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Finances & Money

Are You In The (Financial) Loop?

Shawn, a subscriber and frequent commenter here at Clever Dude, as well as a personal friend of the Clever Dude and Dudette will be posting occasional guest articles. You can read his introduction here.

By Shawn

Clever Dude has written several posts about making sure you and your spouse are both involved in household finances (like joint accounts). My wife and I recently saw a news story about a man that was in a coma caused by a car accident. This man handled all of the finances for the household, so the wife had no idea what bills to pay and when. It was a very sad story.

But, it got me thinking — Shawn, you idiot, you do the same thing. My wife and I realized that, if something were to happen to me, she wouldn’t know where to begin. I decided right then to change things. Here are a few of the items I decided to do to change the situation.

  1. I needed to communicate. I found that I would just pay the bills and never tell the wife what I paid and when I paid it. She put her trust in me that I was paying the bills on time (which I was). However, this is a two way street. Once I make the changes to include her, she then needs to make the additional effort to stay engaged in the process. This is a huge change for both of us, and good communication is essential.
  2. I created a new email address that forwards to both myself and my wife. I then updated all of our online accounts to use this email address instead of just mine. This allows us both to see important communications. Although paperless billing is a great way to reduce the clutter in your mailbox, if only one of you gets the emails, you’re totally cutting the other person out of the process.
  3. I downloaded KeePass (see a good review here) and entered in the information for all of our online accounts. Having all of this information in one secure place will ensure that, if something were to happen to me, she’s not having to rummage through drawers or call creditors to get the appropriate information.
  4. I need to create a spread sheet that lists all of our current expenses. This will include what the expense is, how to pay it, how often it’s due and the amount to pay. This spreadsheet will go hand-in-hand with the KeePass file.
  5. I need to educate. I take for granted the fact that I have been paying all of the bills for many years. I now have to make sure that I teach my wife how to use all of the tools I’m putting in place.

These are just the first steps I’ve identified to having a 100/100 involvement in the household finances.

Are there any things that you do to ensure that you and your spouse are equal partners in the finances?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • KeePass is good stuff, we use it at work.

    My family got around the single dude billing system by using wachovia online banking (aka yodlee). It tells us when/what/howmuch each bill is. For something like the car payment, we have automatic cheques sent by the bank at a set date.

    All my wife need do is login to wachovia and it tells her what is due when. Very nice. _all_ our bills are paid this way.

    The hardest things are the random bills that come in the mail (like healthcare stuff), managing our snail mail is our achilies heel.

    Recenting someone in our extended family passed on, who was living a double life and the wife was didnt have an idea about what bank accounts existed let alone bills. It was a real fiasco, he had bled all the accounts dry racked up the credit cards, stashed money away somewhere else and up and died. banking in a blender.

  • Stu, Shawn’s story (and a bit of yours too) is much like my own. However, I believe Shawn isn’t using the bank for billpay; he’s using direct debit.

    I use Bank of America for online billpay and have a number of bills auto-paid each month. However, as you said, those ad-hoc bills are a killer. We do have a budget (I actually posted the template a while ago. I should link to it in this post) that lists all our bills and due dates, and it covers all but my wife’s RD certifications (my fault). It actually goes out for 5 years!

    I’m really glad Shawn posted these ideas. I’ve been slacking, but now I’m going to use Keepass, as well as his ingenious idea for a shared email forwarding address. The good thing, though, is that my wife knows my email login info if she needs it, but I don’t have all our information in one easy place (except Quicken, which isn’t up to snuff yet).

  • We also have a single email (we call it a family email address) that we all can log into, we use this to route all banking/billing info through. All those online banking alert emails, bill reminder emails etc. we also know each others passwords.

    our snail mail management is the next thing to be tackled, and the hours wasted hunting through the house (I remember seeing a bill last wednesday.. where is last Wednesdays mail.. is it in the car, the lounge, the basement, wifes handbag, blah). i could gain 2 hours a week back just from that alone! lol

  • To help my husband, I just wrote a long letter to him, with all the password, Quicken info, all the financial institute websites I use, and a detailed explaination about where we are, what those accounts are for, what insurance we have, what bills are due on what date of each month, who has the title to what assets, and who is the beneficiary too. I let him read everytime I update the letter (anytime there is any new change in the assets) to make sure he understands everything. It is a lot of work at first, but once the letter is ready, updating is no problem at all.

  • I take your spreadsheet idea one step further and list all our assets and liabilities (including various accounts) on a seperate tab in the spreadsheet. It includes all the account numbers, contact details, etc for all our assets and liabilities.

  • We used to do all of our banking through a credit union, and their online bill pay sucked (and they charged for it). Because of this, I used direct debit where I could for all of our bills. For the others, I just go to their site and pay there.

    We just switched to SunTrust, and their online bill pay looks pretty good. Because of this, I might just switch to putting everything there. It would definitely be more convenient to only have to go to one place to pay all of the bills.

  • I seem to be by default to do the finances, butI let my husband know when bils have been paid and how much they were. He also checks occasionally and if there’s an expense he didn’t know about, I’ll show the receipt. We’re both pretty responsible with money and we don’t make large purchases (over $100 w/o consulting the other first).

    We’re still in our first year, so we don’t know how/if it will change. So far, so good. 🙂

  • Good post.

    Just yesterday I was watching Oprah and there was a man who was making $100k, but his wife had spent all of their money, they didn’t have health insurance for the children, and they were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt–and the husband didn’t know.

  • @Dee

    Hopefully, you can trust the person you marry to not do something like this, but by having both parties involved, it does provide for some checks and balances.

  • i keep hounding my wife to start being involved in the finances. she is good about saving and when we were living in separate cities, she managed her own finances fine. Now that we are together again, she doesn’t want to do them. Fortunately/unfortunately, we are going to be living apart again, so she will be forced to manage finances again.

  • I actually have a spouse that doesn’t want anything to do with the finances outside of “just tell me what I’m allowed to spend this week”. We have a very trusting relationship and rely on that, but the example scenario of the guy in a coma is exactly the reason why I print out our budget for the next few months out and tape it to a wall every month.

    Granted, she doesn’t like computers much and would go back to writing checks if she had to do it all…she would at least be able to keep up with bills as the statements came in and follow our 3-months-out budget as close as she could.

    Frankly, I’d rather be in a scenario where I had enough money in the bank to where I could just set up automatic payments for everything and not have to worry about being on time every month. 🙂

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