While many women do manage the household bills, more often than not, people envision men as the money managers and makers. But with more women in the workforce — the US Department of Labor says 70 percent of women with children under 18 "participate in the labor force as opposed to 47.4 percent back in 1975" — those financial myths are just that — myths. An even bigger change? The Department of Labor says 40 percent of women are the sole income makers or breadwinners for their families now, as opposed to 11 percent back in the '60s. Women must understand how money works, even if they're stay-at-home mothers. To sit back and hope that your husband will manage the money and trust him blindly is not a smart move. Chances are your husband or partner is an honest person, but even the best of people can make poor money choices, whether intentionally or not. For myself as a divorced mother, I was financially dependent on my ex and let him make most of the decisions. I weighed in and gave my two cents, but I didn't keep track of our expenses as I should have, nor did we make out a family budget. Thankfully, he didn't rack up any secret debt — thankfully, but still . . . I should have been an equal partner. We should have had a concrete family budget.
In today's day and age, women and mothers need to be mindful of their finances. Don't sit back and close your eyes to such an important part of your life.
Are you aware of how much the two of you are spending on everything, from household bills to extras? Is one of you conscientious of money and the other a spender? Sitting down and setting a budget is important for you both, whether it's a one- or two-income family. Those trips to Target or lunches out could be what's stopping the two of you from taking a family trip or saving for that backyard pool or retirement!
If the two of you have separate accounts, this could make tracking harder as well.
Don't ever feel as if you are causing trouble by bringing up money talk with your spouse. Some research says that money is a huge factor in divorce. Whether this is accurate or not, getting on the same page about your money is important. Stay-at-home moms, do not feel bad about investing in the family finances. You should be part of the budgeting!
Retirement and College
Are the two of you saving for retirement? If no, why not? Does it seem impossible? If you're living paycheck to paycheck, for now managing your budget might be your sole goal, but at some point, speaking to someone about how to save for retirement is a must.
Of course, then do the two of you save for college? Is it possible to save for college and retirement at the same time, and if not, which is the priority? As a mother, these are questions you should consider. Talking to a financial advisor with your husband is smart. Don't just expect your husband to figure it out. What if he's making poor choices and even if he's not, don't you want to understand how your money is setting you up for life when you're both older? How much you might be able to put aside for college and if not, what options might your child have later on down the line?
It is naïve to let the man figure things out. Get educated and informed so you feel as if you are a part of your family's future, especially if you're working. Your income and how you contribute matter.
A Death or a Divorce
According to the Social Security Administration, women outlive men. What if you end up a widow? Do you want to find out when you're in your 70s or 80s that the money wasn't managed properly? No, you don't.
Worse still, do you want to find out that your husband has racked up credit card debt just as you two are headed for divorce and you're still financially responsible for his recklessness due to your marital status? The National Center for Women and Retirement research says that "80 to 90 percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives — mainly due to divorce." I'm not saying your marriage is headed for ruins or that you won't have a lasting happy marriage, but that knowing is half the battle, to quote G.I. Joe. Anyone could secretly start up a credit card behind his or her spouse's back, but following finances and tracking your family's spending via an app like Mint or using an old-fashioned spreadsheet is smart. Don't get caught with your pants down in dire times. Be prepared!
Do you know your spouse's and your own credit score? You don't want to run frequent credit checks as that will reflect poorly on your credit score, but you should know where you two fall credit-wise, especially if the two of you are looking to buy a home or one of you wants to apply for a business loan or a loan to expand on your home. It's smart to know how you can fix, build, and maintain your credit.
Old-Fashioned Views, Begone!
Expecting your spouse to handle all the finances without being actively involved is a lot of pressure for your spouse. Discussing ways to save or budget together as a team will help you both feel less stressed and more as a team. Besides, the old days of the man running the household is long gone. Even if your husband feels it's a man's job and that women shouldn't have a say, you should fight for it and a good husband should respect the fact that his wife wants to understand what is happening with the marital money, as well as have access to it! If he doesn't that is a big red flag.
Because You May Make the Most Purchases!
According to a Nielsen study done in 2011, women make the majority of purchasing choices for their households. If that's the case, shouldn't you know how your finances are operating if you're the one saying "yay" or "nay" to big purchases?
Don't be afraid to start understanding how money works or how you can change your family's financial outlook. While it is intimidating at first, it is necessary knowledge you need to provide for yourself and your family's future. It doesn't matter if you make the majority of the household income or none: get informed, Mommies! You won't regret it.