Engaging the Uninvolved Spouse ~ Part 1: “The Clueless One”

the clueless one

What do you do when your spouse or partner doesn’t want to be involved in the budget decision making process?  The “Uninvolved Spouse” problem isn’t uncommon in families, but it’s a serious one.  If you’re both not openly communicating about and participating in the family finances, it’s a recipe for conflict.  In this blog series, I’ll discuss three different scenarios and some common sense suggestions on how to engage the uninvolved spouse.


Scenario #1: The Clueless One


            Meet Matt and Nichole.  Nicole is an investment advisor and her husband, Matt, is a freelance writer who works from home and takes care of their toddler, Isabella.  Nicole handles all of the bill paying, investing, and other major financial decision making.  Matt knows his wife is a money expert and he trusts her to handle the family finances.  You might be thinking that this is a good arrangement for Matt and Nichole. 


However, Matt doesn’t have a clue about good financial management.  His parents never talked about money – probably because they never had any.  When Nicole tries to talk to him about major financial issues, his eyes glaze over and he mentally checks out.  All of burden of managing the household finances is on Nicole and she is feeling stressed out because of it. 


And what happens if Nicole and Matt get divorced? Or what if – God forbid – Nicole is killed in a freak car accident? Will Matt even know which banks and brokerages are housing their accounts and how to access the money? 


Situations like this happen all the time.  I’ve had numerous tearful widows and distraught divorcees show up for coaching appointments, clutching a box or thick file full of bills and banks statements, needing assistance with sorting out the financial details.  It’s hard enough to deal with the pain of a divorce or death without the financial confusion thrown on top of it.


Here are some tips to get the “clueless one” educated and informed on the very important topic of their own finances.

  • Let’s get the “Matts” of the world a sound understanding of the financial basics.  I highly suggest going through a financial literacy course or coaching as a couple, even if the family finances are stable.  It’s a great way to gain a solid education on personal finance and provides a forum for open discussion.  Other options would be reading a good book on personal finance or a session or two with a financial coach who has the heart of a teacher (not a salesman).

  • Matt and Nicole need to have a monthly budget meeting to discuss the state of their finances.  These meetings might only be five or ten minutes long, but they will go a long way in keeping both people engaged and up to speed.

  • Nicole needs to set up a folder or file box with all of the important financial information for Matt to access should something happen to her.  This file should contain bank account numbers and access instructions, plus contact information for bankers, investment brokers, and insurance agents.  There should also be a copy of their will or trust and attorney contact info.

By following these steps, “The Clueless One” can be transformed into the spouse who is educated, engaged, and involved with the family finances.  This will help the couple walk in unity and reduce conflict and resentment.

Comments 17

  1. This really is so important. It’s not often a comfortable topic, so the uninvolved one is usually just grateful that the other is taking care of it. Twice in my family it has happened where the involved spouse passed away suddenly, leaving the uninvolved spouse in shock about the reality of their financial situation. Having watched it happen twice I have vowed that this will never, ever be me.

  2. My husband and I take turns with the finances. He does it for a few months and then I take over for a few months. It’s a great way to make sure we both stay on top of our finances.

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  3. Oh I totally get this! Because I am an accountant, there has always been the assumption that all this stuff falls to me. It has definitely created issues. I think both parties need to be equally involved and accountable.

  4. My ex was clueless and it wasn’t until fairly recently that he realized he needed to know things in case something happened to one of us. I wish he’d started learning earlier!

  5. I was the clueless partner when it came to money. After my husband died, I quickly learned how to manage the money. It is so important for both partners to understand the money part.

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