Love and Money: Families who discuss finances openly are more likely to stay together

By Julie Cole, CFP, FLMI Annuity Product Manager

moneyDuring uncertain economic times, levels of financial stress are sure to be even higher. Families find themselves having to readjust their expenditures and their expectations as a result of the economic downturn. Relationships become strained under the pressures of plunging stock prices, falling home values, and rising unemployment. Times are tough enough without money squabbles adding to the tension. Ginita Wall, CFP® and founder of the San Diego, California based financial planning advisory firm Plan for Wealth, suggests making money talks a regular part of every relationship. Don’t leave discussions about finances to chance. “Schedule meetings to talk about money,” says Wall. “Discuss your financial situation, dreams, and goals, and generate ideas to improve your future. Then do something fun, like watching a movie, afterwards.”

When talking about finances don’t sling the blame. Talk about your financial circumstances and accept where you are. Explore what you need to do now and re-examine the ways you spend. If you’ve always operated in a certain way, maybe that
way has to change. Most of us are due for a change. Discussions that start out with “If only we had….” are not healthy discussions. Don’t second-guess past decisions. Statements like, “If only we hadn’t taken that vacation and put all the expenses on
our credit card,” or “If we had paid down our credit card bills with our tax refund instead of buying a new computer,” should be considered off limits.

Your family discussions should focus on actions that you can commit to right away and without too much disruption. Drastic changes are difficult to make and may lead to resentment. If you declare “We will no longer eat out!” and you don’t participate in planning and preparing the family meals, this can lead to some disputes. Consider making modest changes that you can easily keep. If your family is very devoted to eating out  three times a week, then consider cutting back to eating out just two times a week and make that one home meal preparation part of family time. This can save you up to $120 per month
and help the family spend more time together.

Many couples already know they are spending too much—whether it’s dining out, buying clothes, collecting golf accessories or jewelry. Cut back in those areas. Keep track of
everything you spend for at least one month. This will give you a good idea of where you can cut back. In other words, deal in reality, not unreality. People often don’t know where their money goes. When they see how much they’ve been spending, they say things like, “ I had no idea we spent that much on eating out.” Remember you’re not sacrificing your lifestyle forever; you’re just tightening your belt for a while.

Involve children in finding ways to save money, as long as their roles are appropriate to their age. If you have to economize, explain the situation and ask the child to think of areas in which to economize, too. Otherwise, they might feel like they are being punished. Kids can learn some money management skills at the same time.

A recent decade-long study of San Francisco families found that their happiness depended more on how open they were in discussing financial issues than on their level of income. The worst thing couples can do is to continue to fight about finances and decide to divorce. That is sure to cause more financial distress than anything. Work together toward a solution.

To learn more about Financial Matters or about wfla, visit www.wflains.org.

Employee Spotlight

photoShannon Daugherty is a Marketing Assistant in the Sales and Marketing Department. She has been a great asset to wfla and a valued member of our wfla family. Learn a little more about Shannon in our Employee Spotlight.

How long have you worked here?
12 years in July

Have you always had the same position?
Yes, I have always been a marketing assistant (even though they used to call it a marketing clerk). The duties of the position have changed greatly over the years though, as technology has advanced, and the vision for the Marketing Department has evolved. There is a lot less paper involved now, and more creativity. It is also a lot of fun to be a part of hosting events for agents and challenging to be a part of training them. Through the years, I have also noticed it’s good for all of us to be a part of brainstorming sessions, as well.

You recently got your FLMI (LOMA) designation, congratulations! What made you want to try to get that?
Ann (Vice President and Chief Underwriter at WFLA) encouraged me to continue taking the courses. It actually stimulated interesting ideas and I learned a lot. I liked the last one I took, which talked about matching the best kind of insurance to each individual, depending on where they were in their lives.

You have seen many changes since you have started working here, any favorites? I liked the change toward fewer postal mailings and more email. I felt like that really saved wfla money, between postage and paper. I liked the change of accepting applications and forms by fax and email, as opposed to needing all originals. I really appreciated Mr. Wolfe as president- I feel that he has been a very upstanding and moral person, who has always tried to be fair to everyone.

What has led you to stay at wfla for more than 10 years?
The people here have become my family. It’s also nice to work with my best friend every day! I’ve never worked with so many knowledgeable, hard-working, dedicated, good-hearted, and generous people all in one building. I can always turn to them for advice and support, and I hope I am there for them, too. They really do care about helping our members, our agents, and our community.

What has been your favorite wfla memory?
One of the things I have never forgotten was that in my first year of working here, my supervisor left the company. I was very lost with learning everything and trying to complete tasks. But so many people chipped in to help, their kindness has never ceased to amaze me to this day. They helped in so many ways – filing, stuffing envelopes, stapling papers, and helping patiently with my millions of questions.

IA 7-1Not only are you a wfla employee but you are also a member of lodge 7. Any favorite lodge activity?
My favorite – I really love ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas-time. But I also like serving at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Christmas dinners, and it was awesome to be a part of the food drive for the Mission of Hope and deliver the food.

Shannon is currently in Ireland with other Home Office employees and agents on the annual sales trip. She was able to enter the contest by having been a wfla employee for more than five years. We hope she is enjoying her trip!

To learn more about the wfla visit www.wflains.org.