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Talking finance with Girl Ninja

I have some great news to share with you. Girl Ninja was able to survive a grueling 45 min conversation (with me) about finances last night. I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but Girl Ninja is not the biggest fan of talking about money (I know she’s a freak). She knows that these conversations are important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she is excited to have them.

I can’t really blame her though. If she wanted to chat my ear off about what happened on the most recent episode of The Bachelor, I probably wouldn’t be that excited either. In fact, I would be quite miserable. So now I sit here trying to think of ways to make finances more appealing to Girl Ninja.

Here’s what I got so far…

1) Sneak Dave Ramsey podcasts in to her iTunes playlist for when she goes running

2) Send her text messages every hour with the latest report on the S&P 500’s performance

3) Crawl underneath her bed, wait for her to fall asleep, and then begin blabbing all of my profound financial knowledge in hopes that she subconsciously retains some of the information.

4) Start telling her that I have a crush on all you female PF bloggers (in hopes that she will become super jealous and start a PF blog of her own).

All pretty good ideas right?

Seriously though, Girl Ninja and I both suck at disusing finances. She is guilty of not really wanting to talk about it (even though she knows it’s important), and I am equally guilty of being a huge PF dork and wanting to overwhelm her with a wealth of information all at one time.

I need to do better. I need to speak “finance” in a way that is appealing, or at least less miserable, for Girl Ninja. I don’t want PF to be something she has to suffer through. It would be unfair of me to demand that she shares my enthusiasm for personal finance, that’s not the way she was wired and I can’t be mad at her for it.

So now I would like to pick your brain and ask you some questions…

  • In your current, or past, relationship did you have a healthy level of communication when it came to money or was one person responsible for the finances?
  • How do/did you go about initiating financial discussions?
  • When you do talk money, what are some areas that you focus on?
  • How do you know how deep to go, so you don’t lose the other persons interest?
  • Anyone out there been on the Girl Ninja side of the relationship, where you really had no desire to talk money?

I’m sure I’m not the only person that has been in this situation so I would love to hear from you all!

F.Y.I. girl ninja is completely debt free, has money in the bank , and a steady job so she’s already got the fundamentals down.

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  1. My fiance and I actually just had a talk about money the other day. He is really easy going with money and has debt. I was easy going until I realized how much my debt sucks the life out of me and I've been paying it off for 2.5 years, only one more to go!

    Anyways, I got him to talk about money by asking him what his short and long term goals are and suggested ways to achieve them together (our goals happen to be the same). I have a feeling I'll be the one enforcing (that sounds bad) the "rules" we made together. He is just too laid back sometimes!

  2. This is a timely article and I've got one in the queue coming up about a similar subject. My wife is the same way, her eyes glaze over when I talk to her about it, so I've sort of drifted away from talking to her about it much, but then she's sort of made comments that she wants to know where we stand. So, I just started a once-per-month report that kind of picks out the highlights and puts it in pretty simple terms. The goal is not to bore her but to give her an idea of where we're at and open the table to discussions about where we're at and what we could be doing. She's often trusted me about things like that, but really, aren't two heads better than one?

  3. I'd frame it in the context of something you know she wants to buy. Not sure if you dream of home ownership someday, but that's a good example of something that you can talk about that may interest her. How soon do you want a house? Would you rather have a small house in a year or a bigger house in 5? Stuff like that.

  4. My husband is not into PF details, so I just show him how we're doing on every month or so. That way he gets to see if we had a positive net cash flow for the month, how much we spent on bills, and how much we spent on random stuff all in about 1 minute. Then I point out on the colorful bar graph (or pie chart) any major shifts in spending. This way he is aware of our financial situation, and I get to feed my inner PF nerd.

  5. Find out what her interests are as they relate to PF. I'm sure she wants to buy a house, raise kids, and save for retirement. These are all things that if you make them personal to her, can excite her interest. My BF kinda went through the same thing with his mom and his sis. Except once they saw how he was able to make some money in the stock market, their interest kinda piqued in the subject. I guess BF and I are pretty lucky that were born PF nerds…

    • Absolutely,
      find what areas of money management matter to Girl Ninja and talk about those, aside from broad agreement as to how money should work when you are married, I don't think you need to force too much conversation on her at all. I can tell you are excited about how soon your new married life will start, but don't over think it!

  6. If she has the fundamentals down, then you are in good shape.

    Really, our conversations are initiated by my blog a lot of the time. And if I want to know something about his finances, I just ask. Or how much something costs or whatever.

    Really, I don't know why there needs to be a ton of constant communication about money if you are already generally on the same page. We don't avoid talking money, but we never have a long and serious conversation. I think that I make the plans with his input and approval and let him know what he needs to do. If he isn't interested, why force it, as long as he can take care of himself.

  7. Its always been kinda taboo to talk about finances but I suppose it is a necessary evil that all of us have to deal with. This is especially so when married when the wellbeing of the family is so much more important than the wellbeing for the single person.

  8. Micah's not too keen on it either. He flashes back to when his parents were worried about having enough to buy groceries. So I work with it and try not to freak him out. I've gone over some really simple basics. And I've been working on preparing some advice in case things happen to me. Otherwise, I just tell him what's in the spending plan and that if he wants to change it or whatever we can talk about it. But he's not a big spender, so he just says "ok" and spends within the plan.

  9. What a timely post. I spent Monday evening explaining to my fiance about his taxes and how work isn't taking enough for Federal or EI based on his earnings.

    We began by watching 'Til Debt Do Us Part together. For a while there it was – "Oh! Not that show again, I'm going to play video games!" Now he's listening and making it a point to actually initiate some of the talks. He isn't overly interested in it, though I have been able to relate his interest in money to the things he's doing. I began by showing him my budget and keeping my jars in a visible place, as well as my Sheet with my debt total on it right at the front door. It's for me, but it allows him to see how the progress is going too.

    After that, I started being more vocal in conversations that go something like "Oh I really want [fill in item here]!" Instead of saying ya right, like you'll use it! I started saying, so how many hours do you have to work to earn the money for that item? It stopped a lot of the blabbering talk and really started making him think about his own money and time. The first time he's like, we'll I don't know – so I said to him, well I don't see the reason for getting [item] when you already have one. Just because you aren't happy with the one you have doesn't mean you NEED to get another one. I'd rather see you save that money for [blank] that you DO need.

    When he came back after that first conversation and looked broken, I couldn't figure out why. Well it turned out that he sat down and added up all the money he needs to live on, including bills and food, and calculated out what he brings home. Then he figured out what amount per hour goes to necessities, and what's left over for "fun". he came back and said, well I have to work about 3000 hours before I can afford that thing. I just don't make enough to get it yet.

    I was really impressed. the other reason he did that was because I'd already explained I didn't agree with it and I wasn't offering any money to help him get it. He already pulled a fast one with our current tv – that I have no problems reminding him about since our previous tv was perfectly fine for me (now we have a flat screen LCD and about 42 inches of viewing area). I'm not suggesting you find something like this, but perhaps when you are having your daily conversations with Girl Ninja, and she sees [fill in item here] you could ask her to figure out how many hours she needs to work to be able to afford that item. It can help open up some further communication between you.

    Or perhaps you could ask her how much she spends at Starbucks each day and ask her to figure out how much in a year she drinks/eats away and doesn't know it.

    You'll find a way to start getting through to her, on some things.

  10. My girlfriend's in better financial shape than I am. Well, maybe. Yet she still gets angry, frustrated, disconnected when talking about money. She carries no debt, has money in the bank and is employed. She however doesn't make enough to support her lifestyle. We're moving in together and I try talking to her about it, but it's still hard.

    Me: I carry student loans, saved roughly 6 months salary for emergency, but still am in the red in my net worth.

    If you find a way to get her to talk about money, let me know. I always just try to sell her on the ways she could better use her money, but then she gets frustrated. You'd think money was an enemy attacking her.

  11. What works for us is to come up with goals together and then I crunch the numbers and figure out when the goal will be met or how much needs to be saved each month to reach it. It keeps my husband involved and gives me the free reign to fulfill the needs of my inner PF nerd with calculator and highlighters in hand.
    I know you didn't ask for it, but some of the things I wish we had thought about early in our marriage (or before, in your case) are:
    Is someone going to stay home with the kids or are we ok with daycare? In our case, I now stay home and the drop from two income to one was crazy (doable but crazy). I wish we had always straight pocketed my income and lived on his income alone.
    Do you want to buy a home and is paying it off early (and the sacrifices that go along with that) appealing to both of you? We bought 2 months before our wedding and are thrilled to have paid down so much in 5 years. Our goal is to have it paid off in 10 more.
    What is a number that makes you both feel safe to have in savings? For us it was 10k…but then we mutually decided to use that money to pay for our grad degrees in full.
    And, last but not least, fun money! What fun ways do you both want to spend your hard earned money on? We love to travel and feel that any money spent on vacations is money well spent.

  12. Hi Debt Ninja,

    Being married for 3.5 years now, here's what I've learned about having productive financial conversations with my husband:

    1) Once we were married we started having monthly talks. We'd set aside a couple hours once a month to talk about Important Stuff™. Some topics are recurring (money being one of these) and other topics are as needed. By setting aside time in advance I'm not catching him off guard with a conversation he's not mentally prepared for, and by bundling several topics together there is always something for each of us to enjoy talking about (and there's not enough time to get horribly bored with any one topic either!).

    2) Start small and simple, then move to other things. For the first few months we focused on reviewing our joint income/expenses for the month beforehand. We track our money in different ways, use different expense categories, etc. so it took a bit of time for each of us to get used to how the other person tracked his money. Once we became efficient enough at reviewing our joint finances we then added another money topic to our monthly talk without spending more overall time talking about money.

    3) Get emotional. Many people think of money as being very analytical, very dry, involving lots of nit-picking and penny-pinching, etc. Who would want to talk about something like that? Starting with emotions can create a huge opportunity for getting someone else to buy in to a topic that you want to talk about.

    For example, once I wanted to talk about my concerns that he wasn't putting enough aside for retirement. The conversation got to a point where he felt I was being highly critical of him and things started degenerating rather quickly. I took a moment to refocus and say: "I'm worried that we won't be able to have a retirement that we can look forward to. I'm scared that we're going to be in our sixties without enough money to have fun while we're still active and mobile. I want us in a few decades to be able to feel good about where we've come as a couple, which includes our finances, instead of spending the rest of our years kicking ourselves for not having done better. I don't want us to be living just out of necessity for the second half of our lives." And he took a minute to refocus himself and say: "I don't want that either." Doing this allowed us to get out of the minutia of numbers and talk about priorities, life goals, etc. and what motivated them. We were able to focus on getting agreement before going back to talking about what action steps we needed to get there.

    4) Compromise. My husband is going to spend more on coffee and bottled water than I'm comfortable with until the day one of us dies. That's just the way things are. There's a part of me that is infuriated with his behavior. In the past couple of years he's been much better about making coffee at home and buying bottled water in bulk, reducing his spending on these by about half. I'm still infuriated. Buying any bottled water is too much! And this is a point of contention that neither of us is going to win (despite my obvious superiority on the issue 😉 ), so instead of getting upset with him each month I (have been learning to) focus on being positive about the changes he's made that I agree with. He and I have different goals and priorities about a number of things in life and disagreeing about some of the money stuff is part of that.

    5) Sometimes try focusing on indirect behaviors when you want something to change. In addition to coffee, my husband spends more than (I think) he should on books. Talking about this for months didn't get us very far. What did help us was my asking him to check local libraries for books before he goes out and buys them. Some books he'll never find at most libraries (such as many history books), but most of the more popular titles are readily available at some library in the area. For 75¢ they'll even transport it to your local library for you, and 75¢ a book is a huge financial win over $10+ a book (and it cuts back on the amount of clutter at home as well!).

    6) Be willing to be wrong. Despite my (over-inflated sense of) being better about money thinking, tracking, etc. than he is, I still make the (more often than) rare mistake. Maybe I do something that I criticized him for doing earlier, or maybe I buy something expensive without checking him first (which is one of our agreements), or something else. I'm not perfect and I shouldn't pretend to be (despite my strong tendencies to do so sometimes). I've had to learn to be more accepting of my own faults and inconsistencies, and doing so has made it much easier for us to work as a couple on finances.

    Best of luck in your conversations and your upcoming marriage!

  13. You already have so many great comments I'm not sure there's anything I can add.

    I'm the PF junkie (obviously) and Jordan is so not – but he's on board and appreciates the time I put in to it. He wants to hear the bottom line about what's available and where we are at in terms of progress – but not all t he leg work that goes into it.

  14. This is a timely article and I've got one in the queue coming up about a similar subject. My wife is the same way, her eyes glaze over when I talk to her about it, so I've sort of drifted away from talking to her about it much, but then she's sort of made comments that she wants to know where we stand. So, I just started a once-per-month report that kind of picks out the highlights and puts it in pretty simple terms. The goal is not to bore her but to give her an idea of where we're at and open the table to discussions about where we're at and what we could be doing. She's often trusted me about things like that, but really, aren't two heads better than one?

  15. You have to attend FPU. I know you guys are already ahead of the curve but through the class you guys will learn to communicate about money. Trust me. It saved my marriage from divorce. You must do it. I'm advising from experience. 🙂 If you need help convincing her to take FPU listen to the 2nd FPU lesson "Relating with Money".

  16. Scanned all the comments and didn’t notice anything which pointed this out directly – empowerment.

    Right now, the relationship is you talk, she listens. Girl ninja was probably lectured to by her father for the 20+ years before she met you. She doesn’t need “another man telling her what to do”, she needs you to be supportive & encouraging of however it is she wants to pursue PF. The only thing you can be is patient & consistent.

    Like a kid on a bike, with the right coaching, eventually she will lose the training wheels (you) and risk it herself. That’s when it will hit you, because she will do something on her own that will impress you.

    Pre-Congrats on your move to Page #1 of the Wisebread Top 100 PF Blogs!

  17. lol, your ideas crack me up!

    We're kind of in the same boat. He's starting to take a bit more interest but still wants to spend spend spend. I make sure he's saving and don't get too specific – he says otherwise he just wants to go out and buy something with that money.

    I think as long as both are on the same page with the overall direction, it's fine to have one person handle the bulk of the PF stuff.

  18. My husband knew nothing about finances when we met. He could literally spend an entire paycheck in a couple of days. He was sure he'd always be in debt from student loans so he figured why bother?

    I got him on a system almost as soon as we met to get rid of his student loans. After that he started to appreciate that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. He's still not as into finance as me — his ADD means he has to battle impulsiveness a lot — I keep him up to date on what we're doing, why and how it's progressing.

    I think maybe you should research one of those simple personal finance books. Then just ask her to read that and familiarize herself with the basics. That way she'll have some idea what you're talking about, but she probably still won't love it. (Though there's an app on the iPhone/iPod that you could use to show her what purchases will end up costing over time. That might be a way to get her more interested in learning finance.)

  19. I try to give DH the highlights every couple of weeks or so: the EF is at this amount, paid this much on the LOC, point out if some budget area is especially high or low…that sort of thing. I have tried to get him to look at the accounts and my super-dorky spreadsheets, but he just doesn't care about the ins and outs of it. As long I couch the discussion in terms of something he wants (as others note above) it goes pretty smoothly. I.e., if we stay on this track, we can afford to take a nice trip for our anniversary, if we fall off track, we'll be doing dinner at the drive-thru for our anniversary. He'll bring up finances when there is something he wants (e.g. some part for his Jeep) so I'll leap on that opportunity to give him the big picture and lay out some choices -if we buy that part, we can't do X or we have to wait this much longer to do X.

  20. I often have my Jane proofread my posts, especially ones that I'll submit as a guest post.
    She always hands it back, saying that she corrected typos, but didn't understand a word of it. She knows I have the hots for Maria Bartiromo, and Erin Burnett, but reminds me I am not in their league so she's not threatened.

  21. My husband is allergic to all money discussions; after about 5 minutes his eyes glaze over. So I don't bore him with the little details; I give him our net worth statement every month with an indication if it has gone up or down since the previous month and that's about all he wants to know. We have an allowance system so he knows he can buy what he wants from that. He struggled as a single dad with tons of debt for so long he is just happy not to deal with it.
    I have accepted that he will not be excited about money just as I am not excited about the birds he sights!

  22. I actually disagree with a lot of the advice here. I hate the idea of having a set discussion about money once a month, yaddy yaddy yadda.

    Money is not bad. Money is not scary. Money doesn't have to be a taboo subject. The more we build it up to be something we need to set aside a specific tiem to talk about, the bigger deal it becomes.

    Hubby and I have a pretty good financial relationship, but it wasn't always that way. I grew up always talking about money, he didn't- in his family it was almost a dirty word. Getting him to sit down to look at our figures was like pulling teeth. What worked for us was baby steps. Conversations about money in the car, or when we were walking home from work, or a quick email here and there about an itneresting PF issue. Once money lost its "taboo and scary" status, a lot of the fear went away and we could look at our finances like the sane people we are without worrying about the MONEY BOOGEYMAN.

    We do set a firm money date once a year, to review the budget and make sure the course is set for the next year, but otherwise, it's an every day or every week or ever whenever-it-comes-up discussion.

  23. Ninja, Ninja, Ninja! Of course she's not going to be interested if you get all technical on her and overwhelm her with too much information!

    D and I promised to sit down and talk credit reports soon, though soon has turned into months and months beyond when I planned because he claims there's a problem getting his credit report. We still know our basic financial goals for the future. I'd just like to get a little more nitty gritty than he would!

    It's more important for the two of you to talk about financial topics that pertain to your life together. D and I split our bills down the middle each month, and we both have our own cell phone plans. How will the two of you pay your bills? Will you split them all down the middle or will you delegate the mortgage to one person and the food to the other? Will you be purchasing a home in the future? How soon? What will have to happen to reach that goal?

    The key is just talking about building your financial lives together, not getting her deep into personal finance. Just discuss your financial goals for the future and how each of you wants to reach them together. Good luck!

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