How can you improve your financial literacy when your former partner took care of everything? This is a common occurrence in many relationships today. With endless to-do lists, couples may decide to take a divide and conquer approach as it can be an efficient way of getting things done.
It makes sense from a practical standpoint, but when it comes to finances, the other partner should not remain completely in the dark. Financial goals should be something that couples share, so it’s important to keep one another in the know.
But, not everyone is comfortable dealing with finances. Some people have the same attitude towards finances that others have for technology; the whole process can be daunting if you’re just starting out. Tackling it in small manageable pieces makes it easier.
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Finances are not the enemy
In fact, you’re much more likely to be smart with your money if you can understand it. Learning is a mindset. If you believe you can (or can’t) do something, then you are probably right. I’m sure many of us have listened to our parents grumble about technology. “It’s so confusing.” “I’ll never understand this.” My parents think I’m a technology guru, of which of course I’m not. Inevitably, I’ll get a call on a weeknight about challenges with a computer, printer or smartphone. “This stupid thing isn’t working,” my dad would tell me in a state of frustration. I’d get my dad to calm down a bit, and then describe what the core issue is. Instead of fixing the problem, I ‘d point him in the direction of YouTube, get him watching the right video, and he can generally figure it out on his own.
In short, you don’t have to be an accountant or financial planner to run your personal finances.
Don’t try to eat the entire frog all at once
My girlfriend has an expression, eating the frog, which essentially means if you tackle the difficult tasks on your to-do list first, accomplishing the other tasks feels easier. The challenge is doing this in bite-size pieces, and not sticking the entire bullfrog in your mouth.
If your goal is to be better at personal financial management, you break it down into a series of small, manageable steps. Perhaps one step is to learn how to pay your utility bills online. Another could be talking to your bank and setting up online banking. If you have “become better at managing my personal finances” on your list, chances are this item won’t be crossed off for the next decade. Be specific. Be reasonable. Be accountable.
It gets easier with time
Set some realistic goals, celebrate the milestones of accomplishment, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. With time it will get easier.
Last weekend, I showed my parents how to email-transfer money to my brother for his birthday. They never realized something so simple could also save them so much time. This form of payment was new to them, but my parents have been paying their bills online for a couple of years now. My mom typically looks after all the bills every month, and before she understood online banking, she would write a cheque for each bill, mail the cheque, write the amount into her cheque book against her balance, and cross-reference her returned cheques against her account every month. Not only does online banking save my mom time and money, but harnessing technology makes her life easier. This coming from someone who was adamant that they just didn’t get technology, or want to get to know how technology could make her life easier.
When entering a new relationship, put checks and balances in place
With information so accessible, there really isn’t an excuse to not be informed. You’ve got access to internet banking, financial apps, personal financial software, and free instructional videos. You can find good information that costs little or nothing. If you were the partner who avoided finances in your past relationship, and are preparing to move in with someone new, now’s you chance to practice those skills.
At the very least, schedule check-in sessions either monthly or quarterly to see where you and your partner stand from a financial perspective. This will help ensue there are no unpleasant surprises, and if you have set some goals with your partner, you can see where you’re at.
Financial literacy won’t happen overnight – but it will eventually become easier, and you will become empowered by this newfound freedom.