When 2 Should Become 1 with Money Allocations

When we partner up with another person, we tend to retain our separate phone numbers, two earning sources, our own credit cards and our unique views on money.  Often, it’s our unique views on money that can create tensions and undermine relationships. After all, money is one of the top reasons for divorce. And as a mediator, I am often called upon to facilitate new money frameworks for families, ones they can agree to and build upon for financial peace.

In dual income families, I find that one person’s salary is often used for basic living expenses while the other person’s earnings are used for discretionary expenses such as vacations, restaurants, entertainment and home furnishing upgrades.

This may work well initially but as earnings, lifestyles, and interests change, conversations about money end up lost, avoided or become weapons of assumptions. Because earnings can change for one person more dramatically, or more often, than for their partner, allocating percentages to the family budget can avoid or reduce the tension that personal finances has on the family’s tranquility.

What is easy in other parts of a partnering life, such as separate cell phone numbers, separate hobbies, and different cars, money needs to become an area in which there is harmony for peace to reign at home.

I recommend that you set up a time to talk about how to use percentages of your separate earnings for more harmony with your blended financial life.

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Is Silence Always Golden?

Think back for a moment, back 2 generations and bring your grandparents to mind.  Can you name all 4 of them? If you can, I have another question for you: can you name their hobbies and interests …for all 4 of them? And if you can, I have one more question for you:  do you know what they stood for, or, said differently, what they believed in? Interesting? You are an exception if you know what even two of your grandparents believed in.

Now, join me as I take you one generation further back. How many of you can name your great grandparents…all 8 of them? In a room of 100 people, when I ask this question, I am amazed at how few can name all their great grandparents.

With the first set of questions, usually about 95% of the room can name their grandparents, about 65% can name their hobbies or interests, and less than 20% can name what all four pf their grandparents stood for.  Going back one generation further it is rare when more than 3% can name their great grandparents.  This is tragic because research has shown how beneficial it is for a child’s well-being to understand their family’s storied history.

In the 1990s, Dr. Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, along with a colleague, Dr. Robyn Fivush, tested a hypothesis. This initial thought was developed by a psychologist who found, while working with children that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”  Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush developed a measure to test this hypothesis.  From responses, they concluded that the more people knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, their higher their self-esteem and the successfully their believed their families functioned.”

Is silence always golden? No! How are you sharing your family story?

For more information, read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html

2 Critical Issues Facing Family Businesses

For families with businesses, there are two big problems that surface as the family grows and ensuing generations get involved or migrate away from the family business.

Conversations about the business that may have started in the living room at home, moved to the kitchen, then a conference room then to a board room, often become a struggle as families grow and as individual agendas develop. Working well together, across generations, can become tense when visions are not aligned, and responsible stewardship is not defined. Competing and contrasting priorities due to generational differences, ownership positions, and desires for the business as contrasted with desires for the family harmony, surface.

It is not natural to manage such complexity. Like a garden who needs proper care and maintenance to stay healthy, relevant, and vibrant, a family is best served by developing a disciplined and purposed component to their family and family business dealings and becoming responsible stewards of what they are growing and eventually, passing down.

Determining an initial purpose to both the family and family business initially separate the two entities so they can clearly define themselves independently. Agreeing on and articulating the value, vision and mission of each entity across generations is key to being responsible stewards. Adapting and becoming comfortable with change is the responsibility of each generation.

Questions to consider asking at home:

  • Who do we want our family to be, as a family?
  • What do we want our family to represent in the community?
  • What is important to us as a family: what do we believe in? What do we stand for?

Creating purpose, mission, vision and family teams to develop the family’s success goes a long way to sustaining intergenerational trust and sustainability.

Questions to consider asking about the business:

  • What is the purpose and mission of the business?
  • Is the business meant to develop as a business or build family wealth?
  • What do we need to do to support our working together?
  • How do we communicate business information so it does not take over or interfere with the family environment?

Knowing the purpose of the business, communicating that to the family, developing trust in leadership development are all critical to successfully passing a business legacy and leadership from one generation to the next.

When Trust Wavers…

Family dynamics can be challenging at times. I am reminded of a situation where one family member, a sister, asked her brother why they had stopped talking to each other. Silence was her reply. After asking the same question a few times, and getting silence as the repeated response, she got up from the table and left. That was the last time she engaged in conversation with him for years.

Her family had a history of mistrust. Behind the scenes, there were not so subtle attempts by most family members to influence the remaining parent in directing how and to whom her assets should be dispersed.  Family gatherings were polite and casual as family members placated their elder mother in hopes it would rebalance her estate plan in their favor.  The sister witnessed this behavior and chose not to participate in it, thinking that having a well-mannered relationship with all would prevail in the end.

Years later, after their mother had passed and the will was read, this sister, who had forged an independent life for herself while still reaching out to her siblings, found she had been completely omitted from any estate distribution; no assets, no jewelry, no books, no mention, no nothing. It wasn’t the assets she felt she deserved, it was the omission of her in any way, that hurt her.  She felt like she really did not need to be there.  It was embarrassing to feel that she really wasn’t part of the family. The brother, who responded to her in silence years before was the executor or their mother’s will. As the sister later learned, there had been some underhanded tactics used to try to convince the mother of one sibling’s family’s “wonderful” intentions while undermining the intentions of the other siblings.

Family members, as trust wavered, found ways to undermine ones that had weaker positions in the family while elevating themselves. It destroyed the family harmony. After the mother’s passing, and will was read, lawsuits were filed, letters of betrayal were found, and the family was destroyed.

Is breaking trust and family discord really worth it? IT is a tough question to ask and very important to consider, when cordial harmony mask darker intentions. People will rebuild family units but consider how much stronger a family can become when trust and harmony are nurtured.

The Power of our Values is Distinct

When living a life full of activities, projects, deadlines and other calendar driven things, where can you turn when you ask: “How do I add more meaning to my life?” What can you do when you want to explore the inner meaning, maybe not with as much passion as what is already consuming your life, but at least with some inquiry? Is there something more to life worth pursuing? I think so.

I still remember, when, years ago, a marketing consultant for my business, asked me, in my first assignment, to identify my values. At first, I was puzzled by this request as I was ready for the big idea to implement. But she was right when she said” To build the business, we must begin with you knowing your values, the foundation of who you are and what drives or motivates you.”  I nodded with skepticism as I had no idea of the benefit to looking at my values. She gave me a list of values and told me to identify my top 3 “Oh, that should be easy “I thought, as I looked at the words. But then, as I looked through the list, I found that most of them were significant. How would I choose just three? I did not know my top values.  I do now and for the last 20+ years, every year, I refer to them constantly in both my personal and professional lives. But why?

From that exercise years ago, I learned that values are our guiding principles. They tell us why we are motivated to take certain actions, why we decide to say yes to one thing of seeming import, and say no, to yet another. Our guiding values lead us.  As they lead us, and as we let them guide us, they help us to simplify our lives and pursue that which matters, with passion, purpose and success.

The power in our values is distinct. Think about a person who has had a powerful and positive impact to you, in your life. What is important about them to you? It’s likely a value will come up that is very important to you, one you still key to you today.

Our values act like an inner compass. We decide whether to listen and follow them or not. When we do, we feel more centered; when we don’t, we tend to feel more confused or rudderless.

Have you been Mansplained? Been What?!

I was recently involved in a robust online conversation on mansplaining. As soon as the topic was raised, opinions started flying in, ranging from irritated frustration at the experience to recharacterizing mansplaining as verbal kidnapping. I would have remained a spectator to the group conversation until verbal kidnapping was presented as a description to mansplainng. That was my moment of: “Wait a second, that seems a little much.”

Mansplain is defined in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary as: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.

As I have experienced mansplaining, I thought I would bring it up here to gain perspective and understanding. Here, in part, is what I shared with the online conversation.

“I am adding to this robust dialogue as I cannot reconcile the phrase ‘verbal kidnapping.’ (with mansplaining). Kidnapping means: take by force. This is different than taken by surprise or be overwhelmed or belittle or even attempted to connect with.

Having come up in male dominated industries, financial, jazz guitar, and entrepreneurial success, I have experienced it many times, sometimes overt and sometimes covert. For quite some time, I took it personally, like they were exhibiting behaviors because I deserved it/asked for it/put out the vibe/looked like I wanted it/was a target for their unloading. Eventually that turned to understanding that it was not about me, they did not even know me but they needed to wield their power/show me who’s got the upper hand/offer friendly unsolicited advice/want to show off/join the conversation/demonstrate how intelligent they were/demonstrate how keenly aware or observant they were being/ and more.

Initially, I either stood stunned or snorted out a weak comment only to fine I was fueling the fire, the fire of false objectives and false perceptions by the mansplainer. I then shifted to inquiry in my attempt to gain understanding as to their intention with being so directive with me.

So, how do I deal with it today? IT DEPENDS. It depends on the situation, my perception of their intent, that which I want to protect within myself, the point I want to make….

For one person I might cut them short  to end a ‘correction’ or added ‘expertise’ they want to interject.

For another person, I might let them go on until I see an opening and then end the conversation in full awareness that their behavioral habit will continue with someone else. I choose not to take the time to get into the fray.

For yet another person, I may ask them their intent on sharing with me as I want them to be clear as to whether they perceive me as unprofessional/unqualified/not at their level or perplexed at my keen insight which might contrast with my small stature.  😊 These may all come into play.  I can then respond more appropriately with more clarity

I no longer initially judge mansplainers to be foe. And it’s not just mansplainers, there are womynsplainers. The wolf wears either gender sheep’s clothing to get in to the stall!

Tell me your thoughts? Have you been mansplained? How do you deal with it in a way that preserves the essence of who you are, your values?

It’s Important for Women to be Confident with their Money

I have always enjoyed being a steward of money. Even as a kid, I would count my money; I was excited to open a bank account; I would plan on money expenditures, I thought about money and how to best use it.  As a young adult, I thought about how to ensure I had extra saved money; I enjoyed the world of investing, although, as a woman, back then, there was not a lot of support for women in money matters.

So, I was stunned to recently read an article about women and money that included sobering findings from a Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study. Surveying 1,500 women, this survey found that 8 out of 10 women don’t talk to family or friends about money. That is chilling to me. The study also revealed that 50% of those interviewed, mostly Gen X and Yers, said they are nervous talking about making financial decisions! What the what the?!

Even today, where so much is available and expected of us, it seems we don’t include financial literacy as an area to master. As a result, and according to the Fidelity study, women have a confidence gap when it comes to financial literacy.

Is this true for you? Do you feel yourself avoiding money conversations? If so, what can you do to change this behavior and mindset. Here are three tips to begin your positively affect your relationship with your money.

  • Take a moment to answer this question: How do you want money to play an active an enabling role in your life? Answering this question allows you to finally understand what money means to you. Knowing this gives you clarity about how you really view money. It may be that you don’t get money, or, you don’t respect it or, conversely, that you want to get a handle on it but don’t know how.
  • If it is easy for you to accumulate debt and spend more than you have, ask yourself: What is in it for you to continue this habit? Really stop and respond to this with clarity. We tend to do things either because there is a benefit to doing so, because we want to sabotage ourselves, or because we are avoiding dealing with the topic of money.
  • What first step can you commit to make a, one, not all, just one, present unproductive habit move into the shadows of your life rather than being in the driver’s seat to your life? Taking a small step can begin a journey of steps that eventually become a pathway to sustainable and successful habits and behaviors around money.

Need more help? Contact me. Having women be successful in life with their money is important to me! I hope it is to you, too.

I would like to speak to Millennials for a Moment

Today, every generation, thanks to the mining of so much data, can be and is dissected for quick sound bites and headlines. I, too, stop and read some of the headlines. A couple of these have caught my eye and wanted to focus on them today.

Recently, I saw two headlines addressed to millennials. The first was about money habits: In a poll from USA Today/Bank of America Better Money Habits, 33% do not have a savings account, 40% have less than $5,000 saved,  more than 50% have not funded their retirement savings. Instead millennials are focused on paying off credit card debt. 40% say they worry about their financial future at least once a week.

I have two reactions: the first is Y-A-W-N. The baby boomers were late to the money responsibility, as a generation, as well. So, not too much of a surprise here. What is taught and acted on in one generation often passes on, in some recognizable manner, to the next generation.

My second reaction is in the form of a question: as a species, are we savers? Or is this a luxury for those in a certain income range? In my 20 years as a financial planner (with three prestigious certifications) I rarely found the dedicated saver. And if stock options were available, it was no better. They seemed to equate more money to higher ticket items. It’s difficult to save when businesses spend a fortune on marketing to us to get us to part with our money.  I am not excusing non-savers, I am just painting a landscape that I see. I built my Money Focus program to address this big problem guide those who want to transform their money anxieties to money stewardship.

The second article I read was about millennials wanting to retire early. The take away in this article is not that millennials, as a group, want to chill somewhere, instead it is more fundamental to who they are: they feel insecure about the future, in general. A documentary: Playing with Fire, explores a millennial’s journey to their financial freedom, where health care, social security and social safety nets seem to be eroding and where individual financial future is now one’s own responsibility. Financial literacy is rarely taught in schools or at home. In 2017, only five states were given an A for their financial education efforts from the Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy’s Financial Report Card. These states: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia require that their students take at last a half-year personal finance course or its equivalent. At least it’s something.

Millennials, this has been happening for generations. And will continue for generations. But you can stop it. You can take control of your own financial life.  It only takes a willingness to change.

Let me know if you want to explore how.

Thank you for caring for your financial well-being!

A Major Financial Error is to Mistake Money for Wealth

In the mid-20th century, the great Vanderbilt houses were torn down, and while their name lives on at Vanderbilt University, the influence and prominence of the family itself has fallen out of sight almost entirely.

Although my only experience with the Vanderbilts was as school mates, I have seen destructive effects of wealth on families. Seeing these outcomes was a primary reason I decided to focus my career on discovering what works in keeping families together when money matters, and helping families find common purpose with sustained meaning when money is a cornerstone to their dynamics.

In my years of observation, study and working with families, I have made two key observations that come to play when those who amass great fortunes determine how to pass their wealth from one generation to the next.

Families that focus on the assets as the key cornerstone to their family, do what they can to protect the assets. They construct brilliant plans to offset estate taxes, to take advantage of tax laws, to distribute assets “at the right time.” The assets will be protected. However, overtime, the soul of the family erodes, and with it, the family fortune because there has been no attention to its purpose. Individuals further their own agendas which may be in conflict with the long term growth of the money. Squabbling, squandering and over spending become the ingredients to financial wealth erosion. The sole or focus was on the fortune rather than on also preparing the heirs to receive and steward the assets.

Successful families understand that merely providing a healthy checking account to next generations is not enough. They realize that there must be a bigger purpose that all family members buy into and champion. They realize that the family structure can continue strong, lasting generations. They change the focus of their perspective on their money from being owners to being stewards. They build a family culture that is passed on from one generation to the next. The family fortune becomes merely one of the tools entrusted to the family to steward.

As you think about which of these two scenarios you advocate, ask yourself this question: “Are you preparing your heirs to become stewards of wealth or merely preparing the assets to be transferred?” Why is this question relevant? It is so, because it can prevent you from mistaking money as the only component to wealth. Do not mistake money as the only component of wealth.

The Family Story is Powerful to Children

Several years ago, Emory University commissioned a study. The study was hosted by two prominent Emory psychologists, Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and a former graduate student, Jennifer Bohanek. They wanted to understand the impact of family stories to a family’s dynamics with their adolescent members.

“Family stories” the researchers wrote, “…help children understand who they are in the world.” These unique and important stories help children understand who they are and where they come from, in a different way, but akin to the DNA tests available for us to take today. Neither of these will tell us who we are going to become, but they do shed light into that which brought us here.

The power of the important story is its experiential transmission of connectivity. Before this study, researchers had an inkling that family stories contributed to a child’s well-being and identity but had not measured their ideas. Now there was evidence. The study found that the teenagers in the study expressed “…higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.” Wow!

Although this is the first study of its kind to use a Do You Know Scale of measurement, it certainly is, for some, an eye opener, while for others, confirmation, on the power of important family stories.

What is your family’s story; not the where when or how, but the story of who and the why of the family? Your family story is a thread, a  link to identity and connection. Tell it to your family.