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Money and marriage: United we stand

Feb 17th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Successful couples tend to have clearly communicated and defined financial expectations. This does not mean there’s only one right way of handling the family finances.

It does, however, mean that there are certain principles, which if followed consistently, will yield tremendous dividends — the most important one being peace of mind. How do we get peace of mind financially, given the unprecedented worldwide economic crisis we’re facing?

The answer is simple: United we stand — divided we fall! When it comes to making the money decisions in our homes, who’s actually in charge?

Is it the primary breadwinner? Is it the spouse who’s typically more aware of the daily needs of the family? Or is there a third option: making mutually agreed-upon decisions? In my years of counseling with couples, I’ve had the opportunity to observe up close their decision-making process in a variety of areas, including their financial.

In some marriages, all financial decisions fall to one spouse exclusively.

For example: “I make the money, therefore I get to say how it’s spent,” is one particular approach.

Or in reverse, “I make the money but I turn it all over to you, and I expect you to take care of all the bills”.”

This approach works for some couples for quite a while.

Unfortunately, when a decision is made that yields a financial disaster, all bets are off. The blaming game begins, and it can turn ugly very quickly.

Whoever made the bad decision stands accused of ruining the security and stability of the home, and the subsequent consequences can have a devastating effect on the marriage. Trust is eroded and at times, it may be years before it’s truly restored. Anger, feelings of betrayal and contention poison the marital relationship.

Let’s talk about the third option of making mutually agreed-upon financial decisions, especially major decisions.

Buying a home, a car, making investments, saving for college, and paying off debts would all fall under this category. Here’s the main reason why this is a must: If I make a financial decision without my wife’s support and it works out, I look like the “winner” and she looks like the “loser.” The sin of pride is not that far behind. But if I make the decision unilaterally and it backfires, then she has every right to let me have it, especially since she was against it from the very beginning. In either scenario we end up on opposite ends — and thus, divided we fall!

If we discuss and make a decision mutually and it works out, we’ll both feel great about the outcome. It brings us even closer together and makes our trust level go even higher!

The confidence that we share propels us to more mutually agreed-upon decisions, even in other areas of our marriage. Success breeds more success.

Sometimes it’s entirely possible that even though we’ve made a financial decision together, it turns out badly. It could be due to the actions of others (like a fraudulent investment), or because of forces beyond our control (like the stock market crashing).

Since we’re united to begin with, we can be united in our unforeseen outcome. At least there’ll no blaming going around, but more of a feeling that we’re in this together. As long as we stay close to each other and the Lord, we’ll be able to overcome it.

Finally, I’d like to address how the Lord can play a significant role in our monetary decisions.

What happens if we have a disagreement about a major financial decision like purchasing a particular home? The best way my wife and I have resolved this dilemma is by going to the Lord and praying about what is right. This may sound a little peculiar to some, especially for those not of our faith.

At first I found it uncomfortable myself, but over time I have come to realize and trust the answers I have received.

When I’ve ignored those answers, I’ve paid dearly — and I don’t mean just financially. When I’ve listened, however, it has always worked out. Standing united in our financial decisions will be a blessing above and beyond our financial successes!

Kids, Gifts and Christmas

Dec 15th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Last week I was interviewed for an editorial article on the topic of children and gifts during this holiday season … and it got me thinking. As parents how well do we prepare are kids for the onslaught of advertisement? Our children are bombarded from television ads, online ads, and every other form of advertisement with the latest “must-have” toys, electronic gadgets and cool clothes.

I hear parents all the time, say that they HAVE to get their kids the latest “stuff” because their kids NEED them! Furthermore, parents are experiencing a lot of anxiety because this year more than any in recent past, their budget is rather limited. Everyone knows that we are in a tough economic period. For most people, born after the Great Depression, this has come as quite a shock! They don’t want to let their kids down, who have grown used to getting everything that they ask for.

This is a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids the difference between wants and needs. When kids say “I need to have the latest iPod, (even though I have two more, but they’re old…”), they misunderstand needs vs. wants. Needs are basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothing, guidance, and love. Wants are everything else that the advertisers have very cleverly made SO appealing.

Given the current budgetary restraints of most households, this is a great time to teach kids the importance of prioritizing. If they have ten things that they want for Christmas, perhaps it would help them (and their parents) to pick their top 3! If there’s only enough money to buy the top gift, then when birthdays or graduations come around, the parents can get them #2 and #3 on the list. It will teach the kids patience and a real understanding, that in life you don’t always get what you want, nor do you get it instantly. Delayed gratification is one of the signs of maturity. Or, even better, how about if the children work to do extra chores around the house or the neighborhood and earn the money for # 2 or #3 themselves!

Another problem I’ve seen is that far too many parents equate lots of gift giving to giving lots of love. I believe this is called a “parental shortcut.” Good parenting is spending quality time with your children, resolving issues, listening patiently and expressing love, support and tenderness. Honestly when kids grow up they don’t remember the toys. They remember the special times spent together as a family. They remember the traditions, the laughter, the games, the Christmas songs around the fireplace. They remember the activities, like building a snowman, going sledding and having snowball “wars.”

The truth is that gifts break or get lost, sometimes the very same day that they are opened! On the other hand, happy, joyful memories are NEVER lost! That’s what makes our childhood so special…and that’s the best gift of all for us as parents to give to our children!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Families and Money

Oct 15th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

Thank you for addressing so many questions about marriage and
relationships in general. I know a lot of couples are benefiting from
your answers! My question has to do with finances which is something a
little different…In these VERY uncertain times, financially, what
would you recommend for couples and families to do. I realize that you
are not a financial expert or adviser, but I respect your answers in
other topics, so I wanted to know your thoughts.


Dear Jackie,

Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. Your question about
finances and families couldn’t have been more timely. I know there are
SO many families who are struggling to deal with their ever-dwindling
financial resources. These are very difficult times for the average
family with seemingly no end in sight. Every day we are bombarded from
the media with more negative or troubling news.

You are correct when you say that I am not a financial expert. I can
share with you however, the counsel that I received when I was about to
get married many years ago. I have shared this counsel with many
individuals and couples over the last two decades with great results. A
really good friend of mine and very successful, I might add, who worked
in the financial sector shared it with me. At the time I was in graduate
school, with some debt because of school loans and some credit card
debt. He told me that finances were easy, if we all did 4 things every
month. Can you believe he said that it was EASY???

I was a little skeptical at first, but listened intently as he explained
to me this financial plan. “First thing you do is pay the Lord every
month! No exceptions whatsoever!” I was not surprised by that so much,
as I was by the second step which was to pay myself. He told me that
“after the Lord you must put yourself…Right now it might be $5 a month
(at the time that was the price of a movie ticket)…afterwards it could
be $50, $500 or even more.” The point was to recognize the importance of
savings early on.

The third step was to “pay your bills and do it on time: no late fees,
no bounced checks and most importantly NO INTEREST.” The only exceptions
were for a mortgage, car and school loans. The fourth step was my
favorite. He said, “If you have any money left over, go out with your
wife and enjoy yourselves!”

Like I said before, I’m no expert, but this sound financial advice has
been helpful during good times and tough times, like what most are
experiencing right now. I hope that’s helpful…Good luck implementing it!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

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