A candid conversation is on the money

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

The way people see and use money affects how they live and interact, as well as how they invest. Money influences, and in some cases dominates, how people function in their marriage and relationships, how they treat their children and how they plan for their legacies.
Some parents do not see the irony of setting up a college fund for their youngsters, while failing to have a will or even term life insurance to protect their families.
There are several reasons for these money attitudes, but few would deny that money helps form a person’s personality and view of the world.
However, it amazes me how many married couples have never really sat down and discussed how they feel about money.
Take Scott, who came from a wealthy family. His father was a successful entrepreneur who had an expensive home and servants. When Scott was 16, his father’s business failed, and his father became seriously ill. Scott attended a state university, worked full-time, took a full course load and sent money home. He learned how to control his time and money, because he had to.
Today, he works 70 hours a week, rarely takes vacations and earns more than $500,000 a year. He sees money as a security blanket, to be used wisely. He doesn’t like waste. He is uncomfortable with the "show" of wealth.
His wife Sarah’s father died when she was 2 years old. Sarah’s mother worked seven days a week to support herself and her two daughters. Sarah became the surrogate mother. She learned to be thrifty and still shops only at sales.
Scott handles the family’s money, and Sarah feels as if she needs his approval for all home expenses over $100.
Sarah will spend $200 on a dinner, but cringes at paying $20 to park in Chicago. Sarah loves to shop, which she views as entertainment. In part, she sees money as a way to buy things she was denied as a child.
Scott and Sarah knew they viewed money quite differently when they got married, but they talk about it and they have parameters for how their money is spent.
How do you start this family dialogue about money? Here are some tips:
1. Talk about what part money has in your life. Listen to your partner. Tell stories.
2. Make an inventory of what you have. Do a budget on how much you spend as well as how you spend.
3. List your current and future obligations. Do you have children who you want to go to college? Do you have aged parents who need your help? Do you view these events as your responsibility?
4. Ask yourself if you are a saver, an investor or a spender.
5. When you make a minor purchase, how do you decide?
6. Have you provided for the basics? Do you have life insurance? A will? Who will take care of your children if you both die?
7. What are your dreams? Your goals for later years? How are you preparing for these goals? Try to create a budget together. List your basic expenses.
8. Lastly, recognize what role money plays in your life and your relationships. Recognize its part, but don’t let it fully color how you love or receive love in return.

Bob Chernow is a Milwaukee businessman.

June 10, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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