You may not know this, but the way you and your family “do money” is very unique. In my 25 years of working with families I’ve never seen two families have the same financial culture. It makes sense really – every family is a little different. Just like kids often have physical traits from both parents, so a couple likely has some financial traits from both of their families. Just like our DNA or fingerprints, our financial culture is our own.
The challenge is to see your own financial culture. It’s the classic “forest and the trees”. We know how much we make and roughly how we live. We may even have a budget – but there is much more to understanding how we do money-- and whether it really works, than just the dollars. So here is the big idea for this article: Without a deep understanding of what we currently do and why, it is unlikely that you will be able to:
- Appreciate the contributions of your spouse
- Constructively address financial stress or conflict
- Adjust when goals or realities change
- Celebrate your shared successes
- Identify things that are not in alignment with your shared goals
- Teach your children how to develop their own unique financial system
How do we gain this perspective and understanding? It starts by agreeing, as a couple, to take this journey together. In my office, we call this “shared discovery”. Often, one person in the relationship has a significant amount of operational knowledge of how the family’s’ money is used and that one-sided knowledge creates an imbalance. It’s not that we don’t trust – we just don’t understand. If we don’t understand, we can’t participate. It’s like watching my wife expertly fold a fitted sheet. I honestly just get intimidated. Having her explain it while she’s doing it? That doesn’t seem to help.
For “shared discovery” to really work, both of you need to go for a walk through your financial forest and look at the individual trees – together. We recommend jointly reviewing your financial expenditures (yes, all of them) for at least the last six months –preferably a whole year. Many have tried to start with consolidated statements or a pre-prepared summary of spending. Don’t do it. This is the equivalent of trying to teach a nine-year-old long-division by using a calculator. Sure, they always get the right answer, but they will never understand why. Oddly enough, the tedious part of this task can usually be accomplished together in about 3-5 hours (doesn’t have to be done in one sitting).
What comes out of this exercise is often relationship gold! Issues around money are a well known stress point in marriage relationships – often to the demise of the marriage. There is very little we do in our families that don’t have some financial aspect or dimension. Being on the same page, knowing how our money works, and defining what we value is the corner-post of any family’s financial plan.
Are you up for it? If you are open to exploring ways to strengthen your finances, your marriage, and your positive influence on your children -- even your grandchildren, give me a call. If you are interested in owning the bullet points above, we can be your guide. We are eager to share this adventure with you.