Fighting for Peace

Phil Dawson

IT’S TIME AGAIN FOR our family’s semi-annual budget review. The budget meeting is typically initiated by the Household CFO, which would be me. Who is the HCFO in your home? You can probably figure it out from the following job description provided by Thomas Stanley and Sarah Fallaw in The Next Millionaire Next Door:

“The role of Household CFO is to ensure his/her household is building wealth in order to ultimately achieve financial independence…. The Household CFO will be required to balance checkbooks, file tax returns, pay bills on time, create financial plans, create estate plans, research investments, monitor investments, and generally run all financial matters for the household. The Household CFO will serve as a check on household spending, and thus will work closely with the following individuals: Household Chief Procurement Officer and his/her team members (read: spouse/self and/or children).”

Why might a family budget meeting be a challenge? Mostly because the discussion isn’t really about money. It’s about values. It’s pretty normal for otherwise perceptive and agreeable people to have different financial priorities. These differences can create conflict in the short term, so it often seems easier to avoid and ignore them.

Dave Ramsey says, “Everyone’s personality is different, and opposites tend to attract. Chances are, one of you loves working numbers (the nerd) and the other one would rather not be tied down by what the numbers show (the free spirit). One of you might be the saver and the other is more inclined to spend. While that can cause some marital problems, it isn’t the real issue. The source of the problem is whenever one of you neglects to hear the other’s input. Or when one of you bows out from participating in the financial dealings altogether.”

How important is your spouse to your financial plan? In The Millionaire Mind, Tom Stanley wrote: “For every 100 millionaires who say that having a supportive spouse was not important in explaining their economic success, there are 1,317 who indicate their spouse was important. Of the 100 who did not give credit to their spouse, 22 were never married and 23 were either divorced or separated.”

How might your family’s budget meeting be beneficial? Even if it feels like a bloodbath, it may at least condense that conflict into just a few disagreeable hours, as opposed to continuous or spontaneous vitriol over the coming weeks or months—or even decades. Fighting for peace can be a worthwhile activity—though, if the discussions tend toward the internecine, it might be best to try some couple’s therapy.

For those who struggle with these conversations, take heart. You will need to be vulnerable to get the benefits of this process. That can be a scary place, especially if you’ve had an unpleasant experience in the past. Do not allow yourself to be a tyrant or a slave. Listen carefully and advocate well.

In Smart Couples Finish Rich, David Bach suggests initiating or reviewing a financial filing system as a way to ease into the budget process. At a minimum, this ensures that either partner can access needed documents if the other becomes unavailable. There are those who advocate making a date or weekend of these financial discussions, first establishing shared and individual values, before putting numbers to paper. The goal: Create some shared vision that will bring new energy to your family’s financial relationships.

Don’t let fear stop you. To paraphrase Jordan Peterson, “Dragons hoard gold because the thing you most need is always to be found where you least want to look.”

When not paddling, biking or shooting, Phil Dawson provides technical services for a global auto manufacturer. He, his sweetheart Donna and their four extraordinary daughters live in and around Jarrettsville, Maryland. His previous articles include Taking CareTwelve Rules and Got to Believe. You can contact Phil via LinkedIn.

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