Managing Family Finances: Getting Your Spouse & Children on Board

happy mother, father, son and daughter discuss managing family finances on the couch at home

Key Takeaways

  • Managing finances together with your spouse can reduce stress and prepare you for unexpected events.
  • Being "good with money" is a learnable skill - teach your spouse budgeting and tracking if needed.
  • Schedule regular money dates to review finances, address issues, and divide tasks.
  • Openly communicate with your spouse and slowly involve kids in age-appropriate money talks.
  • Connect your family's goals and dreams to the need for joint financial management.

Families today look different than 50 years ago. Back then, the dad would work while mom stayed home. This meant that there was only one income, one money manager. Now, most households have two working parents, which means that more money coming in can make managing it complicated. Even couples who want to share money decisions may struggle to actually do it. One partner might take over out of habit or comfort, while the other may want help budgeting but not know how.

Lots of things can throw off balance in joint money management. But you can get back on track. Start by communicating with your spouse. Then slowly involve the kids. The goal is to get everyone informed and on the same page.

Why Share Financial Responsibility?

If you're not convinced you and your partner need to work more closely on managing the family finances (leaving children out of it, for the time being), consider this: 52% of adults named money as a poor impact on their mental health.1 If you can learn to work together, communicate more effectively and manage money together, you may be able to reduce stress and strife in your relationship.

It's worth mentioning that each partner needs to understand how all of the household finances are managed should anything happen to the other. Although no one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, you should be prepared for the unexpected.

That means each of you needs to know how to handle the budget, manage your bank and investment accounts, and access important information like passwords, specific instructions, investment strategies and so on.

Developing Good Money Habits

Let's say you're convinced you and your partner need to get on the same page and work together, but they're not. Maybe they're not very good with money in the first place. That can be a frustrating scenario, but your spouse may simply need your help to develop good financial habits that no one ever taught them.

Being "good with money" is a learnable skill. Smart money management, like tracking expenses and saving, can help your partner feel more empowered around the family finances — and can help you reach your shared goals faster. Here are some tips to help you and your partner with your finances: 

  • Schedule monthly money dates to review accounts, bills, budgets. Evaluate what worked that month and address what didn't go as planned. Then you can brainstorm together about how to make the next month better.
  • If your spouse struggles with budgeting, don't take over; show them your techniques and budgeting resources. Sharing your own financial education can help synchronize your thinking when it comes to setting goals and tracking your progress toward them.
  • Make lists of financial to-dos and allocate those tasks between the two of you. This goes for one-time needs, like calling to negotiate a charge on a statement, or ongoing responsibilities, like checking bills for accuracy and then paying them.

Start the Conversation

No matter how you bring up the subject, the key to getting your partner involved is to communicate.

  • Be open and honest, and don't hide anything from them. The same holds true when it comes time to clue kids into family money matters — although you'll naturally want to keep the conversations age-appropriate. The idea is to inform them so they can practice smart money habits, but you don't want to burden them with responsibilities the adults in the household should handle.
  • Make them a part of the conversation and explain how you budget (and why). Ask for their input and opinions where appropriate, like in planning summer activities or family trips. They'll be involved in each, so giving them a say in how the family's money is allocated can help them feel empowered and valued. You can also give your kids a small allowance each week, and show them how they can spend some, save some and give some of their money to causes they care about.

The Bottom Line

To start the conversation with your spouse (or your kids), it might help to begin with what you hope to accomplish as a family. What are your goals? What are your dreams for the future? Once you map that out together, you can point out that it will likely take money to make those dreams a reality — and you can use your goals as motivation to make smarter financial decisions and manage your household finances as partners.

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  1. Most Americans are significantly stressed about money — here’s how it varies by demographic.

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