How to Talk To Your Spouse About Money

Money causes more friction, heartache and anxiety in relationships than just about any other subject. Most couples report that it is often the center of their arguments. In any relationship, there will be differences based on your family history and myths about money, your earning situation, your spending patterns, and your future dreams.

Consider this from The Secret Meaning of Money by Cloe Madanes:

Everyone worries about money.  Some of us feel that if only we could have more money, our lives would be greatly improved and we could find happiness.  Yet those who have a great deal of money seem constantly worried about making more, how to spend it, and the possibility of losing it.  Everyone worries about money, and no one seems satisfied with how much they have and how they use it.

Well, with that worrisome outlook, let’s try to get a bit more creative in figuring out how to shift the conversation with your spouse around money.  Strive to make it about building collaboration (instead of competition and frustration) as you try out some of these ideas:

Make sure you have a common language and understanding as you work together through your relationship.

Both people need to know what the household monthly income and expenses are, and what the priorities are for any extra funds (pay down debt, experiences like travel or entertainment, retirement savings).  If there is a joint account to cover household expenses, consider a ratio approach based on income levels to keep it fair, rather than 50/50.  If one party has more debt coming into the relationship, this has to be factored into the discussion to be sure payments are made on time and responsibly to protect your credit ratings.

Talk openly to each other.

Discuss what you care about and consider whether the businesses where you shop and make purchases, and even where you work, match your belief system.  Having strategic intentions about your money can be empowering as you show the world what you value when you spend your hard earned resources.

Determine a set amount (for example, $100) that you promise to consult with the other person on before you spend more than this amount.

This allows each person to make small impulse purchases without consultation or fear of judgement. However it also helps avoid surprises in the bank account or credit card statement.  This amount helps set priorities around spending on home renovations, travel, or other big-ticket expenses.  The main concept is to keep the conversation flowing about money.

Create a motivation to save or avoid spending on extras.

For example, if you need to do a “fiscal fast” and avoid dining out for a few weeks, make sure to implement an Experience Reward at the end of the timeframe.  Research has shown that when people spend money on experiences, it creates a lasting positive impact on them—often the memories and the re-telling of the stories of this shared experience keep the couple connected.  Experiences can be travel, a sporting event, a concert or play, or any other activity you both enjoy together.

Learn how to “fight fair.”

Once you’ve been in a settled relationship for a while, one or both of you may make a bad money decision—we’re human.  It may, or may not, have been under your control, but you may have ended up at a place where financial worries have taken over your household and trust is eroding quickly.  If you’ve built up large credit card bills, try to honestly consider how that happened—were you trying to avoid some other emotional issue and used retail therapy to ease the pain?

In Stop Fighting & Start Talking, Ed Coambs describes the Stop, Drop & Roll method to move arguments to resolution:

STOP—Recognize that you are entering a conflict (it may show up as screaming or yelling, passive-aggressive behavior, or seething resentment)

DROP— Drop your defenses and focus on what the other person is really upset about.  There’s a good chance that you may not fully recognize the source of their frustration.

ROLL—When you really understand where the other person is coming from, you must be ready to roll with the punches.  Ultimately, your spouse will surprise you more often than not regarding the source of conflict and the way it makes them feel.

You can read more tips like this on his website.

Think outside yourselves to build gratitude and share your abundance.

If there is a not- for- profit where the mission speaks to your soul, work together as a couple and consider allocating a portion of your money (and time) in support of this. The gratitude research of Dr. Robert Emmons (UC Davis) found that people who regularly practice an attitude of gratitude have on average a 7% higher income than those people that don’t (and you’ll spread some good in the world).

Remember to keep your spouse’s feelings at the forefront of your thoughts (even when you’re seething about money). Money conversations are necessary to keep life moving forward, however LOVE conquers all.  To recap:

L—Learn about each other’s money beliefs and listen to the other person

O—Organize your money behaviors with limits and rewards, and patronize businesses that match your values

V—Validate each other when you accomplish a goal like saving money

E—Expand your life together through experiences and helping others—money is the conduit, not the end game.


Renewable Energy 101: Get to Know Solar

The first thing to come to mind when the words “clean energy” are used is solar power.  Solar power simply means taking the energy emitted by the sun and converting it to electricity through the use of solar panels. Harnessing the power of the sun was one of the first ways people considered as a power alternative to the traditional power sources derived from coal and natural gas for the purposes of lowering greenhouse gases and our dependence on the finite stores of fossil fuels.

The sun’s rays produce two possible power alternatives to fossil fuels: heat and light.

Heat is best used in thermal systems reliant on temperature to run. The heat produces both hot water and hot air for commercial and residential heating, and can also be used to generate power through steam or sterling engines.

Light is used in photovoltaic (photo = light, voltaic = produces voltage) systems, which convert the light to energy. This conversion is the main area industry leaders are turning to for advancement of the solar power industry today.

As with wind energy, the investment in solar power is heavy upfront.

However, advancements in the technology used to produce more efficient solar panels, coupled with the current tax incentives, energy bill cost savings, and increased market value of the property once panels are installed, the cost is an investment worth considering.

According to The Appraisal Journal, the selling price of homes has increased by more than $20 for every dollar decreased on the energy bills of the properties. Additionally, studies in California through Clean Power Research show over the lifetime of a solar energy system (30 years), homeowners will save an average of $40,000, and the cost of installation of a solar energy system has come down 75% since 2009. The national average purchase and installation price of a solar energy system is between $12,000 and $20,000, with a 25-year warranty. (Source) Maintenance, once the system is installed, basically comes down to cleaning the panels once a year.

Considering the sun emits enough energy in one hour to power the global population for a year, solar energy is perhaps the most obvious way forward in the initiative to replace fossil fuels and our dependence on them. A new report by the US Department of Energy (source) states that solar power employed 43% of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while all three fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil) combined for only 22%. Slightly less than 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, while fossil fuel generation had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000 jobs. The boom in the solar workforce can be associated with construction work focused on expanding solar power. Coal employment has fallen 53% over the last decade, while during the same period, electricity generation from natural gas has increased 33% and solar generation has expanded 5000%.

Solar energy is rapidly becoming the future when it comes to powering our increasingly electronic lives.

Plastic Reduction for the Already Savvy Environmentalist

Every day, millions of Americans do it, teach their children about it, and quite possibly think they’re doing enough of it. It’s plastic reduction, and the truth is, there’s more we could be doing. Right now, the biggest plastic-waste landfill is not on land. It’s in the Pacific Ocean, and it’s estimated to be the size of Texas or bigger.

Toting our recycle buckets to the curb on trash pick up day isn’t enough. We have to keep renovating what the word recycling means. Here are a variety of ways to expand our plastic reduction efforts beyond water bottle recycling.

Take your own bags to the store

With up to 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags used annually worldwide, combined with the fact most recycling programs do not consider them acceptable recyclables, plastic bags are the number one villain in the plastics reduction fight. There’s no good way to safely dispose of them. Solution? Don’t use them. Stores have been selling cloth alternatives for years, for as little as a dollar each. But don’t stop with the bags at the checkout counter; most of us put our produce in plastic bags without thinking about it. These are thinner and break into smaller microplastics faster, but they still do not biodegrade.

Familiarize yourself with what kinds of plastic are recyclable

Most recycling centers accept plastic Nos 1, 2, and 5, which make up water bottles and leftovers containers. Plastic Nos 3, 4, and 6 are moderately recyclable, like disposable cups and shower curtains. This leaves plastic No 7, a mishmash of different types of plastic nearly impossible to recycle. Total avoidance of 7 and careful usage of the others according to their recyclability can help.

Make liberal use of bulk bins

Purchasing items like cereal, rice, pasta, nuts, coffee, beans and even dried fruits limits the amount of packaging you’re taking home. Many stores have various methods of deducting the container weight, so you can often bring in your own bags to transport your bulk items home.

Plastics are in things you’d have never considered

Did you know chewing gum contains plastic? Gum started out as a tree sap known as chicle, but scientists in the mid-century began to replace it with synthetics. There are places that will recycle your gum, but perhaps it’s better to avoid it—and the plastic packaging it comes in—altogether. Face washes and scrubs and toothpastes also contain little beads of plastic, added as exfoliators. Wastewater plants aren’t equipped to filter them out, so they end up in our water supply. There are sustainable alternatives, however, so check ingredients lists on the products and avoid the ones with polypropylene and polyethylene.

Bring your own thermos or refillable bottle and straw

Most paper cups are coated in a layer of plastic intended to preserve the cup for the time it takes to consume the drink, so while you think you’re drinking green, you’re not. Not to mention the lids and stirrers people think nothing of discarding. Bringing your own thermos eliminates this problem, and asking your waiter or waitress at a restaurant to skip the straw is usually no skin off their nose.

Recycle electronics responsibly

We all love getting a new camera or laptop or TV, but what do we do with the one we’re replacing? It depends on how functional it still is, but if it’s broken, take the time to find a responsible electronics recycler who’s just as concerned about the environment as you are.

It’s easy to reduce plastic use on a regular basis with a little practice. Ensure good habits and encourage your family, children, and friends to do the same.

A Look at Your Financial Health

I was honored to write an article for Women AdvaNCe, “A Look at Your Financial Health.”

Women AdvaNCe is a not for profit organization that delivers thoughtful content and builds a supportive community that empowers women and enables women leaders to further the cause of full equality in North Carolina.


Just like an annual physical exam, it is helpful to take a look at your financial health at least once a year.  Having the knowledge to not only handle money responsibly, but to use it to create the life you want, and that reflects who you are, improves all aspects of your day-to-day living.

More women are now making the financial decisions for their family, including investment decisions. According to the Family Wealth Advisors Council, nearly 95% of women will be their family’s primary decision maker at some point in their lives.