Taking the do-it-yourself approach or engaging the services of a financial adviser when dealing with your money problems in marriage rests on these considerations:
- Degree of seriousness of money problems
- Willingness of spouses to resolve financial problems
- Need to not only solve financial problems but also build a nest egg for the future
- Discipline of spouses to stick to a budget and debt repayment program
We’re sure there are other factors to consider, but these are the top four that will decide whether we roll up our sleeves and deal with the problems ourselves or seek professional help.
Dealing with Money Problems: How Serious?
Perhaps it’s not a question of how serious your money problems are, but how much you know about personal finance. If you know enough and combine your knowledge with military-like discipline, then you could probably put off hiring a financial adviser until such time that you’ve exhausted all possible means.
Having debts is normal. About 95% of the population carry debt. Even the rich have debts. The only time it’s not normal is when it begins to rule your life like a hydra-headed monster. This means your quality of life deteriorates because your debt load is too high. Your quality of life deteriorates when:
- you can’t feed your children healthy meals because you can only afford tin food,
- your house was foreclosed and you’re back to renting,
- you haven’t taken your family on a vacation for more than three years,
- you have to pay for gas, groceries, medical services and small grocery items with a credit card,
- you have young children and you don’t have insurance,
- you’re fighting constantly about money,
- you’ve had to sell your most prized belongings just to eat and maintain your shelter,
- no bank will grant you a loan, or increase your existing line of credit because it’s been maxed out for 12 months,
- someone advises you to file for personal bankruptcy
- you’re now on welfare
When you’re flush with money, the word ‘deprivation’ means nothing to you; when money disappears and you start to lose your mind and soul, then ‘deprivation’ sticks around like glue. You get a double whammy during periods of economic instability. Life becomes a vicious cycle. You need to find work but no one’s hiring. You have no money so you borrow, bringing you deeper into debt.
The seriousness of money problems therefore hinges on how much quality of life you have left.
Dealing with Money Problems: Will Your Spouse Cooperate?
It is human to want to avoid problems. When it comes to money problems, however, it is better to face them now, not later. You can be in denial only for so long, but the longer you delay solving your money woes, the harder life gets.
To say ‘if I had known about your spending habits before, I would not have married you’, is a cowardly way of putting the blame on someone else. You entered into a partnership and logically, you should solve your problems as true partners, not as political opponents. As Mr. Kennedy once said, ‘when times are tough, the tough get going.’
Before you teeter into the path of bankruptcy, tell your spouse you have a major problem to solve. You can try solving it yourselves, but if you end up fighting or arguing, you need the objective opinion of a third party.
Don’t solve your money problems by approaching friends and family for assistance. Remember that they too may be grappling with their own financial worries, so don’t think that the role of family members is to bail you out. They will morally support you but don’t expect them to be your credit union. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to your kids.
Money Problems and Retirement Plans
If you’re having money problems in your twenties and early thirties, the tendency is to be lax about it after all you’ve got your life ahead of you. There will be several opportunities to recoup what you’ve lost and to get your act together.
But if in your late 30s, early 40s you’re still having major money problems, then that’s a red flag. No mincing of words here. You have a two-pronged problem. You have current problems and if you can’t solve them now, you’re going to have future problems that will determine just what kind of life you’re going to have when you hit the big 5. We’ve read personal finance books that say if you haven’t saved a penny by the time you’re 50, that’s going to feel like a losing battle.
If you’re in your late 30s early 40s, you need to do two things:‘
(a)’ Cut down your debt
(b) Start saving for the future
This is probably a good time to seek professional help because you’re going to need it. Period.
Dealing with Money Problems: How Much Discipline Can You Muster?
Just how successful you are in dealing with money problems is directly tied to your discipline. We’re talking about discipline in sticking to a budget and following a debt repayment program. People decide to consolidate their loans which is a wise move but as soon as they’ve made several payments, they begin to think, ‘maybe this one time we can skip a payment so we can go to the Bahamas.’ Is that discipline? No! Two times no!
True you got to enjoy life, but not at the expense of mortgaging your future. You can’t be wishy washy about your budget and your financial goals, unless you’re psyched up for financial ruin. If your financial planner puts you on a regimented diet, follow that plan because your life depends on it. Don’t think a couple of slip-ups will not bring about consequences. Stay the course.
Take this remedy three times a day to solve your money problems: sit down and talk, define what your problems are, list them down based on priority, decide what each of you will do to solve them, remind each other daily that discipline is key.
If that remedy doesn’t work, hurry along to the pharmacy and ask for a stronger prescription; that is, a financial planner with no mercy.
In Memory Makes Money, Harry Lorayne supposedly said: ‘Most problems precisely defined are already partially solved.’