You might be surprised how many women do not feel that they have financial knowledge. They are not in charge of the household finances, or perhaps they have a vague idea of the financial picture but choose not to pay attention to every financial detail.

They should.

And they can.

These are the cornerstones of the work that I do with women in my Wife2CFO program to help them to have financial freedom. While I work with women who are getting a divorce or who are already divorced – this advice is for any woman who may end up financially single. Every woman can feel confident in her ability to be in charge of the household expenses and to know how to budget for a sustainable lifestyle and invest to achieve it. Doing so is incredibly empowering – and incredibly important.

Here are four ways to get started and to set yourself on the path towards financial power and independence within your marriage.

  1. Start a conversation: Find a calm time to discuss these issues with your spouse. You don’t want to be in a bubble anymore; you want to be an equal partner in your financial future and in your financial partnership. It’s possible that this conversation will create frustration, an argument, ‘Man-splaining’ or your spouse feeling not trusted.  Still better to deal with these issues now than in a divorce proceeding or an estate planning lawyer’s office. You need to start to learn about your household finances and the way to do it is to tell your spouse that you want to be involved.
  2. Become Informed: The first step to become financially informed is to go on a financial expedition. Find out what is in your name, what is in your husband’s name and what is in both of your names. This includes bank and investment accounts, real estate and cars. Make a list of everything and find out where it is held and whose name it is in. All marriages end in either divorce or death – but they end. And waiting until something dramatic and emotionally debilitating happens is not the time to become educated.
  3. Ask Questions: Make today the first day you ask questions about every financial situation in your life. If you’re the type of person who just signs whatever your husband puts in front of you (and many women are), vow to ask What and Why? Remember, this is an evolution, not an instant transformation.  Be part of the conversation. Eliminate the urge to preface with “I know this is a stupid question, but….”. Replace with “I have a clarification question”. As women, we need to understand that lack of financial clarity does not mean you are stupid.  
  4. Bring in outside assistance: In some cases, you’ll want to bring in assistance to get a better handle on your finances. This might be because your husband has a hard time explaining everything to you in a way that makes sense or is clear; it might be because you find yourselves fighting every time the topic of money arises; or it might be that your husband is just as in the dark about investing and saving as you are. It’s always a good idea to bring in an impartial third-party expert to help you to get a handle on your finances and to help you to plan for the future. You may even find that this step strengthens your marriage and allows both of you to feel more secure and empowered along the way.

The only wrong way to start to gain control is by not doing it at all. Start slowly by being open to the possibility that you really can enjoy educating yourself and managing your own finances (and those of your family). Getting started is the first step – and the most vital one – on the path towards clearing the financial fog.

Michelle Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Source Financial Advisors LLC and the founder and President of Smith Financial Strategies Group.