One of our subscribers asked the following questions: How do you become a money leader? Who should lead the family in money matters? These are great questions and ones that I will attempt to answer in an objective and straightforward way. Remember these are my personal thoughts and how you approach the issues may be different.
In many households today, there is little or no money with almost every waking hour spent dealing with the topic. In other households, money is available or plentiful and the need for constant conversations and potential conflict are not needed. With the advent of the pandemic, negative financial stress has impacted almost everyone in some way.
My fundamental belief about being the family money leader is that the financial affairs of an individual or a family are private confidential matters for that family’s leaders to discuss and manage. I don’t believe it is a healthy practice to unilaterally discuss your financial situation with a third party unless that third party is a professional. To complain to friends or family about your situation, your spouse’s or partner’s spending habits or your money problems is not going to get you where you need to go. You should discuss these matters within whatever family unit you have. Your problems are yours to solve.
Setting the tone thorough communication is the first step in money leadership. I would always begin money conversations in a positive manner and tone. The focus should be on the “we” and not the “me” or the “you.”To reduce stress and anxiety the family unit needs to have a set of agreements in place on what money means to them and how they are going to use it to live the life they want. I believe it is best within a family if the adults financially responsible for everyone to first reach agreement on how the subject and substance of money should be handled. They then should communicate to other family members their thoughts, direction and planned actions.
I know this is not easy for many people to talk about money, but it is a mandatory first step. You can’t have the money earners each with a separate philosophy. For example, to have one person be a saver and the other an uncontrolled spender will undoubtedly produce conflict. As I've written in prior posts, you need to agree on your money mindset at the time you decide to create your family unit. Also, if you are just starting to better manage your money it is almost impossible to undo past behaviors and practices, so it is a more positive and productive approach to plot a better future together rather than rehashing the past.
As the money leader(s), there are key behaviors you should exhibit for your family:
Money Knowledge – It is impossible to an effective money leader without having basic knowledge of how money, the economy and financial management practices function. As the leader, you need to continually build your money knowledge. I think spending two hours per week on the subject will get you there.
Resource Identifier – As the money leader, you should be able to direct your family to get the resources it needs to solve its problems. This includes consulting insurance, tax, credit, investment and financial planning professionals, if needed.
Defining and Measuring Money Success – You cannot manage what you cannot measure. As the money leader, you need to have reasonable control over cash income and expenses. You need to know how much excess cash you are generating each month and the key aspects of your money life including funding your emergency account, saving for the future, saving for college for dependents and making sure all key insurance coverages are in place. You can do this however you like — paper and pencil, simple spreadsheet, budgeting application, bank provided applications, etc. The key is you have to do it.
Regular Dialogue – One of the activities the leader must perform is to sit down every month, quarter or year with key members of the family to discuss how you have done as a unit in managing your money and what changes, if any, needs to be made to get to your goals. Having this sit down is essential to building the money mindset and related habits your family unit needs.
Walking the Talk – It is the wrong message if the leader says one thing but does another. For example, if you are communicating to everyone to be mindful in their spending while you are not, the message will not resonate. You have to do as you say. It is really important.
Becoming a money leader can have a profound effect on your financial situation and those of the people you love. Hopefully, couples and families will have the conversations necessary to have a joint approach to money matters. But many times one person, regardless of sex, needs to assume the lead and keep the family unit on tract for financial success. As with any leadership role in life it will not be easy at times as you work with loved ones to improve their money knowledge and skills. I can, however, think of no better gift you can give, than the gift of lifelong money knowledge.
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