Most people don’t feel comfortable discussing any issue related to money, amongst friends, relatives and most of all at home. There are always people who are ultra sensitive about this issue and would waltz around it.
Many households shy away from money talk. Mostly, it is typical to find that one brings home the money and the other pays for all the bills. Financial discussions usually extend to larger expenses or purchases, like buying a car, house, vacation and the like. I discovered that many people avoid talking about relationship and money at the same time simply because these two just don’t mix too well.
Besides love and family, money is undeniably important to any relationship. It is not the MOST important thing in our lives but it affects everything that is important to us. For instance, the level of education we or our children receive, food on our table, shelter for the family, healthcare, lifestyle, etc; all depends on the level of one’s finances.
My personal understanding about money is that when you have more, more options are available to you to choose from. When you have lesser, you may not have any options at all. Everyone tells me, again and again, that he/she wishes to be in a better condition/place. Many parents told me that they wish to provide the best education to their children but have to resort to what it is now because they can’t afford anything more than that. All these were said with much sadness and disappointment in their voices.
I remember when I was very young, the common topic being discussed in the class year after year was, “What would you do if you have a million dollar?” There were all sorts of answers from these young, innocent students, me included….ranging from travelling around the world, buying a castle for the family, buying a cool sports car / private plane / train, building a hospital / orphanage / nursing home / five-star hotel, buy their favourite food, give lots of money to their parents, donate some of the money to help the poor and the sick ones, the list was endless.
Of course, one million dollar today isn’t as valuable as decades ago. This is due to high inflation that has caused our monies to shrink. Goods and services have become more pricey. We need more dollars to buy something today as compared to say, five or ten years ago. Cost of living is getting higher, making it difficult for people to save for financial emergency and their retirement. With the advancement of technology and better standard of living, people are living longer than before. That means, we need more money to finance our daily expenses after we retire. We are talking about 15 to 20 over years after retirement!
Ahhhh….lovely to grow old like that, isn’t it? I’m sure many of us envision we’ll live a comfortable life long after we retire. It has always been everyone’s wish to maintain their comfortable lifestyle even after they stop generating active income.
That is not impossible. The earlier you plan and prepare for your financial future, the easier it is to achieve your goals. Start discussing this important topic with your spouse or partner to start off with. Talk about your dreams and wishes. List down your monthly financial obligations. Look at your income and expenses. If you have surplus, plan how you can efficiently manage that surpluses and make then grow. If you face a deficit, scrutinise your expenses listing and see how you can cut on unnecessary purchases. Find better alternatives. Look at all your credit card bills. If you have to, keep those plastics at home till you fully settled the outstanding balance one after another. Use cash as much as possible. Discipline is key. Track all your expenses on daily basis and get to know your spending habit / behaviour. You have to know yourself well in order to effectively introduce little changes to your current financial habits.
All these are not the work of one party but whoever is involved or would be affected by the financial situation, husband, wife and children. If your children have not started saving yet, get them to do it immediately. Teach them to save first before spending their pocket-money. Do the right thing right the first time, or as early as possible.
For those who don’t feel comfortable taking about money with their spouses, start with small talks and expand as you go along. Some men told me that they avoid discussing their financials at home because they do not want their wives to be overly worried. That is most considerate. However, I wonder, if the wife doesn’t know the actual financial situation, she may not be of any great help when she spends without second thought. Poor husband has to shoulder everything including the stress of worrying about money.
There are husbands who shared that, one of the reasons why they don’t let their wives know exactly how much they earn was because they are afraid that their wives will demand more from them. This is where the household budget comes in. If there is a household budget, a sufficient amount of fund should be made available to the wives and that shall rightfully include some pocket-money to her (if possible). She should then plan for her own financial future for she must not treat her husband or children as a retirement plan!
I strongly believe that women must achieve financial independence on her own effort. Being financially independent, she’ll get the financial security she needs. She has to constantly put aside some money for her own emergency and for her golden years. The habit of saving constantly is important, regardless the amount. Do not wait till you have “more money” to start saving for the day will never come. Some women told me that they don’t have any financial knowledge and do not know how to do it. My say is, discuss with your husband and if that doesn’t work, engage a licensed independent financial planner to help you plan. Why husbands? There are husbands who are not too busy and have the patience to help their wives draw up plans, and I’m sure the men are especially happy to see their wives take the initiative to be financial savvy! When you do it on your own, do draw up an individual financial plan for each person, separately, as well as one for the family.
At discussion table, do not get too emotional. Address the issue at hand. Find a common footing and compromise to reach a workable plan. The plan must not only look good on paper. It has to be practical. If you have to make small sacrifices, so be it. Take it a step at a time. Introduce changes gradually. It’s not easy but not impossible.
I know, the topic “Let’s Talk About Money” is not for the faint hearts. To me, marriage is also not for the faint hearts either, but we survived thus far, isn’t it? I hope, after reading this, more and more couples will start to engage with each other on this issue. It’s voluntary not mandatory, of course. You know your spouse better. I shall leave it to you.
All the best!
~ Alice N.