Financial Stress: Leading the Elephant out of the Room
Financial stress is the “elephant in the middle of the room.” It is there, plain as day. It affects everything and everyone, but nobody is talking about it. Regardless of the news on television or all the expert testimonials that the economy is on the up-swing, many of us are still struggling with our finances and the aftermath of the Great Recession. As a Financial Coach, I have developed some key strategies for families to get back on track. I will be using my blog to share these with you.
Our first topic will be Crucial Conversations.
“Something’s gotta change!”
“We just can’t live like this anymore!”
“Why do we keep falling further and further behind?”
Ever think that you are the only one asking these questions? The truth is, many of us are still climbing out of the financial pit that we stepped, fallen or were pushed into. The journey is difficult and many are wondering if there will ever be solid ground again.
The answer is a resounding YES! There is a light; we just have to look for it, together. So let’s start talking…
First you must have an honest conversation with yourself. (Careful – talking to yourself out loud in public may get you a snug little white jacket.) You know that changes need to be made, but are you ready to make them? What is your emotional attachment to money? Why do you spend money the way you do? Are you ready to be honest about your spending? Can you forgive yourself and move on to a better tomorrow? Questions, questions…but the answers are telling and begin forging your foundation for financial and even emotional recovery!
Till Death and Bad Finances do Us Part
We talk about sex in this country more than we talk about money…and even with our spouse. We’ve all done it…the new blouse in the back of the closet with the tag neatly clipped off, the Cabela’s bag tucked behind the luggage in the garage, the bonus check or savings account that your spouse knows nothing about. All of this seems innocent and minor, but when we get into a situation where our finances have gotten out of control, having to “come clean” with all of our money secrets can be what sends us over the edge. Couples that are working together for a common financial goal are 100% more successful than those that are operating on a singular plain under the ruse of marital bliss. Have an honest conversation with your significant other under the protection of a 48-hour “grace period.” This is a safe zone to come clean and air all of our financial dirty laundry. Get it out…shake it and then get together with an agreed upon plan to get things cleaned up and keep them that way. Sometimes a mediator is a good idea…or writing it down and sharing in a neutral place. Do what works best for you and your partner. If you feel like your situation requires some coaching, ask for assistance.
Kids These Days!
Kids are the biggest budget busters that walk the earth. In particular, with single parents, we have a tendency to love our children with money. We feel guilty about our situation, our lack of time or ability to keep up with the other parent, or the parents of our children’s friends, so we buy and buy. Our children have an Xbox One and a smartphone, but there is not a dime left for the college fund or even our retirement for that matter. Kids are resilient….and smart! Give them an opportunity to become problem solvers and stakeholders in your home. Explain your family finances to them in an age appropriate manner. Allow them to have input on ways to trim costs. Ask them to help discover ways for the family to spend quality time together without spending very much money. You will be surprised at their creativity and they will be more engaged when they realize that their opinion is valued. (Practice, practice, practice! Remember, they are kids.)
This conversation is quick and easy, but no less important. We don’t have to tell our families that we are broke. However, we can say, “We are setting some family goals for 2015 and are making different choices so that we are better able to successfully reach them. Christmas and birthdays are going to look a little different this year.” The rest is up to you, but letting people know that you are making changes helps avoid awkward questions, hurt feelings and the dreaded rumor mill. It also may spark productive conversations that can start a revolution in your whole family. Imagine a holiday season where beautiful lights and Christmas music once again bring you joy, regardless of the day they begin. No more will the fear and burden of debt dampen a time that was never supposed to be more being thankful for and spending time with family. Debt is slavery…together, we can break those chains.