It's Okay To Be 'Hands-Off' As Long As You're 'Eyes Open'
In a revealing new report, 56% of married women admit they leave all long term financial decisions to their husband. An overwhelming number of these women say they do so, because they believe their husband knows best.
Financial wellness coach and Right Riches for You facilitator, Julia Sotas, firmly believes it's healthy and natural for one partner in a relationship to take the financial reins. However, she cautions, everyone should be educated and empowered enough to know what's going on.
"When you see a statistic like this, it can be easy to jump to conclusions and say '56% of married women need to start making financial decisions'. But that ignores the natural form long-term relationships take. In a marriage, everyone makes a contribution based on what they find easiest, or most interesting, or what they can fit into their lives. It's okay if a husband – or wife – is taking the lead in financial decisions. This is part of the kindness and contribution they are making to the relationship. What's not okay, is if you, as their spouse, have no clue where the money is going," Sotas remarks.
Sotas is a certified wealth coach, qualified realtor and avid investment researcher, and yet, in her marriage, her husband pays all the bills. "You don't always have to be involved in the transactional stuff – but it's vital you are able to step up and take care of yourself, if you need to. Don't abdicate yourself of any knowledge of what's going on", she advises.
Drawing from her years as a Right Riches for You facilitator, Sotas shares what she believes are the keys to a healthy and balanced approach to relationship finances:
Be willing to receive. If your husband enjoys making the financial decisions, let him. If you enjoy it, be the one to step up and do it. It doesn't have to be a gender-based role, but what works best for you. Importantly, don't think you're not a modern, empowered woman just because your spouse guides the household finances.
Get involved. Ask questions about the financial options available and the decisions that are being made. Know where the money is going. Know how much things cost. It's not about making these decisions yourself, if that's what works in your relationship – it's about being able to step into the decision-maker's role if the situation changes.
Trust your own instincts. Be willing to make financial decisions of your own, with money of your own. "When I married, my husband had a great accountant that he really respected, so I began to use him for my business", Sotas explains. "After months of deliberation, I decided I resonated more with another accountant. So, I switched my business matters over to them. I made a decision that felt right for me."
To the many women who believe their spouses know more about finances than they do, Sotas has one question. "What were you taught about money, and by whom, that you believe a man is more equipped to understand finances? Whose point of view have you bought into?"
"If you think your husband knows better than you, it's simply an opportunity for you to empower yourself and learn more. In a lot of cases, your husband will be relieved, knowing that he no longer has to carry that responsibility on his own", Sotas advises.
Interview with Julia Sotas
Julia is wealth and wellness coach, and Access Consciousness and Right Riches for you facilitator. She has always been interested in self-improvement, and attended her first course at the tender age of 13. She has a degree in Sociology from the University of Winnipeg and recently earned her Real Estate Licence. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and three stepchildren and is dedicated to sharing her personal experiences to help others change their mindset about money, and earn more than they could ever imagine.
Question: When is it okay to let our partner make all the financial decisions?
Julia Sotas: Allowing your partner to make the financial decisions is fine as long as you are educated on where your money is going. So many of us completely shut off awareness to our financial world when we know our spouse is taking care of it. Even though it may not be your favourite topic, being aware of where your money is going, and how you can use the money you have to create more is the only way to build sustainable wealth.
Question: How common is it that the women takes control of the family finances?
Julia Sotas: There are increasingly more women taking control of their family's finances, yet in most cultures, men still have the full reins. This is a generational proclivity and my sense is it will change with coming generations.
Men handling the money is not a danger on its own, the issue lies when women do not have enough knowledge to be able to easily take over the responsibility if their partner suddenly stepped away. Many women don't have the ability to do that, which is where the issue lies.
Question: How do we know who should take on this role, in a relationship?
Julia Sotas: In a relationship we each have our own strengths. If you are a great cook, that is an asset to the relationship. If you love to organise vacations, that is an asset to the relationship. Usually it is one spouse that gravitates more to handling money. When this person steps into this role, it is an asset to the relationship.
A relationship is full of projections and expectations, and often times we think that because we marry someone that they should start to think like us, or have the same values as us.
This usually leads to frustration because even though you are in love, you are still you, and your partner is still them.
A great way to get beyond unrealistic expectations is to create a "Deal and Deliver".
This is a conversation where you sit down with your spouse and write down everything that is required in the relationship. Who does the dusting, who brings in the money, who makes sure the kids have brushed their teeth, how many nights a week does each person make dinner?
In my house, my husband and I both bring in the money, we split the bills, I make dinner every night and he minds the bills and takes care of his beautiful gardens.
The greater the detail, the greater the ease. Many avoid this exercise because it can seem cold. But not having clarity on these things is what causes divorce.
When you have your relationship set up clearly, you know what is expected of you, and they know what is expected of them.
A relationship should increase the comfort and ease in your life. A great relationship should allow both people to have an easier life than they would on their own. What if you considered your relationship a gift, and never a necessity?
Question: What advice do you have for women who let their partner take care of family finances?
Julia Sotas: My advice would also be to ask them questions and to ask them to educate you on any investments, and the financial knowledge that they have. They will likely be grateful you asked because it takes the pressure off their shoulders. And let them know that you are grateful for the fact that they are willing to take care of that part of your life.
Question: What are the signs that a women has left too much of the financial decisions to her partner?
Julia Sotas: If a woman is not clear about where the money is going, and she uses her partner as an excuse not to be financially educated, this is when you know that it can get dangerous. A good rule of thumb is to ask "If my partner died tomorrow would I know how much everything costs, how to pay it, where all of our assets and debts are, and how to keep working toward our financial targets?"
Question: What advice do you have for a couple who are looking at combining their finances?
Julia Sotas: If you are combining your finances you have to look at the future it will create. If you look 10 years down the road, will this create more ease and closeness or will it be the cause of arguments and distrust?
Don't assume that combining your finances means that you care for your partner more than couples who keep their bank accounts separate. I see people combine their finances as a way of proving they care for each other more, but when they both don't agree what they are spending their money on, it creates a great deal of tension in the relationship that may have not been there prior.
Conversely, my parents are farmers and work together in a shared business. Having their finances combined has worked very well for them.
Question: How often should a couple talk about finances?
Julia Sotas: Having a meeting to look at what you would like to create is part of a couple's financial health. Meetings don't have to be formal or planned, they can just be bi-weekly conversations in the car, or while you are getting ready in the morning.
When you are chatting with your partner about these things, ask them questions and let them know that you value what they are saying. Don't dishonor them or make them feel wrong for what they have spent or chosen. If you see a better way, be involved and empower each other to create it.
The main reason to talk about finances is to continue the conversation of how you can create more. What side businesses could you create? How could you invest your money? Is there a low-risk savings account that would yield a better interest than you are currently getting?
If your husband has been minding the money, don't make yourself wrong or consider that you are not a feminist. Realize the gift that he is in your life for being willing to care for you in this way, but always make sure you are educated and ready to take over the reins if need be.
Interview by Brooke Hunter