Change the Narrative of Money Conversations for Better Outcomes- Part 2 of 2

It is important for couples who are arguing over money to take a moment to change the narrative. Instead of rehashing the perceived problem, engage in a different conversation about money. Start your next conversation with a question.

 

The type of question you ask is critical. For starters, ask open ended questions as they elicit a more expressive response. Listen to the responses you receive, not merely for information but for feelings and intentions behind the words that the responder provides. Seek to understand them so you can create bridges to a conversation that brings you both to a satisfying outcome. Ask questions like:

  • “How did you observe about money when you grew up?”
  • “What did your Mother teach you about money overtly and covertly?”
  • “What did your Dad teach you about money overtly and covertly?”
  • “What did you like to do with your money as a child and how did that make you feel?”
  • What is an example of a challenge you have had with money and how did you successfully face that challenge?”
  • “What is something you are proud to have done that increased your savings?”
  • “What would you like to change with your current money management?
  • “What are three things that are important to you about money?”

 

There are many more questions that can be asked but I wanted to get you started. You may think of ones on your own as well. The key point is to remember to make your questions open ended and inquisitive rather than confrontational. A question like: “Why don’t you save money?” is more confrontational than “What is important about saving money to you?” which is more inquisitive and invites understanding. People want to be understood and it is important that questions be framed to do that.

 

Changing the framework of money conversation is beneficial for two big reasons:

  • It gives context to someone’s current views and behaviors around money.
  • It can transform the existing anxieties about money to understanding where the other person’s views on money derived.

 

Have your conversations be ones built on respect and understanding as you develop strategies to your productive conversations about money.

 

One final thought: share your responses to these questions as well…after the person you are engaged in the conversation with is done with their response to the question you asked. Trust is built when people feel listened to and understood. Here is an opportunity to listen, share, seek and offer a bridge to understanding.

 

Would you like more guidance as move your money conversations from mess to success? I would love to help you! Send me an email at bhaj@focusasndsustain.com and let me know an issue you are facing with your money. Let’s get you on track to having money conversations that work for you.

Change the Narrative to Connect in Money Conversations Part 1

Money conversations are not always easy. Surveys by the Certified Divorce Financial Analysts show that money is one of the top causes of divorce while Think Health Magazine finds it to be one of the top two causes of divorce.

 

Dr. Brad Klontz a financial psychologist and associate professor at Kansas State University has found that money anxieties are fostered because people are not generally used to talking about money in a substantive manner. Too often it can “seem like a mind field that can easily go wrong, Brad says.

 

Couples can find that there disparate upbringing, experiences and expectations around their money spill into their expectations and judgments of their partner’s habits and behaviors. Of course, their partner had their own set of money experiences growing up that they bring into the relationship. Because “much of their beliefs around money are held in their unconscious,” Brad continues, “they really don’t come out to play until you are in a relationship.” These money stories and scripts can play havoc on primary relationships when the current money habits and behaviors play out.

 

Allianz’s LoveFamilyMoney Study, conducted in 2014 with over four thousand adults, found that financial issues causing the most stress in spouses were: planning for future needs at 76%, covering current financial expenses at 62%, and getting out of debt at 56%. Allianz’s study further revealed that 28% felt they spent too much on unnecessary things, 29% said their financial baggage was difficult to overcome and 23% were not saving enough money.

 

Resentments can build when the right conversations are not held. It is important for couples who are arguing over money to take a moment to change the narrative. Instead of rehashing the perceived problem expressed by “the other person,” engage in a different conversation about money. Asking the right questions, which we will delve into in the next blog, make a big difference to feeling like you have a strong financial partnership.

 

How are money conversations in your home? Let me know. If they are precarious, our next blog will introduce conversation tips to transform your home money anxieties to understanding and resolutions.

Buried Emotions around Money were Revealed When…

Because I often host money workshops, I do not have the experience that my workshop attendees (mostly intergenerational members of families) have. It was a delight to be able to participate in a workshop hosted by a therapist.

 

In this money workshop, we all pretended to be a family. Although none of us were related, it did not take long for emotional dynamics to come into play between us.  

 

The first direction was to take the bills out of our wallets and give these bills to the host. Immediately questions of trust were unearthed. Would the money be returned? Should I hold back any bills? Who cares, it’s just money, right? were just some of the dynamics that came up.

 

Next, the host asked for a volunteer to count the money the host was holding. That brought comments like: “How can we trust the counter?” “Are they going to keep the money?” “Can I count the money too to be sure they counted it correctly?”

 

Next, the host asked for a volunteer to divide the pile of money into seven uneven piles (matching the number of participants.) The host then picked up a pile, gave it to the first person, picked up the next, gave it to the second person and continued to distribute the piles like this until all the piles were distributed.  As you can imagine, this created quite a stream of comments as some felt short changed while others felt like they got a good deal from the initial amount they had given the host. One person felt like a weight had been taken off his shoulders as the pile he got was more than what he had borrowed from another player to give to the host (he did not have any bills in his wallet.) One person left the game frustrated that this was “going nowhere. You’re just moving money here and some of it was my money that I no longer have.”

 

The host then told us to put any money that we had above the smallest amount a player had in their hand, in a pile on the floor. Each participant now had the same amount of money in their possession. Tension turned to relief and awkward laughter.

 

The host asked everyone to talk about their favorite charities which we did, one at a time. The host then had us talk about what should be done with the money in the pile on the floor. Should it be returned to the participants or should it be given to one of the charities mentioned by us? We had seven minutes to reach consensus. We did not reach consensus. The host then had everyone pick a number from a hat. He called out a number and the person holding that number was identified. The host then told us we had another five minutes to reach a consensus about what to do with that money or it would go to the person holding the number he called. Still no consensus so the host gave the money in the middle of the floor to the person whose number he had announced.

 

Two people were okay with the outcome; two people were outraged that their money had been “taken from them”; one person asked what the person who was awarded the money was going to do with their new money? The person with the money said they would either give it to the charity they had defended or they would return it to each participant so they could be made whole. But the group had to come to a consensus on which choice to make. The decision was to give it to the organization that the person holding the money had talked about.

 

We then debriefed on the exercise, paying close attention to the emotions we exhibited and the feelings we had during the various sections of the money exercise. I found myself noting reactive behaviors triggered by feelings I had as a child around money.

 

Money exercises are a wonderful way to experience beliefs and emotions around money. You can identify patterns of behaviors that are unproductive and introduce new patterns of behaviors that encourage productive habits and behaviors around your money. Often, we hide and bury these feelings but they can come up in the oddest places.  

 

If you would like to explore a money exercise with your family or group, let me know. I would be delighted to develop a money workshop for you.

Sometimes, Money is Hard to Talk About. But…

When money can be talked about without the added emotions of hidden blame or unrelenting shame, money conversations can become like other productive conversations: meaningful and connective.  When money conversations become supportive rather than decisive, money conversations can be engaging and powerful. Instead of blaming others for their behaviors or shaming ourselves for behaviors and habits we are exhibiting, we become supportive of another’s and our own objectives with money. We become engaged in conversations as we understand others and our own motives and intentions with their and our own money. We can then put in play powerful actions to attain our common objectives. What makes this transformation from feeling divided to feeling unified around money?

When we understand each other’s views and stories about money, we become more engaged with their struggles and triumphs with money. When we take money “out of the closet” of isolation, blame, or shame, and bring it into our shared lives, as partners and as a family, money becomes a productive tool.

What restrains you from talking about money? Is it lack of confidence on your ability to make consistently good decisions about money? Is it an inability to engage your partner in conversations you think are important with your money?   Is it an inability to know how to approach planning your financial goals? Is it an inability find time to spend on financial matters and if you had the time, not knowing how to frame a conversation on financial matters? Is it a fear that conversations about money will lead to tension or disinterest from your partner? These can be dealt with productively and effectively.

The first question you can ask someone you share finances with is:  What is important about money to you? And let them response without interruption from you. You can learn a lot by asking this one question.

When you find out what is important about money to yourself and to those with whom you share financial interests, money will transform from being hard to talk about to being a welcomed subject of conversation in your house.

Let me know what keeps you isolated with your money or, how you have created a bridge from isolation around your money to it being a productive tool in your and your family’s life.

 

img_5830

Prepare Your Family for Money It Will be Inheriting

It is estimated that 20,000 families will each transfer over $20,000,000 to the next generation next year. They will continue doing so, it is forecasted, for the next twenty-nine years. Although this may sound fortuitous, research tells us that 70% of these families will find their wealth gone by the end of the second generation and by the end of the third generation 90% of these families will find their wealth squandered or spent. Unless they take steps to keep the wealth, families will find themselves falling into this statistic.

Money that has been amassed, will be gone, for most families, by the time their grandchildren are thinking about what they can pass to their heirs.  The great estate and trust planning coupled with the precise tax and investment positioning, although essential, is not enough. There is an element that most families do not put in place to ensure that their money passes to next generations intact. And that missing element is the preparation of the family for the receipt of the money.

Heirs need a blueprint and a roadmap to know how to sustain the wealth through the generations. They need to master skills of leadership, and family cohesion to successfully steward their new responsibilities associated with the money. Only when families have and master the roadmap to success, will they be able to grow cohesively as a family for many generations.

 

Let me know how your family is attending to preparing the family for its roles as financial beneficiaries. What kind of conversations are you having? How do family members feel about this forthcoming transfer? How is the family talking about the transfer of financial stewardship?

img_5830

Saving Money Is Easier When You Do This

Saving money is difficult for some people. It’s just too easy to part with those bills taking up space in your wallet. Plus, those bills are worn and small denominations. Why keep them when you can just get rid of them on a mindless transaction.

 

There have been several studies, and a recent one, found in the Journal of Consumer Research, stated that: “The physical appearance of money can alter spending behavior. Consumers tend to infer that worn bills are used and contaminated, whereas crisp bills give them a sense of pride in owning bills that can be spent around others,” concluded authors Fabrizio Di Muro an Theodore j. Noseworthy.

 

Participants in several studies were given worn or new bills and their behaviors were observed as they went shopping. The participants favored the newer and crisper bills and they favored larger bills. By favoring, the participants were less eager to part with the crisper bills and would exchange worn bills for goods even if a crisper bill was of a smaller and more appropriate denomination.

 

So, if you want to save money, give yourself crisper bills. If you want someone else to save the money you give them, give them crisper bills as well.

 

Look at how you use your worn versus crisper bills and if you do not have crisp bills, ask the cashier for them when requesting change or ask your bank teller for crisp bills when they give you cash. Tell me your experience with your worn and crisp bills. Which do you favor?   img_5829

Pay Yourself Second, You Will Come Out Ahead

Everywhere you go there seems to be a line whether you are buying your coffee or tea, getting through airport security, waiting for a table at a restaurant, there is always a line.

 

It may not be as visible, but your money has a line forming for it also. Who is always first in line for it? Why, your favorite uncle, Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam demands to get paid and does what he can to stay #1 in line for his portion. Taxes always come out first in a financial transaction. Uncle Sam demands immediate compensation from a deal. But who is second in line for your money?

 

It depends. For many it is the merchant like the grocery or retail store. For some it is the account that you have agreed to pay second like a settlement, alimony, or a collection payout. I want you to reconsider who should be second in line and if this person is not already there, I want you to put them second in line.

 

I want you to place yourself second in line, after that demanding Uncle.  I want you to be as adamant about being second as Uncle Sam is about being first in line.  And be as adamant about that as Uncle Sam is about being first. I want you to take your position seriously and responsibly by having a plan and manifesting that plan so the money you have for yourself builds and supports the life you want.

 

Think of the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money© and determine how you are going to allocate the money you will have by paying yourself second to Saving, Investing, Donating, Earning, and Spending. When the money comes you then are ready to allocate it as you planned to those five S.I.D.E.S. of your financial life.

 

Be fanatical about putting money into those 5 S.I.D.E.S every time you have money pass through your hands-without exception and you will become a steward of your own money. You will come out ahead.

 

Leave a comment on how you make sure you pay yourself second.

Is the Financial Retirement Model Broken?

A recent article from Motley Fool revealed startling numbers about retirement savings. While ten percent of 55-64 year olds have a nest egg of $730,405 or more, the vast majority have $305,302 or less in their retirement nest egg. The Government Accountability Office released a report last year ( http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/670153.pdf ) which, in part, spoke to the financial status of people ages 55-64. They found that 41% of households had no retirement savings while an additional 20% had up to $100,000 saved.

Rather than lash out at potential consequences to this today, I am going to look at it from another point of view.

We are now looking at the third generation of retiree’s preparedness for retirement and finding it the same as the last two: not enough in savings….by a long shot. Why?

I think this is so because I think that the financial retirement model is primarily geared for three paradigms: the rare individual who saves like crazy, the individual who is lucky in the company they keep (stock grants) and those individuals who either inherit or have a career, winnings, pension, or golden parachute that ensures their financial security.

I am going to go out on a limb and say saving for retirement is not within reach of most people. Our culture, while promoting saving does little to encourage it. Instead, our culture invests a lot of effort to help and guide people to part with their money.

We have tried to “make” and encourage people to save. They are not or cannot do it There is something broken here.

I’m just sayin’. What about you? Leave me a comment on your reaction to this.

The Financial Crisis…in my Head or Did the Alarm Go Off and I Didn’t Hear it?

Oil plummets, stocks plummet. Are we where we were in 2000 and 2008 or is Chicken Little at it again, screaming to anyone who will listen that the sky is falling? Are we there, with another financial meltdown which will take a 2-3 years to recover? I don’t know. I do see the effects of the media shouts. I do note how I react.

Unlike March of 2000, when I took all investments off the table right before the crash, I am still in the market. Unlike Sept of 2008 when analysts and pundits were continuing to assure the public that everything was fine, and I decided to listen to them instead of myself, and only took some money off the table, I listen much more to what I need from my own money.

The inaction I took in 2008 taught me a valuable lesson. Regardless of what analysts think or say that may turn out to be right or wrong, first listen to yourself. In this case, about money and the markets, it was and is today: what do I want from investing? Am I trying to turn $100,000 into $1,000,000 in 10 years? Am I trying to preserve what I have? Am I trying to do both? What do I want from investing? Am I trying to make some “educated bets” knowing only a few, if any, will actually succeed? Why am I investing? This question is not asking for the quick, knee jerk response like “I am investing for retirement.” Because that statement does not have enough substance to it. What retirement? When? On how much? Doing what? For how long? Am I willing to question my advisor’s strategy during tough financial times; questions like: What is your strategy during tough financial times? How do you define tough times? What have you done in the past during tough time? How will we build a strategy for me? How will you monitor it?

Sometimes you can’t know what you need until you know what you want.

Once you know why you are investing, you can begin to forge a system of how to invest. Let’s say you have $50,000 which you want to grow to $100,000 in 10 years. When you talk to your investment advisor, build a strategy to take you there. As there are no guarantees in the financial markets, be sure to include accountable measures and milestones so you can readjust your portfolio, take “winnings” off the table, and help guide your portfolio to its mark rather than rely the passive ups and downs of the market. Have a strategy to take money off the table in the event a downturn occurs so you feel safe and your money is protected.

Don’t wait for the firefighter to let you know your house is burning. Install an alarm in the house that is set to go off when certain events happen to warn you to do something.

Leave me a note about how you deal with your own financial head talk, especially in financially tough times.

When Roles Are Reversed and the Kids Pay…Cool, Right?!

When asked about what impact their money would have on the lives of their heirs, a recent study found that 65% of the responders said there would be too much focus on material things, 55% said their heirs would not understand the value of money, 52% said their heirs would spend beyond their means, and 50% said that their heirs’ initiative would be ruined by money.  It looks like money does carry emotional baggage with it.

How do you teach your children about money when it can be a source of contention within your own homes or even worse, you hardly talk about it because you and your partners’ views on money are so different?

We use the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money© concept (save, invest, donate, earn and spend) to build strong and productive habits with money. Because money comes with so many emotional charges, it is important to know what money means to you. As money is a resource, it is important that there be conversations about the impact to the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money© can have in your life.  In learning how you view, succeed at, are challenged by these “sides” you learn a lot about your stories and sustainable behaviors around money.

To illustrate this, here is an example of an exercise a family devised for themselves. The parents were frustrated with their children’s casual view of money. They decided to reverse roles with their children for one night. One evening, the parents told their two children that the next allowance was going to be treated differently. Rather than give an allowance outright for whatever the kids wanted to use it for, this time the allowance was going to be used to treat the family to a night out with dinner and a movie.  “Cool”, the kids thought, until they were reminded their chore money was being used for this.

As their parents explained, this was going to be a “see how the other half lives” experience. “Cool”, the kids again thought as they felt a generous splurge washing over them as they decided where to eat and what movie to see. Cool, right?!

At dinner the children ordered their usual meals. Their parents, instead of ordering their usual fare, decided to order like their children did when the meal was paid for by the parents. In addition to the entrée, the parents each ordered appetizers and dessert.  Once they got to the theater, the parents said they wanted more food and ordered large popcorn, large drinks and extra candy, just like their kids would.

Like their children, the parents did not eat everything. They left most of their entrée on the plate while eating all the dessert. They spilled the drinks at the theater. They tossed some of the candy and popcorn out too…just like their kids. Cool, right?!

Their children were shocked that their parents left food on their plates, food they ordered but didn’t want to eat. The kids couldn’t believe their parents wanted more to eat at the theater. When they saw how much had been spent that evening, the kids were blown away at the total they, the kids had to spend. 

This turned out to be a life lesson for the kids on the value of money to them. It changed their perspective and behaviors with money. Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective. Cool, right?!

Your children want guidance on how to best deal with their own money. Give them experiences with built in lessons for them.

 

How do you teach the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money© with your kids?