How to deal with finances in your marriage, when one’s an entrepreneur – even if you’re complete opposites!  

April 9, 2019  

Let me tell you a story.
I moved to San Diego at age 25 from the midwest.  I left my steady paying, secure job that I loved.  I left my perfect little 2000 square foot house on the second hole of a golf course, that only cost me $800/mo.  And I moved to San Diego – moving in with my boyfriend, into an apartment that cost us $1,680 mo, in a neighborhood of million dollar homes and $7,000/mo mortgages.
I was a steady income kind of gal – a financial advisor who looked forward to her steady bi-weekly paycheck.  I didn’t have any credit card debt.  My car, which was less than a year old, was almost completely paid off.  And I had it all together, especially for my age.  (Now remember, I’m tooting my horn a bit, but I was a financial advisor by trade – so this is the stuff I looked at day in and day out!)  While I tracked every penny, and was fighting to be debt free at the earliest age possible…
Mike had spent years as a single guy.  In this time he had established what I called an “ATM habit.”  He’d go to the ATM a few times a week and pull out $40 per trip – never a lot of money, but it was happening between 2-4 times a week on an average week.  After only a week or two, I asked, “Hey Mike, where does all this ATM cash go?”  He said, “You know, I’m really not certain.  I went and got some fast food a few times.  I met a friend for a drink.  I bought a lottery ticket.  And I don’t know about the rest.”  I knew it was time to make a change.  We traded in his trusty debit card for a nice, trackable credit card.  Now, every single transaction would at least have a digital footprint.
Mike, was an entrepreneur.  He ran a small advertising agency.  He was responsible for client development and all creative.  But he also was responsible for the financial arm of the business.  He was the stereotypical Solopreneur – wearing ALL the hats!  And he wasn’t the kind of guy that worried about anything.  He was paying for all the ads for his clients, and some were frequently slow to pay.  At one point, he had over $45,000 on credit cards that was exclusively ad spend for other people’s ads.  (Needless to say, I was starting to have some sleepless nights.)
Since Mike wasn’t a worrier, he wasn’t one to pressure people to pay their bills.  And who are we kidding, he often wasn’t one to even track their bills!  I learned very quickly that if I was ever going to sleep again, I needed to have a more active role in the finances of his company.  Fortunately for me, Mike was very supportive of this.  Unfortunately for his clients, Mike was very supportive of this.  I started calling his clients (some long time clients and friends), and had to be the bad guy – the collections arm of his business.  As you can imagine, most weren’t too happy with his girlfriend calling them to tell them it was time to pay their past due bills!
Fortunately for us, I had a steady paycheck, and our bills got paid – even when we were waiting on others to pay us!  But we all know that money is one of the most common stressors in marriage.  For those that own a business and have an unsteady income, that stress is often just magnified.
In our case… fast forward a few years….
We got married.  We bought and sold a San Diego home.  We were living in an amazing million dollar Carlsbad home.  Mike was a real estate agent – living in full on feast and famine – with some really amazing years, and some not so amazing years.  I had a six figure finance job.  We had REALLY STRETCHED to buy this house.  I was BURNT OUT in my corporate job, and I really wanted to be my own boss too.
Fortunately for me, Mike has always been SO very supportive of my dreams.  He often believes in me, even when I struggle to believe in myself.  And remember that I said he didn’t worry about anything?
Despite Mike having a good, but often unstable income, he wanted me to have the freedom I so desperately craved! So, when I told him I wanted to leave my steady, six figure job and build out a brick and mortar business (two in fact) and hire a team of 35-40 people, he supported me whole heartedly.  Inside, he was probably screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”  But on the outside, he was showing up to meet with the contractors, helping me stain base boards, putting together retail racks, and going to meet all our local neighbors to discuss cross promotions.  He told me, “I know you.  I know you can do absolutely anything that you decide to do, and you won’t LET it fail.”
Those first few weeks, I learned a few VERY hard lessons about entrepreneurship.  I had too much staff. I had too many hours.  I had too little marketing.  And I would come home at night SOBBING!
But Mike kept telling me, “You’ve got this.”  The thing that we had going for us, is because my life prior had been so financially minded, we had established a routine that really had helped us in times of extreme success and failure!  Every single month, I created our Balance Sheet and our Profit and Loss statement for our life!  We would sit down and go through where we were, so we could make good decisions together.  We had to schedule our monthly financial meeting around a bottle of wine and a good dinner at home.  We found that in dealing with our finances, we were both happier with the conversations when they were done in a way that felt social and non-threatening!
After launching two businesses, I totally let my financial reporting get away from me.  I stopped doing it completely!  And it really started to show in our finances.  We carried more credit card debt. We stopped watching our expenses so closely.  We didn’t raise the alarm bell when we had to hit our savings account more than desired – and things started to spiral!  We were TWO people with a sometimes unstable income.  I had a BIG team.  And we had BIG obligations!   But at least once a year, I’d still have my book keeper put together our personal financial statements, just so I could be tracking it as a scorecard.
A few years later, we sold the brick and mortar business!  We sold our big, expensive California house.  We moved to tax free, business friendly, Las Vegas.  We built another big, expensive (but WAY LESS EXPENSIVE) Las Vegas house.  And we started having financial meetings again.  Not quite as regularly as before, but we started getting back into the tracking of our life.  For us, it’s almost necessary.  We have a big life.  We invest in our businesses.  We invest in coaches.  And we have unexpected things come up sometimes that really require that we know where we are financially.
If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s important to know your numbers.  What you measure improves.  If you’re both entrepreneurs, it’s almost imperative that you both know your numbers.  Maybe you each have business investments to make in your business.  Maybe you each have a business cycle that needs to be considered and prepared for.  Maybe there’s a big business decision that needs to be made.  The more proactive you are with your financial communication, the better financial decisions you will make.
In your financial discussions, you need to review the following:
  • What is our current financial position?
  • Are we paying ourselves first or last?
  • Are we allocating money toward savings every month?
  • Are we spending more than we are making each month?
  • What are we saving each month?
  • What is our current cash reserve?
  • What is the current cash reserve in each business?
  • Are there any large business expenses coming up?
  • Are there any expected changes in business income coming up?
  • What can we do to prepare for those changes?
  • What can I do to support you during those changes?
  • How will those changes affect our family?
There’s an amazing phenomenon that happens when you institute this routine!
The more you communicate about all these things proactively, the easier the conversations are.  The easier the conversations are, the more support you’re likely going to get from your partner.  The more support you get from your partner, the better you feel about your partner and your business – AND I believe the better decisions you make IN your business!  So, plan your first “State of the Personal Life” meeting!  Plan a nice dinner in (even if you order it from Uber Eats), and get it on the books.  It will help both your business AND your marriage!
I know it won’t always be easy.  That’s ok.  Most great things in life take a bit of work (HELLO MARRIAGE!)  But you’ll soon find that you’re both looking forward to these nights.  You’ll find that you’re paying down business debt.  You’ll find that you’re fighting less about money.

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