Four C’s for Financial Success – June 2016

Excerpt From The Financial Shepherd

Why Dollars + Change = Sense by Glen Wright and Sy Pugh

My spouse and I have different spending habits, how do we compromise and start communicating about money?

First, married couples should be aware that this is a common theme in marriages. When individuals marry after being independent for a number of years, their personal goals need to be readjusted from focusing on “me” to “we.” In my practice as a therapist, conflict involving money is the problem presented most often by married couples. Money is important in marriage but it should never be what a marriage is based upon. In fact, if the marriage is based upon anything other than Christ, the conflict will manifest itself through that substitute.

Marriages based on anything other than Christ are conditional marriages, and unfortunately, they are motivated by the nature of the source. For example, if a couple marries because of their physical attraction to one another, what happens when the attraction fades? Or if the marriage is based upon emotions, what happens when the emotions change? This should be addressed during the premarital counseling process, but at this point, I would recommend supportive counseling to address the issues of concern. Oftentimes the cause of the problem may present as “different spending habits,” but in actuality the root problem is something more in-depth, such as a power or control issue.

I would also advise the couple to review our Four C’s of Financial Success: Consciousness, Communication, Commitment, and Clarity. Notice that the word “compromise” did not make the list. Couples must agree on like goals, but this is not a matter of compromising. When you are joined together in Holy matrimony, you work together as one to accomplish the same goals.

Consciousness. Communication. Commitment. Clarity. Keep in mind that every choice you make has an economic consequence. When you master these four financial concepts, every financial decision you make will be better. It is amazing how each “C” appears to interlock with the others and to open the door for the next one. We can rank them from first to last, but neither “C” appears to stand as strong without the others.

Consciousness – Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consciousness as “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.” Just as goals are the most important part of planning, self awareness is the emotional catalyst for being successful. When you know who you are, you then have a base to build upon. More importantly when you know whose you are in Christ, you know that your foundation is firmly planted and immovable.

In addition to being self-aware, there must also be an acceptance of the need to change and do things differently than in the past. Oftentimes something bad happens to make us aware that things are going wrong, which then provides the motivation we need for change. For instance, we had a friend growing up who bought whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and didn’t save anything. As we grew older he bought more and more stuff and piled up more and more debt. Then one day his car was repossessed because he fell behind on the payments. He was so embarrassed. But that’s when he realized that he was handling his finances the wrong way, and he vowed never to spend so recklessly again. He vowed to make a change once he became acutely aware and conscious of the problem.

Communication – Effective communication is a dual pathway that allows us to collect and disperse information during the process of expressing and exchanging our ideas, thoughts, and feelings. However, if we’re unwilling or unable to adequately express our concerns, it creates difficulty for everyone involved. The truth is that it is almost impossible to fix any problem that you are unwilling to talk about. And at the core of most challenges—especially within the area of finances—is poor or non-existent communication. Contrary to popular belief, ignoring financial problems does not make them go away.

The first step to more effective communication is to develop some “rules of order.” For example, a crucial rule in financial communication is total honesty about debt, income, bills, beliefs, values, and spiritual understanding of the role of finances. Pretending to believe or support something just to avoid an argument will only create a bigger argument down the road. Another communication tool is to see the other person’s perspective by considering what it’s like in their shoes. If one spouse grew up poor with nothing extra to save for a rainy day, it may explain why they don’t place a high value on savings and investments. Their perspective needs to broaden to understand why these things are important. If the other spouse inherited wealth that they did not have to work for, they may not appreciate budgeting because they’ve never had to do it. But that individual needs to understand the value of budgeting and accountability in case he or she encounters difficult times in their finances in the future. Once you understand why someone does the things they do, you can help them consider new ways of thinking and making decisions – if you are willing to communicate honestly about them.

Commitment – Traditionally, commitment tends to be the most difficult of the Four C’s of Financial Success. It is much easier to maintain a noncommittal stance, because it leaves you free from any obligations. When we explore the minds of those that avoid commitment, we learn that they fear the vulnerabilities that may come as a result of some type of attachment (i.e., relationships). In order to overcome this fear, you must look to the first two C’s- consciousness and communication. Without any awareness of this tendency, a client is unable to communicate the need to change it. Once these first two C’s have been established, only then can we place emphasis on the benefits of commitment. When we look at commitment in the financial realm, it’s a matter of recognizing that there may be some challenging times along the way. If your goal happens to be saving to buy a new home, then there is a level of commitment that you must make in order to see this goal come to fruition. Depending upon your financial profile, you may have to make some changes to the spending habits that you have grown accustomed to. But the end result is always in direct correlation with the level of commitment. No one said that this process was going to be easy. We didn’t get in debt overnight, so we will not get out overnight. People who are considered overnight sensations and get their millions “quickly” normally don’t. They spend their lives preparing for the opportunity that God will provide. The key is to stay committed to your goal.

Clarity – ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18a). When it comes to financial planning, it is imperative to have a specific goal and a clear plan on how to get where you want to go. Goals and plans must be clear or you simply will not achieve them. You have to be able to see yourself out of debt and financially free. Quite simply, to have clarity is to know where we stand and where we want to be. Success always comes as the result of a clear vision.