Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Out and Coming In

Strange what we don't learn.

Recently, I was shocked to learn how many adults didn't know how to create and manage a budget. As an official graduate of CBU, or Cheap Bastard University, I've been keeping some sort of budget since I was a little kid. My pops recently told me I've been tight with a dollar since I first learned what dollars were.

But, like many married folks, I've learned that different folks have different strokes. I've had to teach my wife about budgets and budgeting, about comparison shopping and many other financial matters. Honestly, it's still a work in progress. From what I can tell, this is a common battle in marriages across the country, since financial strife is one of the main causes of divorce in this country.

I thought about this on two occasions recently. The first was while sitting in a pew at church and listening to my pastor beg young couples to come to him for counseling on money matters and other issues before they considered divorce. He noted that he was no financial guru, but he understood how to put together a simple budget showing revenues and expenditures. Seems this a lost art.

The idea of a making a budget also came up on a news program about some elementary and middle school kids being taught financial life skills. The kids were given pretend money and then asked to run a computer program that showed them how to make a household budget and pay bills. Seemed like a useful class in my opinion.

What is puzzling, at least to me, is the fact that so many people are having to turn to folks other than their parents to get basic financial advice. I learned about checking accounts and interest from my parents, who learned from their parents and their mistakes.

I wonder what it says about our country that this basic information is not being passed along by every parent to every child. Does that mean most people have no idea how to manage money? Does that mean they don't think this is valuable information to pass along to their children? Or, does it mean that kids just don't listen?

Actually, it's a little of all three.

As a parent, I know that children don't listen and it starts young. As a former child, I know I often thought my parents had no idea what they were talking about when it came to lots of issues. So yes, I'm sure there are some parents who try to give their kids financial advice and find themselves rebuffed.

Yet, I've got to believe the real problem is parental ignorance about finances or wariness about sharing financial information with their children. I grew up in a family where we talked about money. How it was earned, how it was spent and how it was saved. My parents weren't financial wizards, but they understood that man who doesn't have a decent understanding of the basics of money management is headed for disaster. But, I've learned that some parents are leery about sharing their finances with their kids, or they themselves have developed poor financial patterns.

For those with poor financial patterns, it's an uphill battle with little shortcuts. But, for those folks who just don't want their kids all up in their business, you need to get over yourself. You are your children's model. If they don't learn about negotiating interest rates or balancing a checkbook from you, where will they learn it?

Like my pastor, I'm shocked that people don't realize you can't spend more money than you make. I mean, where the hell do folks think money comes from; a tree in the backyard? (I sound like my parents with that one...) When did paying your bills on time and not overspending become so difficult? Maybe it's always been difficult and I just never noticed.

I'm not saying I'm perfect when it comes to money management, but I think I'm prudent. Plus, it seems like most of the marital arguments over money should be easily resolved, but can't be fixed because people have such different ideas about what is an acceptable lifestyle.

Some folks believe that life is unbearable if they aren't able to do most of what they want to do whenever they want to do it. Others believe that life is about sacrifices and choices. When these two people meet, there will be problems.

Problems going out and problems coming in.



LisaMJ said...

I am guilty as charged your honor. I am functionally illliterate when it comes to numbers; I was horrible with math as a kid and now I'm horrible with money. Never learned a thing at home about money, they didn't teach it at school (and they should) and I have a very strange relatonship with money. I sometimes wonder if I don't feel almost relieved when I spend all my money and I'm flat broke; some sort of way of punishing myself or something. I got issues. I always get a little quesy thinking about money. So as always, you are right Big Man. Maybe I'll luck up one day and find a husband to teach me or I'll woman up and teach myself.

Big Man said...

I would suggest you woman up quickly. It's not that difficult.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I agree with Big Man, you want to address that ASAP.

I used to know nothing about money, then I spent my 20's making plenty of it and blowing it. Now in my late 30's after having some financial falls, I am at the point of starting to get a handle on my cash and financial house.

Something needs to be done, the reason the American economy is a mess is because folks don't have any financial sense. Look, how many of these folks losing their homes should have never bought in the first place?

You earn 40-50G's, buying half a million dollar houses makes no sense and it doesn't what the man with the tie on and desk says, he is lying to you.

But we live in a time where we tend to think short time and aspire to all be rich and famous when our income says kool-aid and ramen noodles.

Big Man said...


Talk sis.

I still can't understand how people who made 40gs to 50gs thought they could afford a $500,000 home. That just doesnt' compute. It has never computed. I actually had to train myself not to blame folks too much for what happened in the housing collapse because many of the were preyed upon by unsavory lenders. That said, some of them were just being willfully ignorant of the facts of life.


I say the first step is writing down your monthly post tax income. Then, I would take a month to collect receipts for all money you spend in that month. That should give you a good hande on how much you're spending on everything, if you're not comfortable enough with the figures to estimate. Make sure you collect all of your receipts, nothing is too small.

Once you've captured the receipts, you should sit down with a legal pad and make categories. Housing, Food, Entertainment, Clothes, Gas, Insurance, Gas Bill, Water Bill, etc.

You decide which receipts go under which category. You tally up the receipts and get a total for each category. Now you have an idea for how much you're spending. (If you're a Christian don't forget to account for the 10 percent you spend on tithes and whatever else you're paying in offering.)

Now you need to take a hard look at where your money is going, and whether you're spending you money how you should be spending it. When it's staring you in the face, it's quite easy to see where you're throwing away money.

After you identify where the money is going, you can decide where cuts can be made. If you have outstanding debt, particularly credit card debt, you want to make cuts in stuff and redirect that money to those debts in order to pay them off faster and avoid crippling interest. Let me know if I can help anymore.

LisaMJ said...

Thanks for the advice, Big Man. You and Black Girl in Maine are right, I need to get it in order.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

This might be off topic, but one of the major problems that I see in the United States is lack of education in simple law.

In the sixth grade, my teacher was a child abusing asshole. However, I did know what the Constitution said and what my rights were clearly. He beat it into some people, but he was selective. He only beat the ones who did not pay attention to the important stuff.

About ten years ago, I met an attorney on a bus. We chatted and I got her phone number. Then I went to a music club manager and talked him into selling the house to me one night. Just so the lawyer could talk about the constitution and people's rights.

I figured the night would be a bust. After all everyone knows their rights?

Wrong, standing room only. Another day on Saturday in the afternoon. Sell out crowd. I think there were six or seven sessions. I was totally stunned that not only high school students but college graduates did not know their constitutional rights .

If you know of a poor defense attorney, please, try to put them together with a club manager to simply get people straight on the elementary rights people have.

Seriously there is money to be made off of this and people need it. If it flies then get a series of counseling people who help the bankrupts to tell people what is worth budgeting for and much more importantly what is worth walking away from.

Big Man said...


That is an interesting idea.

Raving Black Lunatic