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Who should manage the family finances?

Who should manage the family finances?

Author of Practical Steps to Financial Independence and business & finance coach, Mr Usiere Uko, writes on managing family finances

Many homes face financial difficulties due to team selection when it comes to management of family finances. When I was growing up, I often heard of families where the man was the village drunk, Mr Do Good, or the ladies’ man.  The family was suffering while outsiders sang his praise. Where the money got home intact, it tends to disappear in mysterious ways since the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I have heard many complaints from wives about husbands who spend as if they have no future ambition. The complaints include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The husband has become comfortable being a professional tenant while the neighbours have long moved into their own houses. In some cases where they have built a house, it is left empty in the village while the family remain tenants in the city.
  • The family has no emergency savings. If the husband loses his job, the family will become stranded.
  • The husband is more generous outside than towards his own family.
  • They don’t know what the husband does with his income.

Because of this, the wives claim they feel insecure. Those that work believe it is the man’s duty to take care of the family while they assist in any way they can, rather than being asked to surrender a part of their income to assist the man do his job. I remember a very hot debate on this issue in a forum. The women were not against helping, but they want to do it out of their own free will. Most of the men present did not understand the logic.

I have heard debates about who handles money better, men or women. The issue is not about gender, but the individual. I have come across both men and women that have challenges balancing their budget. I knew a man who was constantly being harassed by the wife’s creditors. The issue cuts right across the gender divide.  It has nothing to do with tradition or general perception.

Managing family finances is a team sport and the Minister of Finance should be the most capable among the two. Many men who block their ears from their wife’s advice often regret it. Two good heads are always better than one.

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My wife had rescued me many times from dumb financial decisions in times past when financial illiteracy was my middle name. Women seem to be blessed with superior discernment abilities and can smell trouble miles away before men, who seem to wait until they see the danger with their eyes, which is often too late. Women seem to be able to smell phonies while men easily are carried away by sight and appearances, especially if the other party is a pretty female. I have got my fingers burnt when I went ahead regardless of warnings. In the early years of my marriage, I wanted to prove that I am the man and do have my own mind. With the benefit of hindsight, I have come to see that flying solo is not wise.

Marriage, as in any relationship, requires communication and yielding to each other. It is an asset to have a partner who is strong where you are weak. Together you are strong in that area.

Women, as homemakers, tend to think of the home while making financial decisions.   They are in the front line when it comes to making sure that the household is catered for. They are the ones the children cry to when they are hungry or become sick, etc. They are in the trenches while the man may be caught up with the corporate world, football and politics.

However, it is not all women who are saints when it comes to handling money. Some women do not know when to apply the brakes when it comes to clothes, shoes, jewellery, even mobile phones. Some wives pester the living daylights out of their husband when a new phone hits the market. Some men do not trust their wives with their Automated Teller Machine cards.

While the husband and wife can express their individuality by having their own money to spend, that should be after the family is well taken care of. Both partners should be humble enough to seek knowledge in the area of managing family finances. How to manage family finances is often not part of premarital counselling or wisdom passed down by parents. If your parents were struggling financially, they do not have much to give by way of advice. You need to determine what you really want and how to go about it. In the information age, the challenge is too much information rather than lack of information. If you lack information, it means you do not care enough to seek it.

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Who should manage the family finances?

The couple should answer for themselves this question. What works for your friends may not work for you. It starts with self-awareness. The man should be humble enough to admit the wife will do a better job with the family finances if that is the case. There is no point inflicting pain on your family because of male bravado.

Whoever takes the lead in managing the family finances, there should be transparency. Remember your vows. If you endowed each other with all your possessions, it is lack of integrity to take it back after the vows. If you don’t trust each other, be upfront about it and cut it out of your vows. Tell the truth to yourself and your partner.

Never fly solo. That is the pilot’s mantra. You need your wingman to watch your back. It goes for all combat situations. Do not go alone. I remember a class I attended on negotiation skills. While you are talking, you need your partner to read the body language of the other team. Most messages are non-verbal. You can spare yourself a world of hurt by operating in discernment. That is why you have a partner.

Marriage is teamwork and strength lies in working out a synergy from the diversity. If the woman is the guru in money management, common sense dictates she should be the one to manage the family’s portfolio. You do not want to leave bananas in the custody of a hungry monkey. Managing family finances needs a level head, impulse control and the ability to focus on the family’s financial goals.

For questions or comments email; to order the book PSFFI, call or SMS to 0808 275 0980. You visit www. Follow me on Twitter @usiere

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