Like most people I don’t like to discuss money. And no, this is not prelude to me asking you for some. It is the outcome of the necessity of the last few years to take a good hard look at how I view money and finances and how to resolve the vast differences on a few simple points between my husband and I.
It is time to file the Alfred E Neuman attitudes away
Where we are similar obscured the effect of the differences. We are similar in both being essentially frugal, although in greatly different ways. The different ways are derived from the imbalance of over-responsibility on my part and irresponsibility on his part… although this is inverted in certain areas ( there are areas where he is the over responsible one and I am the shiftless irresponsible one). But it ends up that neither of us are high-fliers when it comes to how we spend money. We try to economize. I drive him crazy when I insist on doing some grocery shopping at Whole Foods, he gets me incendiary when overlooking ( does he stick his head in the sand or what?) fees and penalties, but this is as close as either of us come to being a “spendthrift”. We are slowing coming to terms with being on each other’s side in this thing, and that is good for both our marriage and our finances. Past experience shows we are a powerhouse team when we work together. It just hasn’t always worked easily in that direction.
I am so glad he is reading all those financial self-help books because he has this invisible pair of ear plugs when it comes to listening to me. On come on- if you are married you know it happens.
Those books have much more than little helpful hints in them, they actually have economics and life philosophy. And as I mentioned before, I am loathe to give up my money philosophy (money doesn’t matter…. ‘can’t tell a book by its cover’…. etc), even though I have had to adjust it through the years. The old religious thinking that predates my Christian rebirth has some residual tags that drag on me, too. Poverty is not a virtue, even though I had picked up the idea it was. I must say that in mantra form… while reconciling it with its contrary myth that wealth means virtue. Those are the two ideas- diametrically conflicting ones that I was brought up with. I think it was a legacy of unresolved desires on the maternal side that were passed on to me. From my father’s side comes some ideas of working hard and saving- the more you save and deny yourself the more virtuous you are… but the working hard part is eclipsed by my husbands German background. Hook them up to the harness and they will run in circles til they drop, eyelids flickering. My style is to keep rethinking and quitting then start and run through through the process again. These two opposing attributes in our marriage are examples of very useful traits , but only when in proper application in specific circumstances. Often they simply clashed. It has come time to rework the philosophies and habits of thinking- on both our parts.
In thinking about it, the hard work ideal tends towards more consistent reward, but where mine comes in is the assessment of “at what cost, personally?”, and to what end eventually?. I wish we weren’t sin-bent humans sometimes. I wish we were better at just taking God at His word, because God has lots of good advice in the area of finances. Wishes~ ah well.
As women we are often in a no-win situation of being told how empowered we are, and often depended upon to bring in income or help pay bills in some way, but with the tether of seeing finances as a man’s job, or being reticent to ask for more real decision making responsibility. It is a tough balance for many of us, and the way we often deal with it is to go on for years in ignorance. Not that men don’t sometimes fall into this trap themselves. Like [not] making wills or funeral plans, etc.
It isn’t always a gender role – it just tends to fall along those lines.
But being good stewards is a genderless obligation. We all have only 24 hours in our day and only a certain amount of time on the earth to get things accomplished. We all are stewards of the basic commerce of the time given us.
Would the books like “Who Moved My Cheese??” or “The Millionaire Next Door” have made any difference when we began our marriage? I don’t think so, unfortunately. We were children of our generation, disdaining money and such low aspirations for our lives, and we made other choices when many jumped onto the Yuppy wagon. I don’t regret our choices, which included a large family, but
I wish we had been more I just believe the impact of the consequence of our attitudes which struck so hard was unforeseen. If I had only had one child I still would have been saddled with the results of the ignorance of how to view and use money; so it isn’t the choices as much as the attending money myths we worked with. This partly from parents who liked to use money to control, and left little knowledge of how to be responsible and knowledgeable financially. Essentially, though, a case of accepting ones own generational myths and lies.
Success is more than just hard work, although hard work is a component. It is more than just self-denial or delayed gratification, although that is certainly very important. There is a whole system of wisdom of knowing when to spend and when to save, of priorities and of accountability. In this day of social security insecurity, there is a wake up call for us to educate ourselves in financial responsibility. And it isn’t just one lesson. As well as the fact that success has more than one definition to it.
At one point my husband and I were without any debt. None. We didn’t live luxuriously at that time, but slowly we let debt creep in with a number of bad habits. My husband led the way- but I followed with a vengeance. And we made some unfortunate decisions, too… but some of that is “live and learn”. For now, we are plugging up the drain of credit… slashing some of the expenses that we can… and trying to play catch up with investing. We are in a forced situation somewhat like what has been suggested as the solution for the social security bust that is ahead: trying to personally invest. Although coming up with an IRA out of a break-even income isn’t easy. I think self-employment is over rated when a person’s core personality is not taken into account. But then some people who were employed with the promise of pensions have been left out in the cold at times, too. What is the perfect plan for the future? There is none that depends upon the insights of man… but there are some that have more chance to work than others.
And that is where this finds me. It is time to file the Alfred E. Neuman attitudes away. Time to take care of business.