The key to my personal finances? My wife
Financial infidelity may be rampant, but not in this household.
You can have your spreadsheets, online budgeting sites, statements, etc. Want to know what the single greatest positive impact on my finances has been? I'll tell you -- it's my wife. Let me explain.
Back in the day, I was in debt, had no savings, no investments, and my net worth was measured in things I owned (not like a house but more like guitars and music CDs). I wasn't the picture of good financial health.
But I slowly worked my way out of my financial funk. I educated myself. I paid off my credit cards. I contributed to my 401k. I started saving.
I did these things on my own. Had I not met my wife, I would have continued to improve my finances but not to the extent they're at now. My wife turbocharged my finances, well, OUR finances.
Here's why my wife is the greatest impact on my finances and my best financial tool:
We're a team. My wife and I work together on our finances. We discuss money and make sure our spending meets our goals. We let each other in on what we're doing with money and what we're spending on. If one of us needs to make a big purchase, we let the other know. If it's something that may be a bit outside the budget, we discuss it. Our financial goals are in sync and we work together to make those goals happen. We really want to work together, and with each other, as one financial unit.
My wife keeps me grounded. I write a personal-finance blog where I talk about money, finances, frugality, etc. This means I always keep my spending rational and under control, right? Wrong! Every now and then I get an idea that I want, no, I NEED to buy something. ("Babe, I really think we need a 17-inch MacBook.") When I mention my spending urge to my wife, she quickly brings me back down to earth. It works both ways too. We bring reason to each other.
We trust each other. I have no need to keep money secrets from my wife. We're a team, remember? I'd like to say this is a given for married couples, but I think we've all heard of financial infidelity. Maybe it's the cost of a shopping spree. Perhaps it's a credit card the other doesn't know about. I hate hearing about couples who act like that. I thank my luck for finding someone I can be honest with and who is honest with me.
We complement each other. No, not compliment. (We do that too.) My wife and I add to each other's financial knowledge and skills. We complete each other (yeah, that sounds a bit corny, but it's true). For example, my wife is great with short-term finances. She knows what's in the bank account and what we can afford to spend on a day-to-day basis. Me? I'm better at the long-term stuff like retirement and investing. My wife can tell if we can afford something now, while I better understand interest rates and maximizing our money. We cover for each other's weaknesses and improve on each other's strengths.
I have real financial purpose (maybe purpose overall). As a single guy, I did a little planning for the future, but as a family man -- we have three kids -- my focus has grown exponentially. What I do with money, investments, income -- it's not just me anymore, it's all of us. And that is so much better.
My wife is awesome at looking at goals and making them happen. She's a great motivator as well. She's the one who got me going back to school to finish up my degree. She is, in great part, why we have a house of our own. She also supports the time I put into this personal-finance blog, knowing that I love it and that I'm building it up to be a real second income for us.
Retirement used to be a fantasy land that was far off. Now I imagine living my retirement years with my wife. This means I have to act on our goals and make them real so we can achieve financial independence and live out our "golden years" the way we want to.
My purpose has real weight now and it's no longer "I'd like to do this or that" but rather "this is how I will get it done." I didn't have this kind of focus before.
So, with all of the great financial tools out there -- the awesome books, the financial experts -- the greatest impact on my finances is my wife. (Happy fifth anniversary, honey!)
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