Switching Financial Roles

There’s an old saying about walking a mile in the shoes of someone else to gain wisdom and understanding. That’s true in many aspects of life, including your finances. I’m not talking about living a day in the life of someone significantly more or less off financially, I’m talking about your significant other.

Let’s be real, as much as we might talk about doing finances together, there’s usually one person that drives the family’s finances more than the other. There may be financial meetings and discussions to keep everyone on the same page, but in most cases one person carries a larger burden on keeping the home’s finances running smoothly.

You can take your family finances to the next level by switching roles occasionally. By doing so, you walk in the other person’s shoes for awhile and gain an understanding of what they go through. Let’s take a look at it through the eyes of both roles, which call the primary role, and the supporting role.

Supporting Role Becomes Primary

The person in the relationship that may typically take on the supporting role may normally get information from their partner. They are kept up to date as to income, bills, debt and retirement account. All financial decisions are made together, but the primary usually presents information in order to discuss those decisions.

When the person normally in a supportive role temporarily takes over the primary role, they gain insight into details they may not have known, or not typically remembered such as

  • When each bill is due
  • detailed breakdown of discretionary spending
  • Variability in some bills (such as utilities)
  • The importance of communication as to availability of funds when unexpected expenses arrive
  • Current balance of emergency fund
  • Current balance of HSA

Primary Role Becomes Supporting

The person normally in the primary role is used to knowing all the financial puzzle pieces, and how they fit together. When they take on a supportive role, they may see the family finances through an entirely different perspective:

  • Need for communication : The person in the supporting role needs the primary role player to communicate financial information to them. If it is not done completely and frequently, it leaves them in the dark, feeling frustrated and uninformed.
  • Need to ask questions: Family finances are not meant to be kept secret. If the supportive person wants to know information, a financial meeting should be called, or questions asked.

Family finances should be done as a team. There are some couples in which both people play an active role, however in many one person shoulders most of the responsibility. In those scenarios, people can get into a rut, and handling of finances becomes less about teamwork as time goes on. From time to time, you can shake things up and get a fresh perspective simply by walking in each others shoes.

Do you have someone who plays the primary and supporting roles in your relationship?  Would you ever think of switching roles temporarily?

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One Response to “Switching Financial Roles”

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  1. Sassy Mamaw says:

    This is a second marriage for me, and unfortunately, my first husband was very controlling, and he would get our finances into a terrible place, and then “trade places” with me, so I could get things straightened out. Then he would do it again. He was not a kind man, and sometimes I think it was just a game to him, but it was emotionally wrenching to me.

    I play the primary role in our finances at home with my second hubby. I am the “nerd” of our family, in regard to money. I never thought about switching roles; I would be concerned that my hubby might forget to pay something, or spend the money taking me out to dinner before paying the electric bill. He had a few issues with these types of things before we were married.

    I work to let him know the nuts and bolts, and he has access to all the accounts any time he wants to look at them. He lets me know of upcoming expenses that I may not have planned, like things for the car, etc. I think we are both content with our current roles.

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