Money isn’t just a tangible or intangible object. It is one of life’s most powerful partners; a highly-coveted companion that fills many roles, from comforter and friend to a reflection of our impulsiveness and uncertainties. These roles contribute to our lifelong relationship with money, which evolves similar to any worthwhile relationship. First, we identify what we’re seeking—our relationship goals—and set forth to pursue them. Then, we nurture our relationship’s well-being with dedication and care. And finally, we must be committed for the long-haul, through good and bad times, pleasant surprises and unforeseen obstacles.
The Pursuit. Our personal relationships often begin with a spark or common interest, much like our financial ones. When we relate this observation to money, it may not be that different. We have needs (shelter, food, etc.) and wants (such as an island vacation or a new car)—and pursue paths to increase our cash flow as a means to achieve them. We’ve now entered into a relationship with money. Like any relationship, our image of success can be influenced by positive experiences—such using a bonus to pay off debt early—and negative ones, like unplanned expenses and “budget-busters.” It’s also common for blind spots to exist in our relationships that we may not recognize or acknowledge. These blind spots can include emotional overspending, failure to plan and not setting goals. Understanding our underlying reasons for the pursuit of money and having a balanced perspective of its tangible and intangible value can thwart us from a relentless chase. Military OneSource has resources to help you get a better handle on your money relationship, like this article on living within your means.
Satisfaction and Well-Being. Healthy relationships are not just defined by current mutual feelings of satisfaction, but also by a positive outlook on the future—a long-term perspective. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, having financial well-being means that “a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow enjoyment of life.” Achieving well-being in your financial relationship is possible by applying the Principles of Resilience:
- Exercise Predictability by building an emergency financial plan tailored to your lifestyle;
- Build Trust in yourself through exploration of long-term savings and investment opportunities that can secure your financial future; and
- Find Meaning by liberating yourself to make money decisions that will help you enjoy what life has to offer—all in good balance and reason of course (Controllability)!
Overcoming Obstacles. Challenges and hurdles will occur, but how we handle these “What Ifs” can shape our relationship with money. Medical catastrophes, job losses, poor decision-making and lack of communication can all play a part in creating new financial realities for us. When these occur, obtaining guidance and advice from objective sources can light a path where we can see a hopeful end. Asking for help is the first step toward progress! Keep in mind that accepting a new reality and making personal progress require that we do not dwell on the past, but rather set in motion small steps aimed at a better future. Unwillingness to forgive, blame and retaliation will not produce the life changing results needed to overcome financial challenges. Your local Fleet and Family Support Center can refer you to a Military Financial Counselor to minimize stress and get you back on track.
Nurturing your relationship with money takes commitment, and recognizing the profound impact it can have in your life can be a powerful motivator for behavioral change. Sometimes we need nudges to jumpstart new habits and kick old ones, such as an accountability plan with rewards and consequences or calendar reminders to revisit our budgets and goals to assess progress. Spend time with your partner—money—and constantly seek ways to improve your communication with one another. Be a good listener when your accounts tell you that now may not be the right time to splurge, and find other ways to connect!
Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC is an experienced financial counselor and regular contributor to the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign. Read more of her tips and tricks to spend and stress less on the NavyNavStress blog.