Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finances--Starting on the Inside

In an attempt to refresh my own mind concerning the family economy, and perhaps get myself out the rut I'm in in regards to the budget, I think I will do a series of posts concerning money...saving, spending, prioritizing, planning, organizing, etc.  First of all, however, I'd like to touch briefly on the starting point--the mind and heart, for all priorities, actions, etc. come out of our emotions and thoughts.  (Note: this content is based on the beliefs found in the Bible.  If you don't like or agree with the Bible, you may find some of these concepts foreign or offensive/difficult).
First of all, I'd like to mention that men and women are very different in many ways, not the least of which is how they each handle and view money.  Now, that is not to say that there aren't instances where their priorities flip flop, but I'd say there are some basic gender differences that show up when in the context of money/possessions. 
Women tend to look at money in light of security, especially if she has children.  Women tend to want to ensure that there will be sufficient income to cover things in case of illness, injury etc.  I know for myself, my worrying usually centers around what would happen if my hubby was injured or developed a terminal illness.  Therefore anything that would threaten that security is to be avoided.  This can be a very admirable trait, but it can also cause problems because often the woman is not a risk taker.  She prefers to be safe, even at the expense of success.  Another thought about the ladies, however, that I think has developed over the last 50 years or so, is quality of life.  As the nurturers(usually), women are more concerned with relationships, and I think sometimes that can develop into wanting to have "experiences" together... that cost money.  Wanting to go places as a family and so on.  We dream about "making memories" together, and so want to think creatively about what that could look like.
Men, on the other hand, often look at money or possessions in light of significance.  This can be why they desire the boat, the snowmobile, and other such possessions.  It gives them a sense of status in the eyes of others, while the absence of some of those wants can lead to a man feeling like a failure, or somehow lower down in the pecking order, which can feel like an assault on his identity as a man. 
Unfortunately, these differing perspectives can cause much friction in a marriage relationship.  It is important for both the husband and the wife to realize from what point their spouse is arguing.  Often, when a wife is arguing against something her husband wants to do, it is out of fear of losing her security.  Often when a husband defends himself for making a big purchase without consulting his wife, it is because the purchase make him feel more significant, more a real man. 
This is why it is so important for husbands and wives to get on the same page.  And because we don't even realize this is our starting point, we get frustrated with our spouse who can't see it our own way.  One of the best ways to do this is to have financial goals, both for the present and for the future.  In fact, it could be very enlightening to each create a goal list of what is important to themselves, without regard for the other, just to see the differing priorities.  After coming up with present, 5 year, and 10 year goals, read each others' papers and begin to see where they might line up and where they differ.  Then, it may be possible to communicate in a more objective way, and begin working as a team to accomplish those goals.  It also helps clarify current priorities, in that if you have a joint goal of saving $5K in a year, buying a boat on the spur of the moment may be easier seen as a foolish, unwise step.  Likewise, if there is another joint goal to take steps to further hubby's side business, even while it may be risky, a wife may be able to fore go her desire for more clothes, new living room furniture, or some such thing, in the light of how much it would mean to her husband to succeed in his venture. 
I can't exactly speak for the husband's side of things, but I do know that for myself, security is a huge priority to me.  I get very fearful considering anything that may compromise this, but also have begun to learn to trust my husband more fully(not that he isn't trustworthy, just that I am innately fearful!) and realize that he loves both me and our children and has our betterment at heart, ultimately, and that he will always do his utmost to provide for our needs.  He needs me to admire, respect, and be willing [at least] to follow him and support him through whatever endeavors he may attempt, whether they succeed or fail. 
Practically speaking, some possible goals might be:  setting a savings goal and its purpose, paying off certain debts within a time frame, starting some sort of long range saving for retirement, prioritizing life goals and what sort of financial requirements that might take (ie starting a business or pursuing more education etc), or even assessing things like the state of the household and whether you need a new couch or something. 
Relationally speaking, it could also be time to examine yourself [myself!] and see whether or not we have unintentionally frustrated or exasperated our spouse because we have not put their needs above our own?  If so?  Any relationship is always improved by humility and the ability to say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  And make attempts at doing better.  This clears the air and simply provides better atmosphere for future discussion.  It also encourages a spirit of compromise, or at least seeing things from both angles.   

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please be kind, folks:) Differences of opinion are fine, but let the love of Christ reign here...