Money Habitudes Encourages Constructive Discussions About Money for the New Year
Company behind popular Money Habitudes cards encourages people to think about money with a list of reasons specific to the New Year and New Year's resolutions. Learning to talk about money constructively--be it with a friend, spouse or financial professional--can be an effective first step in planning one's finances. Talking about money--one of the most daunting conversations--helps people get help, support and personal understanding in order to achieve their financial goals.
"Money is a metaphor for life. When you feel like you are in control of your money, you feel like you are in control of your life," says Syble Solomon, president of LifeWise and creator of Money Habitudes™, the innovative deck of cards that makes it easy and non-threatening to talk about money.
In a recent survey from financial services firm Edward Jones, 33% of Americans listed "increase savings" as their top financial resolution. Other priorities included: paying down debt (30%), putting more money into a child's or grandchild's education (13%), contributing more to a 401(k) or IRA (9%), paying a mortgage faster (7%). Despite a focus on achieving financial goals, only 3% planned to start working with a financial advisor.
To achieve these goals, many experts focus on concrete steps like cutting household costs or making a budget. However, even before such actions, a beneficial first step is to look at and talk about your habits and attitudes (habitudes) related to money. After all, people follow through on resolutions better when they have support from others, be it a friend, spouse or financial planner. Taking the time to understand how you relate to money also helps avoid unnecessary spending and debt. And because people typically don't seek financial help until a problem has become a crisis, having a framework to share concerns helps people proactively address issues before they get out of hand.
Money can be difficult to think or talk about, so use the following questions as you make your financial New Year's resolutions:
1) Do you fight about money? It can have a big impact; research from Utah State University found that money disputes were the best indicators of divorce. Instead of avoiding the topic or only addressing money when you're upset, try starting a conversation with less charged questions: When you were growing up, what money messages did you receive from the adults around you or from your cultural background? What were your first money memories? What was the first big purchase you made? These conversations demonstrate that you can talk about money without arguing. And you may find in your past the key to understanding and resolving present money disagreements, such as how much to spend on a family vacation or how to handle your estate planning.
2) Do you understand the larger financial patterns borne of your habitudes around money? We comprehend that buying a $4 coffee every day can be detrimental, but we may not see larger tendencies. For example, do you spend to impress without realizing it? Do you always: pick up the check when you go out to eat; drive a new car; want the most fashionable clothes? Not feeling compelled to always pay for others or keeping your car another year can have a much greater impact than cutting down on costs like coffee.
3) Are your challenges around money situational? Do you, for example, go to the store with your kids and spend wisely, but when you go out with a girlfriend, do you come home with clothes you'll never wear? If so, reaching your financial goals may mean looking more at where and with whom you spend than what you're buying. Then you can make appropriate changes such as meeting at a park instead of the mall or a restaurant.
4) Are you too good at saving? Although not typically thought of as a challenge, being too frugal can be dysfunctional. This might mean always buying the cheap item but then needing to replace it when it breaks or underperforms. Another sign might be driving across town to save a few cents on gas. On a larger scale, do you fear eating into your savings or making your money less liquid? Some examples include having a large savings balance but few investments, or renting for years when you could buy a house. Another common example is someone who amassed $3000 in credit card debt when she was younger and it accrues 18% interest. Now she has $5000 in savings that only earns 1% interest. By not touching the savings and only making minimum payments, it exacerbates the debt problem.
5) People can mistakenly think of themselves as being simply "bad with money." For example, do you bank your paychecks, budget well and spend with restraint--but still go into debt? Surprisingly, many people don't see that they actually save so well that their friends and family come to rely on them, always asking for financial assistance. The issue is not being "bad with money" but perhaps being too generous. There is, therefore, more value in taking a course in setting good boundaries versus one on budgeting.
6) Are your financial goals specific enough? Try using the SMART(ER) (Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Realistic-Timeline-Extra Realistic) system. A vague goal may be to "pay off my debt." A better goal might be: "By February 1, I will meet with a credit counselor to determine best strategies and plan to pay off $300 of debt per month over the next 10 months, to total $3000 paid by Dec 31."
Money Habitudes is the leading conversation-starter to get people thinking and talking about money in a fun, nonjudgmental way. Appropriate for individuals, couples and groups, Money Habitudes is a training and learning tool that works like a card game. It is available for adults, young adults, teens and Spanish speakers. Therapists, counselors, educators and financial planners use Money Habitudes and the cards are employed as a stand-alone activity or in conjunction with programs on: financial literacy, relationships, life skills, investing, careers, conflict resolution, and fatherhood, premarital and marriage education. Solomon is a popular speaker on the psychology of money. She received the 2009 Smart Marriages Impact Award and was also named Educator of the Year (2006) by the Association of Financial Planning and Counseling Education.