When you pursue large goals, sustained progress over time will make more of a difference than your initial push of enthusiasm. Many of your family goals will take several years to accomplish, time over which you’ll need to be flexible, committed and supportive. Here are a few things you can do with your spouse along the way, to hold steady to your shared goals as the years go by.
- Track your progress. Try keeping a spreadsheet for each of your major goals. Each time you both contribute to your goal, you can subtract that amount from the previous month’s figure on your spreadsheet. If you have a dedicated place where you can see at a glance how far you’ve come, it can inspire you to keep up your progress. Such records will also show you that your spouse is working equally hard to get you both to your shared goal.
- Set aside time every month to meet. Be sure you and your spouse stay on the same page by going over your finances at least once a month. You can set aside some time to pay all of your bills together, or you can prepare your budgets beforehand for a quick conference. Monthly meetings can help prevent any unexpected financial problems from getting out of hand, and they’ll ensure that you both have a say in your shared finances.
- Split up the financial chores equitably. Remember, you’re in this together. You both should have a strong idea of how your financial household is run, in case one of you becomes seriously ill or is involved in an accident. It’ll be tough dealing with the emotional outfall of an unlucky event, but if you’re both prepared to take on the finances, that will be one less thing to worry about.
- Do a major review together once a year. As we get older, our priorities change. Some goals that initially seemed important will fade in their urgency. You may also want to rearrange your goals because your family or income situation has changed. A yearly review will make sure you catch all of the changes and incorporate them into your financial system, so that you don’t lose time pursuing outdated goals.
This is also a good time for structural or administrative changes in your basic finances. A thorough review of your family’s finances will let you know if you need to open or close any accounts, change the investment allocations in your retirement accounts or reevaluate your insurance coverage.
- Give each other some leeway. It’s not always easy to keep to a budget. Unexpected expenses come up all the time, and if you both were accustomed to more freedom with your budget in the past, it can be hard to adjust to a new situation. People tend to underestimate their true spending habits, and consequently, it’s easy to overestimate your capacity to reach your shared goal.
Go slowly, and give each other room to breathe. If you both accept from the beginning, that the pursuit of your financial goals won’t be perfect, you’ll have an easier time. You’ll reduce potential conflict, find better methods to conduct your finances, and ensure that in the future, you’ll both be proud of your sustained efforts.
Michael Camacho is the president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 18 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii.