Four weeks ago when I thought my husband was having a full-blown heart attack at age 32, I had to face an uncomfortable truth. If he died, I wouldn’t know what to do. I don’t mean that in an emotional, how-could-I-raise-four-kids-alone-he’s-my-rock sort of way, though there was certainly that. I mean, seriously, four weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known how to pay our bills, plan his funeral, or request his life insurance.
Like most marriages in which one partner is the primary financial manager, I was in the dark on even the simplest of tasks. Sure, I know him well enough that I could hack our accounts and figure everything out, but the point is, at such a state of emotional turmoil, I shouldn’t have to do that. Since then, we’ve had some heavy conversations. Some were topics that aren’t usually brought up among couples our age because the idea of losing your spouse seems so far away and talking about funeral plans seems like tempting fate. Others were conversations we just needed to have anyway to keep our marriage financially healthy.
Here are four conversations you and your spouse need to have, not because you’re preparing for the worst, but because if you’re married then it’s time to act like a grown-up and talk about the harsh realities of life.
1. Funeral and Burial Plans
Could you oversee the planning of a funeral for the one you love? Do you know if your husband or wife wants to be cremated or buried? Do you have any idea if the music matters or who the pallbearers would be or which pastor he might prefer? We didn’t talk about any of this until after because it was in the after that all these questions occurred to me and I didn’t know most of the answers. It relieved me to know after that I would have guessed correctly on most of the big questions, but there are little preferences he has that I didn’t know about like certain music and a tombstone over a grave marker.
2. Life Insurance
I knew we have life insurance, and I can even tell you the name of the company and who our agent is, but I didn’t know the amount. This is actually a conversation we started to have while he was finishing Men’s Fraternity, a bible study for men at our church. He was encouraged to talk with me about whether or not I felt we would be financially stable if something happened to him and the steps we might need to take to increase that level of security. I think we all hate to think about the idea that if something happened to our spouse, at least there would be money in the bank. I know I do; but reality is that money in the bank is necessary for the worst of afters and especially in our situation as a one-income family, it is a place we need to put some of our monthly budget. I could and would go back to work if Joshua wasn’t here, but that likely wouldn’t happen right away, so we’d have the insurance for the meantime. If this seems like an expense you can cut from your budget, I encourage you to consider that a small expense now could mean much less debt in your future.
3. A Will
This is the area we’ve been the most negligent in completing. Obviously in a marriage is something happens to one spouse, the other becomes the benefactor, but what about the awful situation when something happens to both of you? We have four kids and right now, with no will in place, they would go into foster care until someone else sorts out their lives for them, and that’s a terrible legacy for me to leave them. I prepare everything else for their lives from lunches to outfits to sleepovers, so why wouldn’t I leave behind preparations for who and how to raise them? It’s easy to think that’s never going to happen, but if I’ve learned anything in the past month, it’s that “never going to happen to me” happens more often than we like. We’re making an appointment with a lawyer and wrapping this one up because it’s not just about me and him anymore; it’s about the fates of the four little people we’d be leaving behind.
4. Bank Accounts and Passwords
While my husband can rattle off the numbers for all our our accounts and the purpose behind each one, I tend to only worry about the one I’m allowed to spend money from. I know in a lot of marriages, the wife is the financial manager, so many of you are probably now picturing the lost state your husband would be in if something happened to you. So do him a favor? Tell him where and how to find things. Joshua and I worked for three hours on his third day home from the hospital talking me through the accounts, the bills, and sharing the passwords so I don’t have to figure that out on my own. I hate analyzing finances because it only serves to remind me how tight our belts are right now, so I usually avoid it at all costs. Well, the cost is that I’ve placed all the burden for earning and dividing our income on my husband and that’s not fair. I know it works in most marriages to only have one spouse managing the checkbook, but it also works to have you both knowledgeable about what is coming in and going out and to where and when. Don’t let your finances be your control issue if you’re in charge, and don’t let financial matters be your frustration if you’re not. A marriage that avoids sharing information about the money that is yours collectively is on a path towards destruction. There’s a reason finances are the number one cause of divorce.
I’m encouraging you if you haven’t talked about these topics to pour yourselves a glass of wine or sweet tea, put the kids to bed, turn off Downton Abbey and have a conversation. I’d love to hear from you–how do you handle these topics in your marriage?