Monday Money – Starting the Conversation.

This is the first of a series on Finacial Literacy where I will look at the things that I have done to change my personal financial wellbeing.  It is based on experience, the good, the bad and the ugly of getting financially healthy.

I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be anything other than someone who has experienced a number of different factors and am achieving financial success. Both my parents worked when we were growing up, six children plus a number of foster kids, a number of pets, the usual type of crazy household. Money was never a topic of discussion that I can remember when growing up. Both my Grandfathers were the bread winners in the family, whilst one of my Grandmothers had an academic position at the University of Western Australia her income was never a consideration. As I grew up I learnt that hard work didn’t always pay off, whilst it went some of the way to achieving success, alone it wasn’t enough. One set of Grandparents ended up in State housing, never owning their own house, the other Grandparents did very well. Both worked equally hard. So why the difference? I’ll look at this question later.

As a result of the way I was brought up, I believe I have a fairly liberated view on a number of things, I have four sisters and one brother (he’s gay so I’m not sure how to count this). I was, and still am interested in all the sports and outdoorsy types of things. I wasn’t taught to be male, in fact my parents worked very hard to bring us up with a balanced view on life. Despite their best efforts, I fell into the role of being the bread winner and financial manager of my first household. The woman I first married was an outstanding financial manager, she had saved a huge amount of money in her own right. I on the other hand was living pay to pay and just managing to make things last.

Our marriage, purchase of our house and then the arrival of our first child threw all sorts of different things into the mix. We went from a two income family to a single income in a matter of months, with then the sudden increase in interest rates to 17%, it became a struggle of a magnitude that you have to live through before you realise how hard things could be. We had done the cut backs on living expenses, trimmed to a point where there was nothing left, especially food. So I got a second job, then a third and the odd fourth one to make ends meet. I managed to keep the family afloat without having to refinance the house or lose anything along the way. Of course as the interest rates came down again, life became easier.

Ok, so if you are still reading this, then I haven’t totally bored you! The reason for starting off the introduction this way is to let you know that I am an ordinary family man, yes I am special in lots of ways and am proud of what I have achieved. So what have I done? I am on my second marriage, have 2 little children, survived the first divorce (wasn’t something I had planned or thought would happen), own 2 properties outright, have 2 investment properties that are positively geared (they make me money) have about $60k savings, no credit card debt, own my own cars (yes there is more than 1) and best of all can pay all the bills when they come in not having to stress about where the money is coming from.

There are 2 ways that I have been able to succeed financially in my life, in the 80’s it was a case of working harder, more jobs with more income, and now, 20 or so years later, it is a case of budgeting to make the money go further. Looking at the first scenario in the 80’s we had cut back on all that we could doing everything to make the fortnightly income go as far as we could. Things like not turning on lights, no phone calls (mobiles weren’t an issue) walking to the shops, nothing extra. When that still didn’t achieve the desired result, get another job! Sounds easy, but it wasn’t at all, it meant that I had less time with the family which wasn’t what I wanted as I wanted to be at home with my baby son. It worked for us at the time, put food on the table and kept the roof over our heads.

The financial situation wasn’t something we discussed. As the bread winner, it was my responsibility to make enough money to cover the expenses. When we did talk about money it ended in arguments every time. So the point of all this is to consider how do you start the conversation about money without it leading to an argument?

I am not saying that I am the typical male because I really am not sure of what that actually is. I would say though that I do react in the way that a lot of my male friends do when it comes to discussing money, especially with my partner. No matter which one of us brings up the topic, there is an air of defence on my part and apprehension about what is being asked or questioned, even discussed in the conversation. I have no idea what evokes this reaction to having money discussed as it is our money and I am not solely responsible for it, yet I am.

Knowing that having a conversation about money is going to be an emotional roller coaster leads many people to not having the discussion because it is safer. So how best to start talking about money, being open and honest with each other, to work together in getting ahead financially? From the male’s perspective, I don’t think there is a good way to start. Sorry for the females. If a cold beer, favourite meal, something special is organised, suspicion is raised. When the husband comes in with the flowers or chocolates, suspicion is raised. It is just an automatic response that needs to be worked through. Of course all the reassurances along the way don’t help either! It really is tough for the wife in this situation to bring up the topic of money with the husband. I don’t think it matters how strong a marriage is, there is going to be a reaction of some sort by the husband that there is a question about their fiscal management ability, even if this isn’t the intent.

From the male side of things there are similar issues about bringing up the topic of finances. Is it a sign of weakness or am I not doing something right to be able to make the money go as far as it should? If I bring up the topic, is she going to think that I am questioning what she is spending the money on, how she manages the shopping and other running costs of the house? As I sit and pay bills on pay day, knowing that there isn’t enough money for all of them and the fortnightly expenses, how do I say we have a problem as I am the one in charge of the money!

Financial management is one of the household chores, something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Think about how the household chores are sorted out, has there been a discussion about who will do what? Do you work together on any of them? Are there chores that you could work together on? Or are there chores that you really WON’T work together on? So many questions. Is this perhaps the place to start talking about financial management as part of the overall running and management of the household or family unit, as a whole rather than an individual chore?

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Capricious on October 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Great first post. I’m looking forward to reading more each Monday and hopefully picking up some more financial tips:)


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