Talking about money is essential for our well-being

Talking about money is essential for our well-being
16 April 2013

How many people do you know who have great intentions when it comes to money issues, but fall short when it comes to implementing them – or who genuinely believe that they are delivering and doing everything in their power to serve the interest of their loved ones – but they’re not, and they’re blind to it.

It’s such a circular, emotionally draining situation to be in: A is being asked to change their spending habits by B, but A believes they already do what B is asking; or promises he/she will start “now” or “soon”, and genuinely means it.

You can see how things can disintegrate fairly quickly. After all, money doesn’t talk, it swears, as Bob Dylan put it.

I know of a wife who decided to start spending on what she wants, not what she needs, because she simply decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, having been the sensible one who saved, planned for the future, and asked her husband to refrain from getting the family deeper in debt with each business class ticket and extra stick of furniture or electronic gadget that found its way into their home, the husband having already depleted her life savings and used up the overdraft she took out upon his request. “What’s the point?” she says to me. “He’s going to spend the money anyway, I might as well enjoy some of it.”

There are the arguments that ensue when yet another SMS arrives from the police informing the careful party of a speeding ticket when his or her family member borrowed the car. I know of a husband who accumulated thousands of dirhams worth of fines during his wife’s birthday month. “Another ticket means no cake for me” she said to him, trying to get across that the fines mean money needs to be found to pay for them. Needless to say, she didn’t get a cake that year. And yes, he had promised that he wouldn’t get another speeding ticket, and of course he loves her.

And what about family holidays that spiral out of financial control because one party can’t resist spending on luxuries, or just spending, instead of simply enjoying the experience.

It is difficult to see how this sort of situation could be improved. Both A and B are using words understood by both, and no harm is ever meant, but the words translate into very different concepts or meanings for each of them.

What’s sure is that without being addressed and resolved, this sort of situation can easily derail any relationship, be it blood, marriage, or friendship. On the one hand, it seems too trivial a reason to break up what may otherwise be a healthy, compatible, and comfortable partnership, especially where children are involved. But as I wrote last week, so many seemingly rock-solid marriages founder on this issue.

How can people who view the value of money differently be persuaded to see the folly of their ways? This is a collective call for help so that we can all come together, support each other, and break down the emotional barriers and egos that hold us back from being able to talk openly about these things, how they affect, hurt, and keep us from living our best lives.

If anyone out there has information or research that looks into this, then please can you share it? I’m sure many lives can be much improved if we are able to find a peaceful way out of this conundrum.

I’m sure that if not you, then someone in your life has to tolerate a great guy or girl with super intentions. It’s immensely challenging. The sensible partner has to continuously strive to keep cool and continuously empathise and justify their partner’s actions, adding stress to the anxiety about finances. Is there space here for compromise? That would of course depend on the financial health of the family.

My sympathies lie with those, like the wife above, who simply give up and give in, but this will serve no good.

The bottom line is this: if they do not translate into genuine action, the best of intentions simply don’t count.

 

This article first appeared in The National. Nima Abu-Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me

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