In any relationship, there is division of labour – one partner will probably do most of the cooking, the other will probably do most of the car-related stuff, and so on.
Naturally, most of the bank-related responsibilities will probably fall to one of the parties as well.
If that’s not you, and if, for whatever reason, you find yourself on your own, you will have to learn how to manage your finances – at a time when you’re already under stress because of a bereavement or because of the break-up of your relationship.
I’m going to assume that you don’t do your finances for one of three reasons:
My father was a bank manager, so it naturally fell to him to deal with all the finances. While he was working it also made practical sense – he could do all this stuff at work, no need to make a special trip.
By the time he retired, my parents were firmly set in their ways. But then, not so long ago, Dad needed to have an operation which put him out of action for about a month – and I discovered that my mother had never in her life withdrawn money from a cash machine.
It was a wake-up call for all of us.
I talked her through the process of withdrawing cash (once she’d found her PIN number), only to gape horrified when she stood in the middle of the street, about to count the money! She didn’t like the idea of just taking the money without counting it first.
So, if you don’t want to find yourself in the same clueless situation, here are my suggestions to help you become financially savvy. Do these things now, while your partner is still around and able to explain how they organise everything.
Do you know how to access your bank accounts? PIN numbers, usernames, memorable information. Even if you have a joint account, your individual codes will be different (and it’s an offence for you to use your partner’s), so make sure you know your own.
Memorise it. And then use it!! Make it a habit to check the bank account at least once a week, so that it’s no longer a big deal.
Do you know how much money goes into the account each month? Do you know how much goes out? Do you know the size of the difference between the two amounts?
Do you know how much your mortgage/rent is? Utility bills? Council/State Tax? Insurance? How much do you spend on Christmas presents? Food? Find out!
Read a bank statement from beginning to end. If there is anything you don’t understand, query it – either ask your partner, or call the bank and ask them to explain what it means.
Be interested. If you need to make a big purchase, don’t just leave it to your partner to decide the best way to do it. Discuss the options and take mental notes.
The options are broad (in order of cost, from highest to lowest) – buy it on a credit card, take out a personal loan, fund it from savings, or delay purchasing so that you can save up for the item. There are pros and cons to each of these – what do you think you should do?
Have an opinion. Now that you’ve seen the bank statements, have they thrown up any surprises? Are you better off than you realised? Or are things worse than you thought?
Are you generally happy with the way your partner is handling things, or would you do it differently? If you’re happy with their management, don’t use that as an excuse not to join in!
It’s simply not wise to let your partner handle all financial decisions. Instead, take part in everything. Should you switch energy supplier? Would it be a good idea to shop around for car insurance at renewal date? Do you really need all those Sky packages?
If, like my mother, you’ve never used an ATM – start doing it. The very next time you need cash, don’t leave it to your partner. Go and get it yourself.
An alternative to using an ATM is to ask for cashback at the supermarket. Say you want to get a certain amount in cash – the amount is simply added to the total cost of your shopping, and you pay with your debit card. The cashier will then count the bills in front of you (saving you from having to do it on the street).
Things change – banking is not the same as it was even 10 years ago. This means it’s possible your partner may be a bit behind the times too!
Access to your account is one example. Once upon a time you had to go to a brick-and-mortar bank to handle your financial affairs, but nowadays you don’t really need to leave the comfort of your home.
You can call your bank, use online banking, or a banking app on your phone. You can pay for things in cash, by cheque (when was the last time you used a cheque?), by credit or debit card, contactless for certain amounts, or using the app on your phone.
Many banks also keep changing the perks associated with their current accounts – some pay interest on small debit amounts, others give cash back on utility bill payments, you may even get freebies like cinema tickets.
All these perks come with a downside, though, so don’t forget to read the small print as well. It really is a case of looking at how you run your account and then shopping around for the account that works best for you.
If you are prepared to jump through a few hoops, there are incentives for switching bank accounts. These are usually in the form of a cash bonus you receive once you’ve had the new account for a while. This is definitely worth exploring.
And finally, if you happen to be the one doing most of the cooking – return the favour. Don’t leave your loved one not even able to boil an egg if you’re not around. It’s nice to be in a team, and every team has specialists – but the best teams share their knowledge with each other.
Note: If your partner is actively preventing you from accessing cash or bank accounts, keeping you in the dark about any financial matters, or taking money from you – even if they tell you it’s to keep it safe – that is financial abuse and you should seek help.
How much do you know about your current financial situation? Who handles the finances in your house? Are you willing to learn how to do it? Do you know how to withdraw cash? Please share your experiences and stories with our sisters.
Tags Retirement Planning