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Don’t Open an Account: Open a Financial Dialogue

For many military families, financial awareness and wellness don’t pose a problem; all parties are on the same page when it comes to family finances. But for many, a lack of financial awareness and wellness creates not only a financial crisis, but can cause a seismic rift between partners.

There are plenty of warning signs, but too often one or both partners play the role of the proverbial ostrich with their head in the sand—they ignore the warnings and keep spending full speed ahead.

If you’re worrying about bills, getting out of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and not having enough money to cover bills, or if you don’t know the total amount of debt owed by your family, or the interest that’s being paid on that debt, there’s probably a problem.

And if all the above is simply being ignored, there’s a real and dangerous problem.

It’s critically important to have an open dialogue about finances. It’s imperative that both partners are aware of their current financial situation and status. If one person handles all the bills and the budget and the other doesn’t know how the family finances are handled, it leaves that partner at risk financially.

If something happens to the person who manages the finances, if they become ill or die, or if there’s a divorce, the partner would be placed in financial jeopardy.

The best way to help prevent financial discord is transparency and awareness. Partners have no problem openly discussing the nightly menu, an upcoming evening on the town, or vacation. But when it comes to finances and budgeting, there’s often a shroud of secrecy. There must be conversations about money; there should be no secrets.

These don’t have to be contentious meetings, nor should they be. Perhaps set time after dinner one evening. Make sure neither is overly tired or frustrated. Anger should never be involved.

Openness can lead to goal setting and limits. Often, spouses have different mindsets when it comes to finances. Many times, there is a “saver” and a “spender,” sort of like “good cop” and “bad cop.” There’s no room for that to make a marriage successful financially.

It’s important to create financial goals and spending boundaries together. Recognize spending patterns and how keeping receipts can help you understand ways to cut spending together and construct spending boundaries.

Another good move is to spend cash only, at least for a while. It helps make spending more real when you see your money actually disappear. It can put you more in touch with your spending habits rather than relying on credit or debit cards where the entire process takes place in some unseen digital world.

Once working as a team, one of the first steps should be to judge what is a “want” versus a “need” and trim some of the less important “wants.”

As with any team, compromise is key if you disagree in this financial rebuilding process, but you must spend time with each other budgeting, creating goals about savings, and spending down debt. Take the time at least once a month, preferably once a week, to sit down face-to-face to discuss progress or setbacks.

Learn how to negotiate what your spending priorities are and try to keep the conversation positive and matter of fact. The more you talk about money, the easier it gets.

You and your spouse don’t have to weather these financial straits alone. Here are a few of places that offer financial help:

• Personal Financial Management Program: Offers Budget workshops, personal financial education, training, and counseling at no cost to service members and their families. Available on military installations.

MilitaryOneSource: Offers free financial counseling and many other financial tools. They also have a comprehensive list of agencies and resources that military families can use.

Psych Armor Institute: Has free financial wellness video courses and budgeting tools through a partnership with Prudential for military families.

 

By Michelle Pompos for Hope For the Warriors

Michelle Pompos is a certified financial social worker and regional social worker at Hope For The Warriors. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2012. After working as a hospital social worker for five years, she earned her master’s degree in social work and a military trauma certificate at East Carolina University in 2018. She is a military spouse and has volunteered with military family readiness programs, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, and CREDO for more than 20 years. She is married to USMC Regimental Sgt. Maj. Al Pompos. Their son is a sophomore at Iowa State University.

Author

  • Hope For The Warriors

    Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors (HOPE) is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing a foundation of financial, career and educational stability. Physical and emotional strength. And social support with true connection and belonging that builds community. What began as post-combat bedside care and support has evolved to a national organization that has adapted to ongoing changes within the military community. The organization has stayed the course with our country’s post-9/11 veteran population as physical wounds healed, but emotional wounds still needed care. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served over 159,200 through a variety of support programs. For more information, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

1 Comment

  1. Liz B Ford

    Great article! Enjoyed it a lot!

    Reply

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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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