Can Your Spouse Handle Your Financial Affairs?

cluttered deskOften in marriages, one spouse ends up handling most of the couple’s financial affairs.

The division of responsibilities doesn’t always fall along gender lines. Typically, the individual who is most organized and financially savvy takes assumes responsibility of paying the family’s bills and handling financial investments, while the other focuses on responsibilities that align more with his or her strengths.

But what happens in the case of death or incapacity? Does your spouse know what bills you pay each month and how you pay them? If you pay your bills online, as many of us now do, would your spouse be able to access your online accounts to pay the bills? Does he or she know the name of your financial advisor or insurance agent, people who should be contacted if tragedy strikes?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may have some work to do. It’s important that each spouse has a grasp of the couple’s finances so that he or she can assume that responsibility if the need arises. The following are some steps you can take to bring your spouse up to speed.

  1. Compile a list of your assets and liabilities. List where your accounts are held, account numbers, user names and passwords. Provide contact information for financial advisors or accountants that your spouse my need to contact if the need arises. This Personal Information Inventory (pdf) can help you get started.
  2. Set aside some time to review your finances with your spouse. Share information about the bills you pay, including how and when they are paid. How much does your family earn each month, and what are your monthly liabilities? How are your assets invested?
  3. Consider sharing the responsibility of handling the family’s finances. Relinquish the responsibility for paying certain bills to your spouse, or at the very least, schedule periodic meetings to discuss the state of your finances and any factors that have changed.

Although this may take some time and be met with some reluctance from a spouse who’d rather not worry about the family’s financial matters, it will allow for a smooth transition if necessary.

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