Will You End Up in a Cardboard Box?

“I was a house wife you know, it was not always like this for me.” I was outside my office and saw a ‘street person’ digging around and asked what she was up to. An interesting conversation became of it and I think many others will follow in this woman’s footsteps. Read on and look for any similarities in your life because living on the street is really no fun.

She was forty-ish and was married for fifteen years, had children, a house and all seemed normal. Then one day letters start arriving with the final notice stamp on them. Some of you know what I am talking about, the letters from the power company saying they are turning off the heat. She never looked at the family finances before and asked her husband what was going on.

He yelled at her about something and the topic seemed to turn to unrelated stuff, she did not even notice her attention had been diverted. Later the power did go off and she decided to make some calls to the bank to see what was going on.

They where broke and I mean broke. She was horrified, what happened? Her husband was a spender.  He took the office out for lunch, and after dinner drinks. He bought lots of dust collecting stuff from the home shopping channels. She knew he liked to spend money but he always made good money. She confronted him, they fought and split up, she got onto anti-depressants, then illegal drugs, then family services took the kids and she got into the street drug scene and the downward spiral took over.

There are two lessons here, first is know what is the financial situation of you and your family. Normally one family member is in charge and does most of the work in that area. It is important that both of you know where the money is, how to get it and what are the family expenses. The biggest reason is if the “family banker” got into an accident and was in hospital for a few weeks. Could you run the household for that time?

The second reason is for a ‘closet spender’. This is a person who is secretly spending you into the poor house, or in this lady’s case no-house. After 10 years in medicine I have seen people do things I never dreamed anyone would. I have seen people I thought I knew, under pressure, do incredibly foolish things. There is a saying ‘do you really ever know someone?’ The answer is no.

This is not about trust, I trust my wife 100%. It is about sharing responsibility, sometimes that responsibility can get people to do very strange things. One of my responsibilities in this relationship is to let my wife know if I think she is doing something crazy and she is to let me know the same.

Knowing how your family’s finances work can take some time for you to learn depending on your background. Anyone can learn it, you do not need to have any ability in math anymore, and computers make it all very easy. Initially some partners will wonder why you are ‘snooping’ around the money stuff, assure them you are just making yourself useful incase you are needed to do some banking. It is the same as both of you likely can drive the family car.  Well both of you need to know how to access your money and know what bills are coming from where, basically driving the family’s finances.

Relationships have lots of responsibilities and learning about the money is just one of them. Start today. There are resources available with banks, schools, libraries or myself to help you understand it all. Trust me, moving your family into a cardboard box isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

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