How to talk about and manage money within your family

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013

Summary

Money issues can drive a wedge between husband and spouse and can be a source of conflict among siblings, and between parents and children. How we deal with money often sets the stage for relationships and how we live our lives.

Objective

Each man should leave the meeting with a better appreciation of the role of money in his life, how it can be better managed with his spouse with proper communication and prioritization, and how broader family relationships can be affected by money issues.

Bible Readings

  1. 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.

For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.

If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.

  1. Matthew 25:14-30

“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.

To one he gave five talents;  to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.

The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

(Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraphs 2402-2406

In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.

The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

“In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his

Goods of production – material or immaterial – such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.

2. Paragraph 2429

Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. He should seek to observe regulations issued by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good.

Small Group Questions

  1. Have you openly discussed and agreed with your spouse about the management of money?
  2. Have you agreed to a proper balance of spending, saving, giving, indebtedness, investment risk-taking and other factors?
  3. How much is “keeping up with the Jones” operative in your family?
  4. How do your siblings or grown children handle their money? Do differences here contribute to tension within your families?

Included Resources

1. How to Stop Fighting With Your Spouse About Money
http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/01/23/how-to-stop-fighting-with-your-spouse-about-money/

Many sources cite money as the number one cause of marital strife. Some of you probably know this from first-hand experience. I can relate, too. My wife and I are very close, but money has always been a touchy subject, and unfortunately has led to a more than a few “disagreements”.

Last year, we decided to get control of our money instead of allowing our money to control us. I did extensive reading and research, and we began to put some changes into place. Since then, we’ve learned what works for us and what doesn’t. We are not experts, but I will say this: since we began this journey, we haven’t once fought over our money.

Here are seven actions you can take today to stop fighting with your spouse about money. They worked for us, and they’ll probably work for you.

Be a team: There is no “I” in “Team”
Between talking with people and listening to callers on The Dave Ramsey Show, I’m surprised by the number of married people who talk about their finances and converse as if their spouse doesn’t even exist: “When I do the budget”, “When I pay the bills”, “I am working two jobs to provide extra income”, “I…I…I”.

Shouldn’t they be saying “We”? With so many “I”s everywhere, it’s no wonder couples are fighting — they aren’t communicating! The best way to manage your finances is together. Create your financial plan together, do the bills together, review your net worth together. If you do anything related to your finances, make sure your spouse is involved and has a say so in the decision process.

Develop a budget — together!
From personal experience, one cause of fights (or “fussing”, as we call it in the South) is one spouse spending what the other spouse considers too much money. This is generally a problem when the couple is already fairly tight on finances, or when one spouse is far more frugal than the other.

To resolve this issue, create a budget together. It’s not important how you do it or what method you use, but that you create the budget together. If both spouses don’t have input in the budget, they won’t “have any skin in the game”. Both should provide input on the numbers and be part of the process.

Hold weekly budget review meetings
If one spouse is doing all of the finances, it’s very difficult for the other spouse to know the current financial state. Even with a budget, a lack of communication can make it difficult to know how much is left in the “grocery category” or the “entertainment category”.

To solve this problem, pick one night of the week to review your finances. Pick a time when you and your spouse can devote 15-30 minutes without interruption. For us, this is after our younger children are in bed. I generally update our finances daily, but I always make sure the budget is updated before our meeting.

I print a copy of the budget that shows the amount we allocated for each category and how much we have remaining. We review each category and discuss the amounts remaining and any expected expenditures for the week. If we are short in one area and over in another, we move the money around. If we are just short, we either decide to cut back and not spend, or we pull the funds from the emergency fund.

Review your finances frequently. Communicate. You’ll be amazed at the difference a little communication makes.

Establish an emergency fund
The most important thing you can do to keep your finances under control — and to avoid using credit cards and going into debt — is to establish an emergency fund. Nothing stresses a couple more than running out of money before all the bills are paid. Even worse is having the air conditioner or the car break down without money to get it fixed.

Establish a $1000-$2000 emergency fund and put it in a high-interest savings account. The emergency fund will cover those unexpected expenses. The key is that each spouse must agree to not touch these funds without the other’s agreement. This keeps the emergency fund from being used to buy big-screen TVs or designer pocket books.

It’s okay to make mistakes
Being the detailed geeky type that I am, when we first started budgeting, I wanted the budget to be perfect. I wanted us to follow it perfectly. While discussing our finances one night, I found that my wife hated the budgeting process. After some discussion, I realized it wasn’t the budgeting process she hated, but how I handled it.

The budget isn’t going to be perfect. It should get better as you do it more, but it will never be perfect. That’s okay. If you are off, just move the money around. If you overspend, tap the emergency fund — just be sure to put the money back. You’ll find that the longer you follow a budget, the easier and more accurate it becomes.

Like everything else, it’s a journey. If you’re like us, just having a budget will be a huge leap in the right direction.

Agree to hold each other accountable
After we agree on the budget for the upcoming month, my wife and I do a pinky shake. Is this a little silly? Sure, but it works for us. Every time I am in the store and see some new shiny electronic gadget I want, that pinky shake reminds me of the commitment I made. That little shake makes me question if I need the item or not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out of a store empty-handed because of that little shake.

The point is to think of something both of you can do to commit to each other. That little reminder is worth its weight in gold.

Get out of debt
Debt is a dark cloud that follows you constantly. Debt puts pressure on your finances, and ultimately on your marriage. Getting out of debt will give you financial freedom and peace of mind. If you are in debt, stop getting further in debt right now. If you have credit cards, shred them. Is your car payment way too high? Sell it and buy something you can afford. Is your mortgage beyond your means? Sell the house.

Once you have stopped going further into debt, begin aggressively paying what you owe. My wife and I started this process about six months ago, and it’s brought us closer together.

What do you do to keep from fighting over your finances? Have you used any of these ideas? Have they worked for you? Kris and I mostly keep separate finances, so our approach is different. I’m curious to hear what works for people with joint accounts.

2. Money and Marriage — Persuading Your Spouse to Save
http://www.passionsaving.com/money-and-marriage.html

She loves you.
Now you know that can’t be bad.

–The Beatles, “She Loves You”

Marriage and Money: Suggestion #1 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Keep Your Expectations in Check.

Understand that your spouse has a different personality than you and takes in information in different ways. Don’t expect what works for you to work for your spouse.

It will probably take some for you to figure out what works for your spouse. Try to exercise patience.

Managing your money well is in many ways akin to managing your diet well. All of us who have tried to lose weight have had moments when we wished that results could be obtained more quickly. When I have one of those moments, I remind myself that weight isn’t usually put on quickly either, and that that reality will help lock things in after the weight is taken off. It’s like that with saving. Learning to save effectively takes time, but provides benefits for a long time to come. Approaches that generate quick results are suspect.

Marriage and Money: Suggestion #2 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Keep Money Issues in Perspective.

Saving is important. I wouldn’t have devoted so many years of my life to studying it if I didn’t think it were a topic of great importance. I learn all the time of still more reasons for seeing saving as important.

It’s not the only important thing, however. Don’t let your desire to help your spouse learn how to save more effectively cause a rift in your marriage. Do not do this. Do not do this. Do not do this.

You are asking your spouse to change. That’s difficult. Always keep in mind that you are asking something hard of your spouse.

Don’t quit, though. Pushing too hard is a mistake. Pushing too soft is a mistake too. When you find yourself pushing too hard, remind yourself what the marriage means to you. When you find yourself pushing too soft, remind yourself what the marriage means to you.

Huh?

You will hurt the relationship if this matters and you drop it because you encounter some resistance. You have a need to have a spouse that manages his or her money more effectively. And your spouse has a need to have a spouse that pushed him or her to manage his or her money more effectively. Helping your spouse is part of the deal. Giving up isn’t helping.

Apply only so much pressure, but do apply some pressure. I mentioned that this improvement project is hard on your spouse. It’s hard on you too. The hard part for you is knowing just how much to push.

You need to rely on all of your knowledge of what makes your spouse tick to figure that one out. There is no such thing as a pure money topic. Successful money steps are money steps taken with an appreciation of how the money issues in question relate to other aspects of your quest to make something meaningful out of your life.

Money questions matter. Non-money questions matter too.

Marriage and Money: Suggestion #3 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Watch for the Miscommunication That Goes With Being in Love.

Everyone wants to manage his or her money effectively. I mean, come on.

The reason why you are hearing resistance to your ideas is that your spouse hears the words you say as signifying something other than what they signify for you.

You say: “I want to know that we will have enough money to be able to retire.” Your spouse hears: “I want you to give up on some of your crazy dreams and start being more responsible and boring.”

You say: “Do you really need to pay $3 for coffee everyday?” Your spouse hears: “I don’t think of you as being so special that you deserve extravagant treats just for showing up at work.”

You say: “I’m worried that we have so little to fall back on if you lost your job.” Your spouse hears: “I don’t have confidence in you.”

Does the fact that your spouse hears things in such scrambled-up ways mean that he or she is a doofus? Oh, no. It means that this guy (or gal) is in love with you!

A guy (or gal) who is in love with you can’t stand to think that he (or she) is letting you down in any way. It’s often not possible to talk with a spouse with as much ease as you can talk to a friend because your spouse is so much more than a friend. The more caring that is there, the more delicate is the communication issue.

Marriage and Money: Suggestion #4 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Let Your Spouse Do it His or Her Way.

Some people cannot tolerate the idea of being given a set amount of spending money for the month. Some people are just fine with the idea. Don’t assume that because you cannot stand it your spouse cannot stand it either. If that is what works for him (or her), use that.

Some people save by cutting out luxuries. Some people really enjoy luxuries and cannot bear the idea of giving them up. Perhaps your spouse can listen to pleas to spend less on luxuries, but not to pleas to give them up altogether. Perhaps you could frame your saving arguments in such a way as to persuade your spouse that saving effectively allows you both to enjoy more luxuries over the course of your lives.

You’re trying to change your spouse and that’s always a delicate business. Make the changes being suggested as palatable as possible by designing them in ways that makes sense to your spouse.

Marriage and Money: Suggestion #5 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Make It Romantic.

The saving quest is a romantic quest.

There was something I read about divorce once that made an impression on me. The author of the book I was reading noted that couples that divorce can never look at their photo albums in the same way again. All of the pictures have that person in them, or some friend or relative of that person, or were taken in a place you went to with that person.

The photo album problem is hardly the biggest problem that comes with divorce. There’s a sense in which it is a very big deal, though. We look at photo albums to review our progress through life. We feel weepy when we look at our high school yearbooks because we think back to the challenges we faced back then with the knowledge that we have overcome some of them that we thought we would not be able to overcome and we have failed to overcome some others that we thought we would be able to overcome. Our lives are a story. Every day we write the book on our romantic quest to make our lives mean something.

The point of saving is to become able to do more exciting things with your life. So many money advisors miss this. It’s a point of critical importance. It’s the reason why saving, properly understood, is not at all a boring business. It’s exciting stuff.

Your spouse is your partner in your romantic quest and you are her (or his) partner in her (or his) romantic quest. Use this.

Budgets are sexy. True fact. Spend three hours going through each item in your budget and talking over how that money could be put to different uses so that both of you can make more of your lives and you are going to close the budget binder turned on about the idea of spending some quiet time with your spouse.

Please do try this at home. Budget sex is great sex.

Marriage and Money — Suggestion #6 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Celebrate the Victories.

Each step forward creates momentum. Saving effectively gets easier and easier and easier over time. It’s like running. It’s boring the first time because you are out of shape. It’s fun after you get good at it.

Don’t get greedy when your spouse makes progress. You don’t want to be a nag pushing for more. Remember the importance of patience. Let your spouse enjoy the satisfaction that comes with having made some progress. Have confidence that the wheels will begin to turn on their own power if you give them a chance.

At some point, your spouse will be asking questions about ways to save even more effectively. That will happen when he or she begins to think of the saving idea as his (or her) idea. If you nag, this never happens. If it happens, the wagon starts picking up speed quickly.

Marriage and Money — Suggestion #7 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Don’t Let It Become a Chore

The single biggest reason why many people are not able to save effectively is that saving has come to be viewed in such negative terms. Saving is for tightwads. Saving is for misers. Saving is for losers. Saving is for the timid.

Don’t sell it that way.

Saving is spending less on some things so that you can spend more on other things. Saving is spending less at some times so that you can spend more at other times. Saving, properly understood, is always about making better choices and obtaining greater value from a limited pool of earnings. Saving is buying freedom, and freedom is cool.

If your spouse has doubts about this, use some of the savings to finance a splurge. Make saving enjoyable. Think about diets again. You lose more weight on a diet that never again permits you to eat ice cream. Except for one thing. You don’t stick with a diet that never again permits you to eat ice cream.

You want your spouse to sign on to a spending plan that will last for a long time. There’s got to be some pleasure in it for that to happen.

Marriage and Money — Suggestion #8 for Persuading Your Spouse to Save — Do Your Part Regardless of What Your Spouse Does.

If you are denying yourself some things you would like to spend money on because you see the importance of saving and your spouse is not doing the same, you are going to feel temptations to give up the cause because it is not working out in a way that is “fair.” That’s mixed-up thinking.

First of all, you might persuade your spouse over time if you continue the fight on your own. If the spouse who believes in saving gives up, the battle is lost for good.

Second, you will not feel good about yourself if you go along with a spending program that you do not believe in just because it is the only way to get on the same track as your spouse. You want to lift your spouse up, you do not want to permit your spouse to pull you down.

Things change. The trick is being properly positioned when the change comes. Someday, someway, sometime, your spouse will show interest in saving. You want to be as well-developed in your saving habits as you can possibly be when that day comes.

Don’t you end up being the spouse that caused the partnership’s saving dream to fail.

With a love like that
You know you should be glad.
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

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