If you and your partner tend to think the business end of a relationship is not a romantic topic for courtship, you will probably choose to not discuss it — that is, until you can't avoid it, and fights ensue. You may not think of your marriage as a business deal, but a huge part of it is just that.
Not convinced? Just as in a business, a marriage takes in income, pays expenses, and aims to have a little profit left over. Just like a small business, your relationship has one or more sources of income, it has expenses, and, like a business, marriage is supposed to make a profit — to create savings, investments and equity (things a business would call assets). Ideally, you'll have money left over in the bank at the end of the month.
As partners in a marriage you have similar financial responsibilities to partners in a business. In fact, some businesses are called partnerships. We often use the same word for relationships. Family members are somewhat like employees, when you think about it: they do maintenance, chores and homework, and receive delegation of tasts from Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad are the Chief Operating and Financial Officers, and their taks is to figure out how to allocate the funds coming in, as well as how to provide the necessary guidance and services to their staff (or children) and to each other.
In business, there's a lot of discussion about 'corporate culture.' That's the attitudes and practices within the business: how employees and executives deal with each other, the ethics of the company, and their focus, or lack thereof, on meeting goals and becoming successful. Likewise, your marriage has have a 'family culture': how you interact as partners and family members, your mutual goals, hopes and dreams, and how successful or unsuccessful you are at meeting those goals.
Obviously, a family culture that involves a lot of fighting about money will be less efficient at meeting its goals. No matter what your circumstances, creating financial security can make life easier. To do this, you must learn to manage your money wisely. The amount of money you bring in may not be large, but if you manage it well, it can go far. On the other hand, we have all heard stories of people who earned vast sums of money (lottery winners, celebrities or dot-com millionaires, for example) and who squandered it until they had nothing left. The amount of your income will not determine the amount of your "family profit" unless you manage it well.
When you work together to handle your finances intelligently, you can create the financial security you need to live life comfortably. When your partnership extends to making smooth financial decisions and meeting your money goals without struggling and arguing, you’ll find that everything else you do becomes less stressful.
Viewing your family dispassionately as a business doesn’t sound romantic, but if you can step back from your feelings long enough to view your relationship from this perspective, your financial situation make more sense, money problems will be easier to solve, and you’ll be able to discuss financial decisions with less difficulty.
GUIDELINES FOR USING BUSINESS SKILLS AT HOME
1. Don't React; Respond
You and your partner wouldn't argue with your boss, colleagues at work, or a child's teacher the way you sometimes argue with each other. Even if your boss makes you angry, you would most likely use self control at the office and blow off steam in private to your co-workers or a friend. Then, when you had a chance to think about the situation, you'd develop a better way of handling it; ideally, you'd approach your boss with a thoughtful response. You can do the same thing with your spouse when you have a money problem. Instead of saying the first thing that occurs to you, such as a criticism or accusation, stop and think of a response more likely to lead to a discussion than an argument. Take the time you need to respond rationally.
2. Use Positive Manipulation
We often think of manipulation as a bad thing — dishonest, even. However, acting in a way that makes it more likely to get a good response is not always deceitful or insidious. When you present an idea or solution, think about the aspects of it that would resonate with your spouse, then lead with those. For example: "Honey, you know that new car you’ve been wanting? I think I have a way for us to get it. We could take out some equity on the house to renovate the kitchen. That way, we could also get your new car and the interest would be so much cheaper than a loan." This is truthful, thoughtful, and clearly shows the partner how both of their wants can be taken care of. It's much more likely to get a positive response.
3. Have a Formal Meeting
Just as you would in business, sit down for a real meeting about important financial issues. Don't expect to be able to discuss finances successfully while you're on the run, when it's late at night or while watching TV. Instead, make a date for discussing finances and take the time to sit down together with all the proper information and discuss your needs, wants and means. Follow a meeting method like Robert's Rules of Order, to keep the discussion on track.
4. Take Finances Seriously
Healthy businesses keep a close eye on the bottom line. In marriage, this means being careful about your money. But it also means not using money as a weapon against each other, or being irresponsible about it. A successful, happy marriage requires that both partners act like grownups.
It's not surprising if you have disagreements about how much to save, when and what to spend, or who makes financial decisions. Such differences are normal between people. If you take them seriously, and sit down to solve them together with mutual goodwill, your different points of view will become assets, not problems.
5. Check in Regularly
As you do in the office, have a brief check-in with one another regarding logistics as frequently as possible. In the morning, or the night before, compare your daily schedules. Even if the things on your schedule don't really involve your spouse, mention them. That way, each of you will know if the other is facing something important or challenging in the day ahead. When you have an idea of what's involved in each others' daily lives while you're apart, you will be much better equipped to communicate in a helpful fashion with each other — especially when sudden changes or problems arise. For example, you can mention you have to pick up some clients at the airport today, and don't know if traffic will cause you to be late. That way, your partner won't feel worried or annoyed if you do arrive off-schedule.
When you follow these guidelines for handling money together, you’ll understand each other better, and you’ll both understand your goals and feel more motivated to follow the plans you make.
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