Friday, November 13, 2009

On The Delicate Subject of Money

Money permeates every relationship in life, every interpersonal interaction: friendship and courtship, living together and marriage, divorce and death. Dealing with it, however, is still a major issue for couples today because it is not a comfortable issue to discuss. Even during these challenging economic times, partners avoid talking about money and dealing with the emotions it evokes. Money is certainly still a taboo in couple talk.

Money, of course, has always provided plenty of fodder for partnership discord. Many of the complaints I hear have changed little over the years. A typical husband’s lament: “My wife is an emotional spender. She’s not realistic about money.” His spouse’s refrain: “Money with him is a power struggle. He doesn’t hear me when I ask for things. He doesn’t know what it takes to run a family.”

What have changed are financial roles. It is an era of his, her and their checking accounts; a time when wives are likely to make as much as or more than their husbands and to have their own, often divergent ideas about handling money.

Money differences or incompatibilities are just a symptom of some underlying dynamic, not the cause. Money is a commodity which takes on other meanings and emotions. It becomes the emotional football that partners may use to throw back and forth at one another and never resolve their real issues. Family finances may be a forum for disputes over responsibility and commitment, need for attention, lack of trust in others.

Here are some suggestions for trying to work things out on your own. If money problems persist, you may want to seek professional help.

• Talk over financial matters regularly, at a time when money decisions are not pressing. You might consider setting up monthly “meetings” when you and your partner can discuss major goals, lifestyle issues, investment strategies as well as dreams and hopes for the future.
• Both partners should keep abreast of the financial situation. Some couples find it helps to trade off responsibility for paying bills; others delegate the job to the partner best suited to perform it. Each partner should feel he or she has access to money and knowledge of their financial status.
• Agree on at least a few financial goals over the next six months, talking over those things most important to you. Write down your decisions so both of you remember your goals and your top priorities for planning.

Above all, remember that arriving at a workable money strategy is a negotiation process. It’s very healthy to admit who you are when it comes to money and what you really value. The health and wealth of the partnership depends on both partners being aware, involved and committed to working together to achieve what’s most important to them individually as well as what works best for their relationship.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Are You Financially Fit? Three Ways to Boost Your Financial Fitness

With our psyches and portfolios in a state of flux, we'd all like a crystal ball to predict the financial future. We’re all obsessing on the question: Will I be okay? What should I be doing to make sure I will be okay?

We can no longer depend on a paternalistic society to assure we have a sound financial future, a long-term employment, or the ability to care for our health and wellness.

More than ever, we need the skills and knowledge to build appropriate financial plans to drive our career and lifestyle goals. It’s not enough to earn money, we have to know how to make the most of what we have. We can't even depend on asset allocation to be our mainstay as the experts are now predicting.

Less than 1 in 5 Americans have a financial plan in place . The majority of us (76%) would like to become more confident in making financial decisions about our financial futures.

Today there are tens of thousands of investments and saving vehicles available to us. We have access to over 15 million web sites of information and research on the web to assist us to make appropriate decisions. There are hundreds of thousands of financial professionals to assist us in our planning--yet we still feel anxious and insecure about financial planning. It is not surprising that we also suffer further stress from information overload. Most of us are not certain that we are doing the best we can do with our money.

How Fit Are You?

Ask yourselves these questions and see how you stack up:
1) Do you feel confident you are making appropriate financial decisions?
_____Yes _____ No
2) Are you satisfied with the way that you are managing your money and investments? _____Yes _____ No
3) Do you know how to use investment information to identify appropriate investments to achieve your lifestyle goals? _____Yes _____ No
4) Do you avoid making the same financial mistakes over again?
_____Yes _____ No
5) Do you update your financial goals and plan on a regular basis?
_____Yes _____ No

If you answered “No” to more than two of the above questions, chances are you rank high on work ethic, and your focus is on earning an income more than accumulating wealth. The next step for you is to learn how to make your money work as hard for you as you work for it. You would benefit from boosting your financial fitness by taking more control over finances.

If you answered “Yes” to more than four questions, chances are you are getting value from your money management and are fiscally fit.

There are three key steps which will boost your financial fitness and put you on the road to greater financial confidence and success:

• Choose and prioritize your financial goals—One of the most common mistakes people make is not knowing what they want from their money. We often set career, holiday and lifestyle goals but do not set money goals.
• Pay yourself first—Paying yourself first is understanding how you want money to serve you best in your lifetime. Then take control of making it happen.
• Make your financial education pay off—Focus on acquiring new skills and then training with those skills so you feel confident that you are making the best use of your money.

Start your financial fitness regime with learning more about yourself and your unique needs and goals.