Don’t let financial stress derail your relationships with loved ones
Even in the best of times, financial stress can take a toll on your relationships with your loved ones. But while anxiety and fear are common during times of financial strife, they don’t need to flow over into your relationships as well.
This is the view of psychotherapist Hanlie Raath who, at the recent acsis/Personal Finance Financial Planning Club meetings for women this month, talked about how to avoid letting financial stress affect your relationships.
People who are retrenched often feel a sense of shame, coupled with a loss of security, stability and status, Raath says. “The prospect of change can be frightening. But, just as many people go on health detoxes to cleanse their bodies, you may find that retrenchment is a time for a financial detox – time to take a fresh look at your finances and how you deal with them.”
The recession is quickly teaching people to differentiate between what they need and what they want.
“Although this may be unpleasant initially, it is ultimately teaching you to be more disciplined with your finances,” she says.
Raath says she finds that when money is easily available, it tends to “candycoat” issues between partners in a relationship. In tough times, financial stress comes to the fore and other problems become difficult to ignore.
It is particularly important that you and your partner take an active interest in your joint finances.
Raath cited the case of a couple who got married, although the man was not particularly keen to do so. The couple had a baby and regularly went on expensive holidays, maintaining an illusion of happiness. The wife handled all the finances. Eventually, the husband discovered that she had used up all the credit available on seven credit cards.
“Although the wife racked up the debt, the husband is equally to blame, because he did not take any interest in their finances,” Raath says. She says the couple have now created a system of joint accountability with checks and balances, but it will take them many years to pay off the accumulated debt.
Raath says you should show appreciation of your partner, because often the main breadwinner feels that he or she is being treated like an ATM.
“Women still often abdicate responsibility, while more and more men expect and want women to be independent,” Raath says.
Sometimes you may need professional (psychological or financial) input to help resolve issues, but very few marriages need to end due to financial problems alone, she says.
DEALING WITH CHILDREN
Children may find it hard to deal with financial cutbacks due to a recession, particularly if you indulged them shamelessly when times were good.
Raath says parents often feel guilty for working long hours and compensate by buying their children the latest gadgets and expensive toys. Ideally, she says, you should spend more time together as a family.
Although you should not burden your children with the finer details of your finances, you should involve them in decisions and try to get them thinking about how to save money. They might be willing to give up some extra-mural activities, such as drama classes, in order to be allowed to continue another activity, such as swimming.
Think about introducing simple activities, such as board games, that give your family the opportunity to spend time together without cost becoming a concern. This quality time can help strengthen family bonds at a time when you need it most.
While you need to cut back, there are some areas where you should think twice and weigh up the potential savings against the long-term effects on your children. Raath says: “If you have children, I would caution against cutting back on internet and DStv access as your first route – the social stigma to children of not being hip and not being able to measure up to their peers cannot be underestimated.”
You should raise your children to have some financial accountability so that they learn from an early age how to handle money.
Raath says pocket money is a good way to teach children how to budget and that instant gratification is not always possible.
Psychotherapist Hanlie Raath