As I covered in my last “No Dumb Question,” many couples find they can operate most efficiently when one serves as the family’s go-to, “Chief Financial Officer.” This can make sense in a busy household … to a point. But neither of you wants to be blindsided if you end up having to go it alone for a while. Today, I’ll offer a few simple, but smart ways both of you can achieve a satisfying sense of financial independence. I’ll also talk about some of the emotional challenges that stand in the way.

Are you married or in a similar relationship, and living happily ever after? Of course we all have some of “those days,” but most couples persevere, and end up stronger for it. Over time, you settle into roles and habits that work well enough. Each of you may end up more in charge of some things than others … including your money. After a while, the two of you are mostly humming right along, most of the time.

Until one day, maybe you aren’t. Accidents, opportunities and events can throw your usual roles and responsibilities into a tailspin – at least for a while, and sometimes forever.

Come what may, you may yearn to be more financially empowered anyway … just because. Even if you’re doing just fine, it can be nerve-wracking if you don’t really know that for sure.

If you’re in this boat, believe me, you are not alone! Over the years, I’ve met so many smart, talented and capable people at the top of their game: in their careers, among their community and for their family. These same people – and, let’s face it, it’s often we women – confess to me that they still don’t feel financially secure, even though their bank accounts may suggest otherwise. Their fears usually boil down to this: They’re terrified they’ll make a huge mistake, and end up poor.

This isn’t just my own experience talking. In her book, “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming,” financial coach Barbara Stanny wrote, “For many women, having money in the bank is like finding a time bomb in the basement. They know they need to do something, but they haven’t a clue what it is they need to do.”

Can you relate? If so, don’t feel too bad. The ones who should really be worried usually aren’t those who know they’ve got a lot to learn. I’m far more concerned about those overconfident guys – and gals – who tend to leap before they look at their financial best interests.

So, fear not! Instead, get organized. It’s amazing how liberating it can be to simply get a better grip on what you’ve got and where it’s at. Huddle with your other half, to ensure you both have ready access to the following information:

1. Get to know your financial “team.”

Who are your advisors, accountants, attorneys and insurance agents? What are their names? How do you reach them? If you’ve rarely, if ever spoken with them, set up meeting to build or renew the relationship. Ask them to start including you in ongoing communications.

If you take only one step toward greater financial independence, I’d say this is it. If you at least know who to turn to in a pinch, your financial team should be able to help with the rest.

2. Itemize ALL of your assets.

This includes bank accounts, brokerage accounts, company retirement plans or pensions, trusts, lock-box valuables, gold bars buried in the back yard, piggy banks … you get my drift. While you’re at it, you may as well eyeball your insurance policies, estate planning documents and other legal paperwork.

Whose name or names are they in? What are the account numbers? If they’re jointly held, can you both actually get at the goods, whether on-line or in person? If assets are separately held, are proper powers of attorney in place so you can access them as appropriate?

3. Verify that you have enough immediately accessible “rainy day” funds on tap.

The exact amount varies, but six months to a year’s worth of living expenses is a good place to start. Know where that money is at and how to get ahold of it in a pinch. That way, if you’re not as familiar as you’d like to be with your investment portfolio, you won’t be forced to sell any big holdings in a hurry if an emergency arises and you need some quick cash to tide your family through.

4. Familiarize yourself with ALL household debts.

Both of you are at risk if either of you are incurring hidden debt. Even if it feels uncomfortable to talk about it, realize that you’re doing everyone a favor if you tackle this critical subject as a couple.

5. Bonus Points: Beef up your investment acumen.

With all this information in hand, odds are you’ll already be feeling a lot better about where you stand on your financial front. If you’d like to go the extra mile, you can also add some investment acumen to your list of empowering acts. For more good ideas, connect with me by subscribing here, or following me on LinkedIn. While you’re at it, there’s already more than a year’s worth of approachable investment insights on tap here. Start at the beginning, and don’t be surprised if, pretty soon, you’re ready to send me some “No Dumb Questions” of your own. Please do … I’d love to hear from you!