having to jump through hoops.

There are some spouses that are mortally afraid of finances and numbers. I’m not sure what to do in those cases as it’s more a psychological issue than anything else. I am confident that the way I’ve set things up and with updated instructions, my wife will figure it out in time and adapt her own system to make it work.
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