who holds the key to your finances?Here’s a question for you. Who is in charge of the money? Who pays the bills? Who balances the checkbook? Who knows the login for the bank account online?
Many couples will answer that while both are in charge of spending the money, and often both are earning it, one or the other handles the family finances pretty much alone. And this system works just fine for them. But do you ever ask the hard “what if” questions?


What if that person who handles the finances was suddenly snatched up by aliens one day and the other person was left to care for the home and make sure the electricity and water bills get paid so that those utilities don’t get shut off? Could he do it (I’m going to use “he” here, but just assume it is the he or she who does not run your household finances)? If he needed to know how much money was in the bank to pay the next credit card bill, could he check the balance without driving to the bank? Would he even know where the paperless credit card statements go or when the bills are due or how to login and pay them?


Now before you panic, yes, this person could probably figure out a system eventually and could probably handle things after much work and maybe a lot of headaches. But together you can avoid that potential not-so-fun process.


The Process of Getting on the Same Financial Page


1. The first thing you should do is talk to each other. This will not work if you are dragging the other person kicking and screaming to figure out the billing system (maybe you are thinking they can just save the headache for later while you are eating popcorn on the spaceship).


2. Next, write things down as you walk through the process together. Show him the webpage you visit to check your balances and how to access the account you use to pay bills. Write down that web address along with the passwords so that it is easy to get back there. Of course you will then want to be sure you put that list somewhere safe that only the 2 of you know about. You wouldn’t want Joe Robber walking through the house and spying the list of all your important information taped to the computer screen. Make sure you walk through all of the bills. It is nice if you explain how the mortgage is automatically withdrawn each month, but that will not help when the newspaper subscription comes due next fall. Make a list of bills and credit cards. Not only will this help you both get on the same page and understand the same process, but it will help you get organized and know how much money is going where each month.


You may have the bill notifications going to your email so you know when to pay things. And you may or may not share your email password with your spouse. If you die and all of those notifications are going to your email, your spouse is going to have to contact each of those companies individually to get the information changed, and he has to somehow know what all of those companies are off the top of his head. Can I suggest either creating a new “bills” email or at the least having your email password stored in a sealed “in case something happens to me” envelope so that the financial information is more easily accessible.


3. Let go of the reins. I know, it can be scary, really scary, to let the other person have control for a little bit. What if the bills don’t get paid? What if something goes really wrong? Things will be fine. Have the other person try paying some of the bills. It’s one thing if you show the steps and even write them down, but it is another to actually be involved in the process. You could even take turns paying the bills. It’s not that you have to permanently give up the control here. You may be perfectly happy paying the bills, and your spouse may be perfectly happy with you paying them. The purpose of this process is not to upset the balance. But it will both help you get on the same page and will help in case anything were to happen to you.


4. Enjoy the feeling of knowing that if something were to happen to you or if something were to happen to your spouse who takes care of the finances, things will be OK as far as paying the bills and getting to the financial information goes. If you would really like to enjoy this feeling, then take it a little farther and make sure that you have life insurance and a will and that all of your financial information is in place. A GREAT workbook to help you with this is The Bucket Book. This workbook will walk you step-by-step through the process of putting all your financial information in order in case the unthinkable happens, and it has space for you to make updates, as we all know that change happens.


So no matter who handles the finances, make sure that you have your bases covered in case of the next alien invasion or whatever disaster may strike.

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