The Wall Street Journal provided some marriage advice this week for the many couples who argue about money in an article called “Money Matters Can Make or Break a Marriage.” It’s not just marriages writer Jeff Opdyke is aiming to improve, it’s also the financial wellbeing of the households.
The problem: A great many couples are feeling the pinch right now, but even when the economy is flying high, many couples argue about money more than anything else. They argue about how to spend it, save it, invest it and budget it. Frequently, one spouse has more financial prowess than the other, or at least has a greater interest in the topic. The other may find his or her eyes glazing over at the mere suggestion to set a budget together. There are also many marriages in which neither spouse has a great financial understanding, putting them at risk for questionable decisions. If even one of you thinks this is a problem, it’s time to take action.
The solution: Seek help.
Because financial arguments bring emotional baggage, tempers can flare. Deeper issues surface. Spouses feel they and their needs are not understood. Putting a neutral person in the middle greatly improves the chances of making progress. Getting a financial planner or financial counselor involved can greatly diffuse tempers and can keep you from making decisions based on emotions. Let him or her know ahead of time that this is an area in which you have disagreements, and inform the counselor of your specific issues or goals. “With such a strategy, you’re letting the pro absorb the energy that would otherwise fuel a fight, and you’re getting impartial advice that can work to bridge the differences separating you two,” writes Opdyke.
He adds that you don’t have to care about the financial details, you just have to care about the relationship enough to forge a path that meets both of your needs. The resulting plan can hopefully put you on a much better track for financial health as well as marital health.
To find a pro, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a professional they’ve worked with, or call a professional association and explain your needs. You could consider a fee-based financial planner or find someone to offer ongoing support. If you think you can’t afford such services, think about how much a divorce could cost you.
Do you understand your partner’s financial hopes and dreams? Does one of you want to spend the tax refund on a big-screen TV or new sun room, while the other wants to save it for the kids’ college? Is one of you so obsessed about saving for the future, that you haven’t taken a vacation in years? Stop arguing and get a financial checkup, along with advice from a pro.
Posted in Communication, Family, Love, Marriage, Relationships
Tagged argue, better marriage, economy, Family, financial, financial advice, financial problems, improve marriage, Marriage, money, money advice
Almost half of Americans report being more stressed than a year ago, according to this week’s USA Today. One-third of Americans are suffering from “extreme” stress. Unfortunately, the survey was taken before the stock market plunged, so the real numbers are probably worse. That stress is affecting eating and sleeping levels, and inevitably how we relate to others, especially our families.
Since most families are affected by these negative economic trends, it’s important to acknowledge the impact it has on our lives and take action to try to remain calm and provide a sense of normalcy to children. I’ve read how some families have skipped going out to dinner and a movie, and instead have a simple dinner at home followed by game night.
If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, turn off the bad news, take a walk or a bath, or call a friend. Appreciate the people you have in your life. One family I know with several young children in the house reports the father’s slow work schedule has allowed him to spend a lot more time with the family. It does create some financial hardship, but they try to look at the positive side as he has always been extremely busy at work. Older children are aware of financial strain, so be honest about any household changes that you need to make. Ask for their ideas in cutting costs, and look for signs of stress in children.
Reach out to others who are facing extreme stress, or if you see signs of abuse or neglect. The USA Today article advises that as stress levels increase, domestic violence and child abuse also rise. Be on the lookout for families in crisis, and help connect them to social service agencies that can help. You may be the only one who sees the signs of a child or adult in need. If you are able, offer to care for a child for a couple of hours while a parent looks for a new job. Or, if you still have a good job, help others who are looking for work network with your contacts.
Be a steady voice amidst the chaos, and remind friends and family that this period will pass, and the relationships they nurture will remain.
Posted in Communication, Family, Love, Marriage, Personal Growth, Uncategorized
Tagged children, economy, Family, financial, financial problems, Marriage, stress, stress reduction
With the election only a few weeks away, many important issues are being discussed in earnest. On top of the list is the economy. The U.S. economy is unstable at best, affecting us all, especially the most vulnerable in our society. There is no magic answer and no super politician who will cure all our ills. Of course we need strong leadership, but we also need to look at how we function as individuals and communities, and how we can help strengthen society.
I’ve been spending a lot of time researching marriage lately. I know it doesn’t seem like it has much to do with our current financial situation. And I’m not one to suggest that if everyone were married our problems would be erased. However, my own marriage, as well as the research data I’ve been reading, suggests marriage has important societal benefits—economic, psychological and health benefits.
I plan to delve into these issues in this blog. With the economy on everyone’s mind I thought I’d begin with economic benefits. I know everyone (including me) is worried about their tanking 401K and investments. But most of us, thankfully, haven’t glimpsed real poverty. When I feed my children at night, I am saddened by the thought of so many children without nutritious food in front of them. So many single parents work and can’t make ends meet. What does marriage have to do with poverty?
A report from Family Scholars explains, “Married couples build more wealth on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples, even after controlling for income.”1 This is not just because two people are bringing home a paycheck. There are economies of scale; buying for two or more costs less per person than buying for one. Many costs are shared, such as a home and utilities. Married couples tend to work together on financial goals in a different way than two people living together. And couples are more likely to receive money from their parents if they are married than if they are single or cohabiting.
On the flip side, the same report says research has consistently shown that divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the economic vulnerability of children and their mothers, even after controlling for race and family background. Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty after a divorce. The majority of children who grow up outside of intact married families experience at least one year of dire poverty.
Despite this evidence to support marriage in our society, cohabiting has become the new norm. Are you happily married? Do you think marriage is good for society or should we keep our noses out of other people’s private lives?
1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.
Posted in Love, Marriage, Personal Growth, Relationships, Uncategorized
Tagged benefits of marriage, cohabitation, couples, Divorce, economics, Family, financial, happiness, Love, Marriage, poverty, Relationships, saving money, society, wealth