Talking About Money

We all need to talk about money at some point. This is often easier with a financial professional who has seen a variety of situations and is practiced at withholding judgment and helping people solve problems. However, the most important conversations we need to have about money are with our spouses and family.

We NEED to Talk About Money with Family

Your money situation has a direct impact on your family. It affects everything from basic needs, such as food and shelter, to future plans, such as buying a new car or family vacations. Failure to have open and honest conversations can result in preventable problems being amplified to the point of disaster.

It can create jealousy and resentment within the family, and competition where none should exist. Establishing and keeping your family on a positive track when it comes to money will help everyone understand what needs to happen, feel included in plans, and create accountability for their actions. This habit will build a successful financial future.

Start with your Spouse

Leadership starts from the top. That’s you and your spouse. You need to be on the same page.

Financial issues are the number one reason for divorce. Working together to create an open and honest dialogue about money matters is the most important first step in getting on the same page. The second, we’ve said this many times, is creating a household budget.

Having a weekly family meeting with your spouse is a great way to create the habit of making sure you’re on the same page. Once this habit is established, you can begin including your children. Keep it to the household and when you need to, have special meetings with your extended family, such as the grandparents.

We (Jonathan and Julia) learned this from Marriage 365, an organization that facilitates connecting and growing in your marriage using a lot of well-established resources (We highly recommend this organization.) The weekly family meeting is even more important for entrepreneurs like us.

With speaking engagement schedules, deep-work scheduling, important deadlines, and significant financial commitments, it really helps us align our actions to our goals.

The most relevant parts of our family meeting to this article are budget and schedule.

Creating a Safe Space

To create a safe space to have money-talks with your spouse you must start with removing judgment from the conversation. This can be extremely difficult but is a key starting point.

Both partners have to be willing to have the conversation in order for it to be meaningful and effective.

Avoid making comments about past behaviour and try to keep things focused on facts and goals upon which you agree. Statements like the following can make this and future conversations more difficult:

  • Why didn’t you…?
  • You should have…
  • Well, if you hadn’t…

History has already happened and assigning blame doesn’t help move forward positively. Digging up past events and throwing them in your spouse’s face is the foundation for one heck of an argument – and that’s not what you want out of your family meeting.

Mindset Matters

Learning about your own money mindset and feelings when it comes to money can be very helpful in learning how to avoid statements that send you down a negative path during the family meeting. In the least, you’ll be more aware of how things make you feel – and perhaps more importantly, how they make your spouse feel.

Where to Meet

At first, you should have this meeting at your kitchen table until certain things are established. The first few things to include are:

  • Review of your past spending (remember to withhold judgment!)
  • Creation of a household budget (the MOST important step to financial success.)
  • Planning for future needs, what you need to buy/spend on in the future.
  • Planning for other future expenses (This is where the fun begins…)

You’ll need privacy and the space to set up the laptop, spread out any paper that you may need to look over, take notes, and be close to the family calendar to mark important dates.

Then, you can move it to a variety of other locations such as at a restaurant, out on a walk, or sitting on the sofa. Be sure distractions are removed and sufficient time is allocated to have these meetings. You don’t want to rush and you don’t want to defer agenda items.

Most of them are of immediate importance. Be sure to have your devices available so if anything needs to be looked up or scheduled, it can be scheduled or done easily and won’t be forgotten.

Feelings Matter

Speaking about money is extremely uncomfortable for most people. Try to create a situation where both of you feel comfortable enough to be completely open and honest with each other. Remember, one of the most important things to a successful marriage is honesty.

Avoid the use of negative words and judgmental comments. They will cause people to feel judged and shut down or go on the attack, decreasing the effectiveness of the meeting and increasing the discomfort. Remember that the most common emotions surrounding money are negative – fear, guilt, anger, shame, sadness, hopelessness, and jealousy.

Acknowledge these feelings together, work to help each other through them, and get to the root of where these feelings come from. Understanding your own feelings and being mindful of what you say and how you say it will help things stay on track.

Focus on problem-solving together. Again, to understand what is creating a problem, you need to understand the situation. Circle back to a review of past spending, and creation or review and update of the household budget.

These should be happening regularly, though not necessarily at every family meeting. This will allow for the more fun and enjoyable financial planning moments – the family vacation, the new car, retirement…

Having the family meeting regularly scheduled erodes the anxiety that often accompanies the knowledge that you’ll need to talk about money.

Over the long term, it becomes a habit and financial discussions can leave behind the typical negative emotions that come with them.


Make sure to spend some time toward the end of the money part of the family meeting dreaming together: Talk about what you’d like to do together; That car you want to buy; That vacation you want to take. Then, be sure to schedule the actions needed to make them happen.

This helps wrap this section of the family meeting on a positive note. We’ve had family meetings where we went back and started looking at a whole lot of different information to facilitate the things we dream about together.

Our Style

This next part definitely isn’t for everyone. However, we hope that it stimulates some ideas for how you might help your family manage money.

Less is More

As entrepreneurs, we have a lot of moving parts. Paring these down and having less things to pay attention to help keep us focused on the things that really matter. Fewer bank accounts, fewer credit cards, fewer commitments – these help us have the focus we really need.

Keep Records

We have our own QuickBooks Online file for our family. That might be a bit next-level, but we think the time and money investment is extremely important. It helps with the following:

  • It makes understanding what has happened easy
  • It helps us track our net worth
  • It allows us to track some key spending areas to ensure they don’t get out of control (Such as buying too much fishing gear)
  • It allows us to understand where we are now in relation to where we want to go, and what we have to do to get there
  • It allows us to quickly produce statements when applying for lending (or undergoing a CRA review)
  • It helps us create a household budget easily (literally, it’s just a few clicks and then going over it together to make adjustments for future plans.)

Living Within Our Means

This is one place where we are completely aligned. There are a lot of trips and events we say “no” to and a lot of big purchases we want to make, but don’t. Luckily for us, we both had a similar mindset at the beginning of our relationship and nothing has changed in this regard.

Don’t look at your extended family, friends, or neighbours and feel like you need to behave differently because you don’t have what they have.

Remember, you don’t know their situation. You don’t know if they have family meetings or how they go – or if there’s a disaster lurking under the surface…

Stay Positive

The greatest journeys are not easy. But they all start with that first step. Getting on the right track and staying on it will help, but you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you’ll reach the destination you want to reach.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we keep our family books or the types of things we discuss at our family meetings, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about Marriage 365, we strongly encourage you to check them out on social media, or even go check out their website. (Their marriage retreat was a lot of fun!)

Have you signed up to receive our monthly newsletter with blog posts, inside news and more? It’s easy to join!

* indicates required