Solving problems one conversation at a time.
Q: I love my husband but we have completely different priorities when it comes to finances. It didn’t matter so much when we were younger but life is getting more complicated and we keep putting off big decisions, and now there’s tension in our marriage. I don’t even know where to start. Help!
A: You can do this! The first step is a good hard look at your goals, expectations, and numbers. Get out the pencil and paper or Excel spread sheet. List what each of your financial priorities area. What is the cost of the priority and timeframe (retirement funds, Starbucks every day, a dream vacation, etc.) Then list what kind of income each of you is bringing in. Figure out what can be paid for now and what needs to be saved for.
If you want, you can start off with all of the income together and the expenses shared. If there are stark differences, one solution is for each of you to contribute a certain amount to the common pot of funds and to have a bank account for your priorities. You can then work toward your goal.
Real conflicts might become apparent. For instance, if one of you wants to buy a house but the other wants to spend funds on travel, this might reveal a disagreement that is far more than about financial harmony. It may be about values. If it is, take it off the financial discussion plate and deal with it head on as a values question. What do you want to do as a couple? What do you want to pursue separately?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to plan the “perfect” budget — set yourselves up for success with do-able daily, weekly, monthly targets. Remember this is an ongoing discussion in your marriage that won’t be resolved with a single piece of paper. If your progress stalls (or fails to click altogether), consider bringing in a financial planner who can help with an understanding of long term goals, such as retirement or buying a house. A good marriage counselor might not be a bad idea, either. Good luck!
Free to Be You and Them
Q: As the parent of a nonbinary teenager, what’s the proper course of action with longtime friends who crack mean jokes about gender, and complain that LGBTQ rights are “ruining” the country? How best to correct them – or should I even bother? Is there a right time to “cancel” a friendship?
A: You have to bother, at first. People can change their minds if they have a better understanding of what is going on. If your child is out, it is fine to say it. Talk about how your teenager is who they have always been. Since it is a longtime friend, they know your child. Gently, but firmly, explain how you are hurt by mean jokes. Talk about how the world is better with your child in it. Say they can’t be mean or hurtful in your house and how you won’t tolerate it. Then, if they persist, it would be time to curtail or end the friendship.
Btw, we don’t need to wait for a person with direct experiences to correct the world. If the child is not out, you can still explain how you and everyone else is hurt by mean jokes. You can talk about how the world is a kinder, smarter, more interesting place when all different kinds of people are able to live their real lives — fully, openly, and equally.
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