Money affects all areas of an individual’s life. Issues with money are still a leading factor in divorce. The following tips are essential to every marriage and every budget:
- If you’re not working together, you’re working against each other.
Creditcards.com conducted an eye opening poll that revealed, “One in 5 Americans in a relationship say they have spent $500 or more and not told their partner, and 6 percent maintain secret accounts or credit cards.” The key word there is ‘secret.’ There is no room for secrets in any aspect of your marriage. Secrets directly lead to a lack of trust. Think of trust in your marriage as the foundation of a house. Regardless of what top-of-the-line finishes you have, if it was built on an unstable foundation, it will surely crumble.
- What’s your Money Personality?
Moneyharmony.com offers a free quiz to know your (and your spouses) money personality. This breaks it down even further than just a spender or a saver. Not only does this quiz break the ice to open the conversation about finances but it allows you to learn more about your partner. This is an essential step in teamwork. You must know his/her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they pertain to finances. How does your spouse perceive money, its value and its worth? What is it that money provides your spouse? Security, confidence, excitement, status, etc.? If you know what drives each other, you’ll be more inclined to make sure everyone’s needs are met.
- Get Synced!
It’s easy to forget to take a purchase off the checkbook at the end of the day and it’s even easier to get out of sync with your spouse’s purchases during a busy work week. There are many apps out there that allow you to sync your phone with your partner’s phone, to keep track of purchases. I recommend ‘Good Budget’ especially if you are a fan of the envelope method, but not so much of carrying around cash.
- Take Charge Together!
If money is a leading factor in the climbing divorce rates, how do you make sure your marriage does not become a statistic? The answer is by mutually taking charge! When you work together, you either fail together or you succeed together. As a result, there will not be one person to blame or one person to praise. By implementing no.3 above, by mutually paying bills and/or creating monthly budgets, and by creating financial goals, you’ll be working together. Each person will be individually responsible. This will allow each person to have a part in the day in, day out part of the budget. If both people are in control, there is no power struggle and no resentment. When you each have an active role in the household finances, it is a sure fire way to not only boost, but propel your marriage into the future.
Guest Contributor: Mandi Furness, AFC®
Whether working with clients or simply your own family’s budget, one of the first things you need to look at are values. Each person has a set of values. Dictionary.com defines values as: “relative worth, merit, or importance”. Personality, culture, and life experience all affect the creation of our personal and family values, leading -each of us to develop our own unique idea of what is most important in our lives.
Why are values important when looking at our finances? Our values, whether we realize it or not, guide all of our decisions, including our financial decisions. In fact, looking at where money is being spent can shed light on what someone values. If we start by defining what matters most to us, we can then create a financial plan that is workable and truly meets our goals.
When working with clients, I often start by helping them define their values. This is something they may have never stopped to think about before. There are a few ways to do this:
- Look at their spending history.
- Ask open-ended questions to get them to open up and think about the why behind what they are doing and what they want for their future.
- Have them describe their ideal life and future and what their finances look like in that picture.
- Consider their cultural background and their current position in life. Are they single, married, or divorced? Do they have children? Are they in the military? All of these things will play into what they value.
Once we, and our clients, have a good understanding of their values, we can help them create a financial plan that meets their goals. If we skip the step of defining values, we may end up creating a plan that they cannot keep or in the end does not accomplish what they actually want. I had a client once who was spending $300/mo at Starbucks. This couple was deeply in debt and did not have the means to spend this money on coffee each month. At first glance, I just thought this was a ridiculous and thoughtless habit. However, after delving a little deeper into the issue, I came to see that the Starbucks spending was less about coffee and more about having a little treat to brighten up the day. My initial suggestion to buy a fancy coffee maker for their home didn’t meet the actual need, which wasn’t coffee, but a pick-me-up to get through the day. What we did instead was not take Starbucks away altogether, but use a trip to Starbucks as a reward for meeting all of their spending goals for the week. The value of the pick-me-up was met, and we were able to use it to further the objective of getting their budget under control and paying down debt. If I had tried to have them completely give up Starbucks, I am confident they would not have been able to stick with the plan and would have lost motivation to continue with our budgeting process.
Defining values can also help us show our clients where their spending may not be lining up with their values. Maybe they value financial security, but they aren’t putting away enough money for the future. This is another way defining values can be a great launching point to moving clients in the right direction with difficult budget decisions.
In regards to financial planning, another area where we see values play an important role in is in giving. I often see clients who are struggling with debt but believe in tithing first. We have to understand that this is a personal value. Everyone’s values are unique and may differ from our own. Our job as counselors is not to move our clients toward our values, but help them find ways to honor their values while creating a financial plan that is sustainable and meets their needs.
Guest Contributor: Julie Roth, AFC®
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
What is it about that quote that makes planners smile and, well, the rest of us cringe. I am not a person who considers myself a planner… I like to call it ‘going with the flow.’ However, I have to admit the quote does apply to finance. Let’s face it if you could become a millionaire by going with the flow, there would be more happy people walking around!
A short term goal can be defined as any goal less than a year. A year is a long time and a lot can change in regards to our finances. The head of the household could become disabled and suffer a loss of income. A car accident could leave one’s only means of transportation completely totaled. A healthy bull stock market could quickly become a nail-biting bear stock market, in a second. Alternatively,, you could win the lottery.
In the above examples, every single one would of them would impact your household budget significantly. I believe that short term goals are crucial to your economic health.
Not just one short term goal, two bi-annual goals or four quarterly goals are going to make the difference between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.
Take it from a non-planner: these short term goals will change your financial future.
I suggest having a monthly savings goal that is consistent with your monthly budget. Factor a cushion into your budget to ensure that your goal is obtainable… should a natural disaster take place.
I suggest having weekly goals, for every week of the entire year. Once a week cross reference all of your bank transactions with what you remembered to take off of your checkbook. Often times you will realize that you may have forgotten to deduct a transaction here or there.
I suggest having a daily goal of recording every single household-transaction from an app on your phone or from your checkbook. This way you know from day to day how you are doing on your weekly budget.
Long term goals are easy. Stating that you want to be a millionaire by a certain age is a long term goal. However, the short term goals are the ones that are going to tell you how you’re going to get there!
Remember to periodically reward yourself for consistently meeting your short term goals.
Guest contributor: Mandi Furness, AFC®
If you had to pick just one counseling question as the most important question you ask someone you’re trying to help – the granddaddy of them all, the big kahuna, the…number…one – what would it be?
“How do you see your life playing out if you keep doing things the way you’ve been?”
“Tell me why this is important to you?”
“Tell me how you think making this change will make things better for you (or your family)?”
These are a few of my favorites from a couple decades of trying to help people get to a better place financially. However, I really don’t think any of them are the most important question we can ask as financial counselors and advisors. Instead, I think the most important question is one we should ask ourselves. It’s a whopping five words and I actually have it crudely printed out and pinned to my desk so I can see it all day, every day:
“How will this change behavior?”
If you think about it, telling people how to make better financial decisions is good, and so is educating people on various personal finance topics. However, unless we actually get people to change their behavior, none of that telling or educating is really doing much long-term good. As the saying goes, keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.
Of course, this begs the question, “how exactly do you help someone change behavior in the realm of personal finance?” In truth, we don’t think we’ve necessarily cracked the code (yet) on this topic but our work at The USAA Educational Foundation has led us to the following model:
- Start EVERY effort with the question, “How will this change behavior?”
- Since almost every young adult owns a smart phone, use technology to your advantage.
- Get people to take many small steps rather than a few large leaps.
- Make it enjoyable (dare we even say, fun?) rather than a chore.
- When serving up education, do it in bite-sized portions.
We’re using this approach to try to encourage financial behavior change in military families, so if you work with this audience we invite you to join us on our journey. If you’ll be attending the 2015 AFCPE Symposium in Jacksonville please consider attending our Thursday morning breakout session, “Improving Financial Readiness in the Military,” where we’ll share what we’ve learned as well as facilitate idea-sharing with your peers, all to help you better help those who serve. If the symposium isn’t on your calendar this year, please peruse our website and take advantage of our ever-evolving collection of free personal finance materials and tools available for you to use with your clients.
Oh, and one last thing…despite having a similar name to the commercial entity that so graciously created and funded us many years ago, The USAA Educational Foundation is a stand-alone 501(c)(3) private operating foundation that does not endorse or promote any commercial supplier, product or service. Our mission is simple: To lead and inspire actions that improve financial readiness for the military and local community.
We’d love to help you if we can.
Guest Contributor: Scott Halliwell, CFP®, AFC® Candidate, Financial Readiness Program Lead at The USAA Educational Foundation
The USAA Educational Foundation is the Platinum Sponsor of the 2015 AFCPE Symposium.
From the early years and beyond children should be taught these two truisms:
- Money does not grow on trees AND
- You don’t earn money just for breathing! Making money requires work.
Keep in mind that you will likely repeat these words regularly (I know I do).
The envelope system
While you can do lots of things with money, all expenditures fall into three (3) categories: Spend, Give and Save. Reinforce these categories with your children at a very young age by introducing the envelope system. This system helps children visualize dividing their money. Each category is assigned a percentage. Children have no expenses or debt, so the largest percentage will likely go to the spending envelope. We set our daughters categories where we want her to continue the rest of her life; they are 70% Spend, 10% Give, 20% Save. You decide for your children. The goal is to help them form the habit of Earning money, the practice of Saving money and the heart for Giving money. We want our children to have a strong work ethic (the earning habit), never be monetarily broke (the save habit) and never be selfish (the giving habit).
Let’s face it, we don’t have to teach them to have a heart for spending; our culture bombards our children with things on which to spend their money. The habit training around the spend category is to help them plan their spending. Have them list (write on the envelope) things they want to buy and when they have the money they buy from that list. This training keeps children (and dare I say adults) from impulse buying or wasting money.
The savings envelope has a purpose and a list as well. Every child wants something, and nearly everything costs money. Young children have no urgent need to save, so their savings teaches delayed gratification, they can save for costlier items.
Reinforcing the truths
While a small percentage of children are born into money and will never be in a position to have to earn money, most of us don’t fall into that category. For our young children, we have to create opportunities for them to make money. In the early years, the money your children earn is yours. Be sure your budget reflects the money you plan to pay your children.
The truth: Earning money requires work. Some work suggestions to consider:
- For the very young: help to pick-up after a younger sibling or deliver folded laundry to the correct bedroom.
- A bit older child: clean out the car or organize a junk drawer.
- A much older child: bigger jobs like wash and wax the car, clean the garage or basement, make the grocery list or clean the outside of ground level windows of the house.
The activities you choose will be unique to your family, and as your children grow those jobs will move outside the household. However, each of these opportunities reminds our kids of the truisms: Work equals money, money does not grow on trees, and you do not earn money just for breathing.
Viewpoints differ. Life happens. Addressing the issues.
Gifts and ‘found’ money– Birthdays, grandparents, finding money and any other reason. Sometimes strangers give your children money just because they are cute! Why, you ask, must they ‘Give’ and ‘Save’ this money? In a word, consistency. To form a habit, consistency is a must. Remember the goal is to teach our children positive habits so they will never be broke (the save habit) and never be selfish (the giving habit).
Allowance– For our family, allowance is built on the truisms: work equals money, money does not grow on trees, and you do not earn money for breathing. However, allowance is a personal family choice. In our household allowance is not granted, a paycheck is earned. I encourage parents to break the tradition and ignore the naysayers. Nothing good ever comes from children feeling entitled, which just handing them money can create.
Another highly charged area – paying for grades. My opinion, which is not shared by my husband, is that I don’t pay for grades. The grade itself is the benefit. Grades are rewarded with praise for hard work. My only advice, if you do decide to pay for grades, is to be consistent – don’t alter your pay for grades plan or not pay if you don’t have extra money.
The teenage years. When the children are still under your roof but think they are grown! Before we directed their money for them, it is okay to loosen the reigns and observe how they manage their money. While you can still encourage the habits of saving and giving, it’s more difficult to require it. This is where the strong foundation you have laid is put to the test. Challenge them: allow them to open or manage a savings account, with a savings goal in mind. Encourage their efforts to save for a want – a class ring, the prom, even a car. Give them a clothing budget to manage. A checking account won’t be available, without you, until they are 18 years old, but until then they can manage a fictitious checkbook using the money in their ‘spend’ category.
Your habits. Most importantly, all your financial training will be lost if you, the parents, are not modeling the proper financial behavior.
Guest Contributor: Regina Harris, AFC®