Money & You – March 2013

One for the Money

By Tommy Haws

The following borrows heavily from the original author, Marvin J. Ashton, republished in 2007.

According to the American Bar Association, somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% of divorces in the U.S. claim disagreement over money to be a major contributing factor.  There have been many counselors that claim that 4 out of 5 American families are strapped with money problems.

Marvin J. Ashton, a financial consultant and businessman who later in life became a religious leader, as well, gave several tips on how to prevent this situation.  The twelve tips are his; the personal application and comments are mine.

1. Teach your family early the importance of working and earning.  Teaching our children to work at an early age is an important skill set.  When they know that work is a worthwhile and noble thing, they embrace the opportunity and appreciate the value of a dollar much sooner.  When all material goods are freely given without thought or expectation of earning any of it, we become much like goldfish who do not know who is dropping down the fish flakes in our bowl each day and don’t really much care, either.  Chores and expectations of helping maintain your home are the building blocks to appreciate the value of work later.

2. Teach Children to make money decisions in keeping with their capacities to comprehend.  If all we ever say is “save your money” it does not mean much.  But if we say, “save for our family vacation” or “save for that video game you want,” suddenly the value of saving means something.  Often, my children will ask for something they want.  We find out very soon that they really do not want as much as they say they do, because they are not willing to pay the price to get what they want unless it can be instantly given.

3. Teach each family member to contribute to the total family welfare.  Is there a common cause to which we might contribute together – such as the care of a sick family member, a sibling at college, etc.?  This fosters unity and teaches the value of sacrificing our own time or money in order to work for a common cause.

4. Teach family members that paying financial obligations promptly is part of integrity and honesty development.  One of the only things we can truly develop is our own good name.  Paying our obligations is part of creating a good name for ourselves and our family.  I was devastated when I overheard a conversation in a shopping center parking lot recently.  A young man in his 20s or so was overheard talking to a family member of his who was complaining that she could not buy everything she wanted and also could not go out for something fun later that night with some of the rest of the group because she was out of money.  The man said something that shocked me. “Well don’t look at me. I did not waste all my money on paying my bills.  I am going to have a good time tonight.”  I was shocked at his tone and his words.  When we have bills it is because the money in our pockets is not ours; it belongs to the people that encumbered it with our use.  Utilities, rent, car payments, etc. are obligations that we must pay to maintain our honor and integrity.

5. Learn to manage money before it manages you.  One of the things that often does not get asked when a young couple start seriously thinking of marriage or starting a family is whether or not their potential mate can handle money or not.  Partnership and openness early will prevent many heartbreaking moments later in life

6. Learn Self Discipline and self-restraint in money matters.  “No” is the hardest word in the language to learn and apply – especially with ourselves.  The only real control any of us have is self control.  Learn skills to work together early in a relationship so that each person does not feel the need to buy everything for the other person in order make them happy.  Living within your means is not always easy, but is much easier than the stress of being buried financially.

7. Use a budget.  Try to avoid finance charges for anything other than the essentials in life – including homes and educations.  Save and invest a portion.  Easiest money to never spend is money you never see, so put it in an account you cannot touch (like a 401K or IRA account).

8. Make education a continuing process.  This is a big thing in our economy.  The fewer jobs there are, the more valuable we need to become by learning always.

9. Work toward home ownership.  A home is an investment.  Work hard to get to this point if you can.

10. Appropriately involve yourself in an insurance program.  Make sure you have sufficient medical and life insurance to take care.  Often a disability plan is also helpful in case you are unable to work for a time.

11. Try to understand and cope with existing inflation.  Gas prices are increasing again, food and other costs continue to escalate, so adjusting to these conditions is important.

12. Save for emergencies.  If you can put some food or other essentials away, it is good insurance against tough times.

Money management is a necessary evil sometimes.   But if left unchecked or unguarded, money matters can swamp a person, a family, or a group.  Hopefully you can use the checklist provided and see where you are with your family.  There is not a single family that cannot benefit from these basic common sense items, so I encourage you to find a way to make it all work.

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