Generosity Can Pay Long Lasting Dividends

Wow, money is going out to individuals, businesses, institutions, and non-profits. This not to say it’s enough, that’s another conversation. It is to say that is a gesture of help in crisis. This is a tremendous gesture, certainly the first time in my life to see the government allocating money so broadly. I think this could be a game changer. Time will tell. What do I mean by being a game changer?

We thrive on our independence, our sense of self-reliance, making something of ourselves. We applaud these traits. But sometimes, things can happen out of one’s direct or immediate control and assistance is greatly needed. We are there. This is when generosity is welcomed. 

I think this can become a defining moment when we understand the importance to assisting, quickly, to ease some tension. This is distinct from enabling or casual hand-outs. This is about casting out a net for those for whom a net keeps them afloat rather than falling into the mode of surviving.

For further thought, I pose this question: How can we be generous, supporting growth and self-reliance without sacrificing security, without enabling unhealthy behaviors?

The One Big Tip to Use for Healthy Money Communication

Money and relationships can be difficult to negotiate. One person thinks they are the saver while the other is an unnecessary spender. One likes talking about money while the other avoids the subject, repeatedly.  Because money styles can create disharmony in a couple, here is a huge tip to alleviate tension in money relationships.

Money conversations may be easier to avoid than to have but avoiding money conversations are a detriment to strong relationships. Instead of avoiding money conversations, bring up a topic where you can learn about your partner’s financial upbringing. Ask a question like: What was money like growing up for you? How was money talked about when you were little?  What did you do with money when you were little?  And just listen, without inserting a judgmental or comparative comment. It is essential to understand each other’s attitudes and behaviors around money before trying to affect these attitudes. Nobody wants to feel shame or guilt around a habit they want to break but can’t. They want compassion, encouragement, and empowering support. They want to feel capable not unable.

Money is a very personal area in our lives, so learning to talk about money and how you can put frameworks around money in your relationship, is key. When considering frameworks to build around your financial life, ask each other questions like: What does budgeting mean to you? How have you successfully used it in your life? Where has budgeting been an issue for you? How can we create limits that work for each of us and support what it is we want to accomplish financially?

Money is a topic that can become a strong partner to relationships. Transform judgments, accusations, and disappointing attitudes to questions of inquiry, encouragement, empowerment and support.

Are you like the Egg Farmer or the Chicken Farmer with your Money?

There once were two chicken farmers. Each had a different perspective on the value of their product.

The first farmer valued his eggs. These eggs not only fed his family, they were also a hit in the markets where they were sold. He enjoyed the income his eggs produced He knew this was his security. He counted the eggs every day, minimized the breakage and got them to market quickly. He did not pay great attention to the chickens as he saw them merely as means to an end. He focused on the eggs. If a chicken didn’t produce the targeted number of eggs he had for that chicken, he replaced it with another chicken. His product was the egg.   

The second farmer raised chickens. Her chickens had diverse values to this farmer. They represented growth as the chickens themselves could multiply, providing her a permanent renewal source of fertilizer, food, and little chicks that grew to be chickens. They could be sold or added to the flock. These chickens also represented a source of nutrition to her family and the public, when their egg laying days were over. The chickens also produced eggs, another source of nutrition and income to this farmer. These chickens were well cared for and protected from predators and viruses.  The cost of the care was worth the diversity of income and sustainable growth to this farmer.

With money, some people are like the first farmer. They tend to look at money as having one use: income. like the egg farmer. Other people are like the second farmer. They view their money with a diverse perspective, encompassing growth and income.

Which farmer are you most like?

Which farmer would you like to be?

If you want to transform your money perspective, the Money Focus program is a program you may find useful in transforming your money anxieties to money mastery.  It takes you from where you are with your money behaviors and habits to where you gain control and mastery over your use of your money.

The egg or chicken farmer, which are you? Which do you want to be?

3 Smart Ideas to Manage your Money for Two Incomes

It’s one thing to gain mastery over your own money behaviors and habits but what about when you are in a relationship and the other person’s history, stories and standards with money may be very different than yours. Then what?

In my decades long work with people in helping them gain mastery over their money, I have seen many scenarios undermine couples’ trust with each other over money. Usually it’s a lack of an agreed upon system for money that undermines relationships with money and derails communication between them about their finances.

It’s common for couples to use one person’s income for the basic needs and living expenses while the other’s income is used for the extras like vacation, entertainment, home improvements and upgrades.  But what happens when one person loses a job or has a long term illness, or is on commission and earnings drop?

This system, like many system, may work, when things run “as planned.” But it is smart to think of a contingency plan.

Three alternatives that I like people to consider are:

1      Allocate percentages of both incomes to basic needs, discretionary spending, retirement/investing, donations, and savings. This way, the one with the variable income, knows their contributions are always part of the family “budget” and overspending is reduced when windfalls come in.

2      Determine a yearly budget for savings, investing, donating, basic needs and discretionary spending. Then allocate who and how each will be responsible for that area. Be clear about expectations and possibilities that could impact commitments made by each of you. Develop a system on how to deal with these possibilities that work for both of you.

3      Put all your money in the same account, then allocate to your categories according to agreements you have previously made. Be sure you allocate money to your own spending account about which you do not have to justify to the other person.

No matter which of these systems, another you adopt when there are two incomes, be sure to check in with each other monthly, to see how you each feel about the system you have agreed to use and tweak your agreements as appropriate. Remember to talk to each other respectfully and with the intention of finding a solution when one is needed, rather than attacking each other. It’s smart to manage your money.

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.

It’s Time to Alter the Traditional Financial Security Model

People are living longer lives. More years are being spent post work. And the current model of financial security funded by 401ks and social security is cracking.  Three out of five boomers, according to a recent report from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, are forced to retire due to “layoffs, organizational changes, health concerns and family responsibilities.” Only one in six can retire early, with a secure financial net to carry them through their golden years.  The 2008 “Great Recession” hit the boomers hard as many found their retirement savings severely reduced, were laid off, or could not find increasing salaries above inflation adjustments to fund their lifestyles.

 

Boomers are not alone.  The Generation Xers, born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, are concerned about their financial security. According to the Transamerica 17th annual Retirement Survey, only 12% of Xers are confident they will be able to retire comfortably, 30% have taken a loan or an early withdrawal from their retirement accounts an 86% are concerned that social security will not be there for them when they retire. Their median retirement savings is: $69,000.

 

It is time for a change to the financial model we have in place.

 

I think it is odd that people can work and then find themselves without enough money in their sunset years, after they provided great benefit to companies they worked for. I find it egregious that companies skating on the thin line of ethical standards, can jeopardize the financial security of their employees, while the founders or CEOs raid the company to line their own pockets. I think it is not right that so many retirees do not have a secure financial base at a time of life when they are more prone to disease, increasing costs, and shrinking opportunities. Dementia and Cancer are potentially major financial requirements that can reduce a couple’s assets to almost nothing. I think it is terrible that very capable workers are unable to find jobs due to efficiencies of businesses and now find themselves falling further and further behind financially. These stresses do not help people live productive lives.  

 

It is time for a change.

 

Some countries are looking at alternatives. Canada and Finland and Switzerland, for instance, are looking at a base universal income. Switzerland is talking about a guaranteed income of 30,000 Swiss francs for its citizens. Here in the U.S., Alaska has been paying its residents a dividend since the 1980s. This dividend is based on the oil revenue it produces.

 

What are you experiencing in your community as it examines its own economic security? Let me know. I would love to hear what you experience.

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.

 

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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

Statistics Show We are not Raising Financially Literate Kids

Kids, ages 10-14 scored a 54%, ages 15-18 scored a 60% on a 30 question national financial literacy test. This test measured their ability to save, earn and grow money.

 

Kids have access to money but do they understand how to use money? According to this financial literacy test, no. Of course, they know how to spend but can they count the change they have received? Is it the correct amount?  Next time you have a transaction where you give a $20 bill for an item costing less than $10 watch the change making ability of the cashier. How easy or hard is it for your child to determine if the cashier gave them right change when the register does not tell them what the correct change should be?

 

Do kids check their receipts to make sure they were charged correctly?  Research conducted in 2012 by uSwitch found that 70% of consumers were overcharged on a bill in the last year…and did not know it until it was pointed out to them.

 

Just how familiar are kids with making change, with being charged correctly, or with being overcharged? When they see these habits in adults who show them how to model behaviors, it is easier for them to do the same. When kids do not see a model to imitate, checking receipts or counting change can be embarrassing. They feel uncomfortable not trusting or believing the cashier. They have not been taught how to properly deal with this.

 

It’s time to teach kids about money. After all they use it every day and checking their receipts and counting their change is a good habit to learn. You might even decide to reward them for discrepancies they find.  This will go a long way to raising health financially literate kids.

 

Leave a comment and tell me what you do to encourage and build your kids’ healthy money habits? Let me know if you need help with this endeavor. We can help.

Sometimes a Quote Can Say It All

I was reading some quotes I have and wanted to share with you a few of the money quotes. I find them to be thought provoking. I offer them to you in the same spirit in which I have read them:

 

Money, it takes a lifetime to build it, an instant to lose it. What are you doing to safeguard your money?

 

Money, it is easier to make money than it is to keep it. With the marketing machine constantly reaching out to us, we have to know the purpose of our money or we will most likely part with it too easily.

 

The secret to money is knowing what yours is for. Yes, yes and yes to this one! You make good choices because of the heroes, models, mentors and experiences who guide your thinking in the proper way. Who are your money and financial role models?

 

Money without meaning is like candy without a wrapper. It’s too easy to devour without restraint.

 

This year, money and I will be friends, and not part company as easily and as often as last year. Put the processes in place and use the tools to make this so. Measure your behaviors so you can tweak your progress.

 

Let me know which quote resonates with you. If you have another money quote you like, let me know that too.