Couples and Money - “Uncensored”!!!!!!
By Pia Camilla Harden
One evening I asked my husband,
“Bobby, do you think that we argue or disagree about things because we are from completely different cultures?” (Of course I had my own firm opinion that that is exactly why we sometimes completely disagree about certain areas in life).
“No,” he said, I don’t think so, no not really. I think we just have different opinions on things, that’s all.”
“What?” I responded confused back to him. “Are you sure, you really don’t think that the fact that I am born and raised in Sweden and you are born into an African-American family has any impact on our views in a very fundamental way?”
“Maybe somewhat,” he responded, “but I think that our differences stem more from who we are as an individual than where we are from,” he answered.
“Wait a minute, what about that time when we had our yearly visit with your family and your mother commented enthusiastically that my butt had grown bigger since the last visit and I was devastated. You tried to console me with that that was a cultural thing, that I might think that was an extremely rude thing to say to someone among Caucasian people, yet among African-Americans that was actually a compliment. What about that?”
“Well yes,” Bobby said with a smile, that is true, those are definite different cultural views.
“Okay”, I said, “What about the thing that people fight and divorce about the most universally, you and I have completely different opinions about money. Do you think that is because we are raised in different countries with different governments or in different families with different financial status? Or is it because you are a black man in America and I am a white woman here? Actually don’t answer it now, I said to Bobby, let me ask a couple of my friends and see their experiences and opinions.”
I decided to put together a few simple question about the most talked about subject MONEY, I asked my friends with different backgrounds and ethnicities and here is the results, I also asked them to introduce themselves with a short back ground story. I am proud to present to you:
Barbara and Gerry:
Barbara: freelance hairdresser and make up artist, songwriter and was raised by Italian/Albanian parents in NY, with a stay-at-home, traditional mom and self-employed dad. Barbara is the youngest of 4, self-employed siblings.
Gerry: major corporate employee, and artist, raised by self- employed farmers in Iowa. Gerry is the youngest of 7.
Laura and Juan:
Laura: I grew up in a middle class white Jewish/Italian neighborhood on Long Island, New York. My family is white and Jewish and we were well off, though less well off than most people in the town. Money is not a huge priority in my life, but in fairness, I think because my husband worries about it so much I can be a little lazy and think about it less.
Juan: I grew up in a first generation Dominican family. We lived on Long Island until I was 13 and then moved to the Bronx. I went into the army, then Manhattan. My family had a lot of money then lost everything. My parents were entrepreneurs and our income always went up and down. I probably worry about money because of that. I strive to provide a more stable environment. I believe there is plenty of money out there. I believe I have the smarts and ingenuity to get it, and strive to make money but spend a lot of time with my family.
Roz and Craig:
Roz: I grew up in Washington DC. I am the 3rd of 4 children. We are a black family. We were middle class. My parents were careful with money but seemed to be doing well. We had a nice house and seemed to do better and better as I got older. I never had money in my pocket as a kid and would forget to ask for my allowance. Even as a teenager I never had cash. I even played the clarinet on the street to get money to go the movies. I was an entrepreneur at a young age. NOW money is a huge priority in our life. We hustle it up from thin air every month! We have our business together and I also make money as an actress.
Craig: I am an African-American, born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx. I am the oldest of two boys, my parents divorced when I was 4,and my father died when I was 13. My mother remarried when I was 8. Although she received financial help in raising us from my new step father, he had two other children of his own from his first wife. So, he paid no attention at all to my brother and me.
Tamara and Steve:
Tamara: I grew up with a single mother for most of my life, she was 16 when she had me. When I told my mother I wanted to get a degree in acting she said, “No way”, so I got my degree in technical theatre instead. I remember her always saying, “No, I can’t buy you that. I have to save money in case you break your leg or something. To this day, I have trouble spending money on things for myself. My ethnicity is Irish, Italian and a little Scottish. I would have to say that money is not a huge priority in my life or I would have followed the advice of my Technical Director in college who told me that instead of becoming an actress I should be going to Yale and earning 6 figures a year.
Steve: I was born in Albany, Georgia but grew up, the oldest of 5 boys in South East Florida. My heritage is German, French, Irish and Czech. My father is a financial consultant and when we were growing up he was the Vice President of a savings and loan company in the 80’s, so we had money. I didn’t think much about money until I started living on my own in my early 20’s.
Myself, Pia and my husband Bobby:
Pia: I was born and raised in Sweden. My father was a black smith with no other education than common sense, he worked hard on his own business and came across a business deal when he was around 45 years. A lot of craziness followed with money, indulgent parties, and frivolous spending and pressure of handling all the money. Money disgusted me for a long time. But one good thing my father use to do was to give me some money and told me to go and double the money he had given me. Then I showed him my profit and he asked me to double that. I left home at age 15. Since I am from a social democratic country there is a certain safety that you can count on, you won’t end up on the street, you won’t go without food, and there is a certain standard in Sweden that has to be kept like medical help, and education. (I have to add here that it was 18 years ago I actually lived in Sweden so things has definitely changed). But at 15 years of age you get no help at all, because the law says that your parents should support you until you are 18. I left because of neglect and abuse, so I ended up working 5 jobs in the same time to make ends meet.
Bobby: born in Youngstown, Ohio. Now I reside in NY where I work as a self employed, full-time singer and songwriter. I’m married and we have two little girls. I’ve been a professional singer for the past 24 years. My mom was a full time mother who raised six kids, and my father was a steel worker.
And here is the questions that I asked everybody;
1. WHAT WORD OR FEELING COMES TO YOU WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD MONEY?
Set me free, why don’t you babe/Not enough of it.
Just Having enough/Anxiety
Fear. Hope. /I get annoyed when I think about money. Money is not what I think Life is about. But I realize money is a necessity.
Fun, spend, ooo a drag, I should save some/Security
2. DO YOU THINK MONEY IS EASY TO COME BY?
Ask my hands/No
I believe I will always enough because I have lots of skills/smarts. The key is whether I will be able to make it doing what I want to be doing versus what I CAN do (type/secretarial)./Yes.
I believe we will become rich one day from our creativity and our creativity is easy to come by it’s just how to turn that into money that’s hard./Yes, I think it is easy to come by, but it leaves just as easily.
Yes, it’s the saving that is hard for me cause I always think there is more to come, when I do start to work, and I have no problem working and do whatever it takes for my family, I am glad though that for now we try to live more frugal and I can stay home with the kids./Money for me is not easy to come by.
3. HOW IMPORTANT IS RETIREMENT SAVINGS TO YOU AND WHY?
Very important, I want to be a cute old lady. / Very, I don't want to work until I die.
Very. I want to be sure I have enough to do what I want to once I'm retired. /I think it is very important because I do not want to be a burden to my children.
Not important at all because I believe we are going to make it big and be rich and then we won’t have to worry. We will do or sell something that will give us enough for the rest of our lives./It's not that important, I believe the passion for what I am doing now, will provide for our retirement.
Not so important, because I have none./It's important but some of my frustration comes from the fact that I haven't been able to save any.
I am lately coming slowly and surely to the realization that it is very important for me to educate myself and save in the best possible way for my future. I know that I have a safety net, I can take my family to Sweden where it is different, if all goes wrong. However, how can I be so sure that in thirty years Sweden won’t change and frankly I don’t want to move there./Retirement savings is very important because it gives me a feeling of security for the golden years.
4. DO YOU STRESS ABOUT COLLEGE MONEY FOR YOUR KIDS OR SAVINGS?
Stress doesn't make deposits./A little.
No. I focus on the month-to-month and the BIG break. / No, I don't stress out about retirement, college or other savings. Retirement is a state of mind, not a state of money. As for college for our son, there are all kinds of ways to pay for college. Savings, it would be nice to have a little to do want you want, like if we wanted to take off and live in Hawaii for a month, but I don't think I would do that even if I had the funds.
My lack of money is always a constant source of stress for me./Yes.
After writing this article I do, hmm./I stress more about not investing enough in two of the three areas, retirement and savings. Not as much for college for my girls. They are going to have enough to get them started in college.
5. WHAT DO YOU THINK OR FEEL ABOUT HOW YOUR PARTNER HANDLES OR THINKS AND FEELS ABOUT MONEY?
Luckily I respect the way he handles money./I think my partner is good at saving money.
He knows a lot more. He thinks about it a lot more than I do and I tend to defer to his expertise on most money matters. I don't like to think about it and consequently I avoid thinking about it./She’s conscientious and handles money well. I don’t think she thinks as much about spending it as much as I do.
I like how he handles it but I wish he worried more about the future. /I think she worries too much. I try and help her concentrate on the task and not the result. Every time I have said to my wife Rosalyn, do the work, be passionate about what's in front of you, the money has always followed. But it's a difficult thing to adjust to when you're so used to the inconsistency of money.
Steve is more of a spender than I am. I am the tight one. But he makes me live, otherwise I would never go out and do anything./I think my partner is sometimes too worried and too strict when it comes to spending money because I believe you have to enjoy life now while you have it to enjoy but I also am thankful for her views on money because I believe it balances us out and I would not be as smart about our finances as she has been.
I think that Bobby is strict with money and “oh boy” it annoys me at times. I do wish he can relax a little more. However all the savings talk that I am doing during these questions is because of him. I have learned to think twice about spending money and I agree 100% that we need six months of savings in the bank for our security, so I am into it. However I do think he can take some advice from me and enjoy it a little more./I think my partner is way too lax about money.
6. IF YOU AND YOUR PARTNER HAVE DIFFERENT VALUES ABOUT MONEY, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE DIFFERENCES?
I think we both feel it's stupid to spend $4.00 on a cup of coffee but we'll go for it if we feel flush. /I think our values are the same.
Over the course of our 18 years together, it has mostly sorted itself out. He deals with long term planning (college/retirement) and I do day to day. / I do handle more long term planning and she does more day to day.
Seems like I tell him what I need and he takes care of it. He doesn't like me to worry. He makes it work somehow and I concentrate on ideas that will help us have more and more of an income. /Our solutions to our differences is for me to handle the money. It's just my job to give her an occasional status report. We are realistic about our finances so there is never an argument over spending.
We have the same discussion over and over again. But we are different people with different upbringings and we balance each other out. /We mostly argue about it and try to come to some middle ground that we can both live with.
My partner tries to do her best but she comes from a different government in Sweden, and in Sweden, people are taken care of differently there. In the US, if you don’t save for your retirement , then you have to settle for the pennies that our government gives you. My wife and I really haven’t resolved our differences. We just solve the problem at hand and move on for now. I know at heart, we both want the same thing, to have money in the bank, to have a nice home, to take a vacation or two, and to make sure our girls have money when they graduate from college.
7. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO RAISE YOUR CHILDREN AROUND THE ISSUES OF MONEY?
My little Italian mom gave me great money advise to pass on to our daughter- save for and buy real estate, someplace you can actually live. Personally I wish I would have spent more on education, which Gerry did, so we'll gang up on her to have degrees./ By example.
I want to teach them to save. Not to have credit card debt. To understand that their parents work to make money to buy things and for them to understand the value of money. To give money to charity. I like the 1/3 1/3 1/3 rule -- Any money they get -- keep 1/3 in the piggy bank for savings, 1/3 to spend, and 1/3 goes to a charity they choose. /I want to teach them the 1/3rd save, 1/3rd spend, and 1/3rd to charity. I don’t want them to worry about money. I grew up on a roller coaster type of ride, big swings from rich to poor and I want them to know that they can get what they want if they work for it. It also feels good to give.
My son, does not have a lot of things. I have not thought about how to teach him about money. I am so focused on now. I guess I want him to value relationships more than money but I don't want him to go into the arts. I hope he finds a more stable way to live as an adult. /I want my children to know more about money then I did. It's a different world from how and when I grew up. With the easy availability of credit and the ease of which you can get into debt at a very early age, it's important to start teaching as early as possible, the value of money and it's over importance in today's society. I also want to make sure they learn that if you do what you love, first foremost and always, the money will follow.
I will teach them to be respectful of the amount of money we have and Steve will be sure that we experience as much in life as we can with the money we have./I definitely want to teach my children the values of hard work, spending money wisely and to appreciate what you have. I don't want to spoil my children but I also want them to learn to enjoy and live life to the fullest.
I started early to teach my daughters that they can’t have everything they see if we don’t have the money and even so, I usually prepare them before hand for what’s to come. If we go to Toys R Us to have fun I explain to them that today we are not buying anything, we can look and have fun but we are not bringing stuff home and on the days we decide to go and buy something we talk about that, I stick to what I have told them and on the days I want to surprise them I usually don’t say anything. I want them to have respect for money and learn savings at an early age . They both have little saving books and we take small change and money that they get from here and there and we make trips to the bank together walk and use the penny machine and then we put it in their savings book together, it is cute and fun and when they are 18 they will get that money to handle themselves. Their big savings we handle automatically from our monthly income. Being honest with what we have seems to work for us and also share ideas with other parents of how to do it, Laura has given me some good ideas. So friends are very valuable in this matter as well./ My wife and I both want things to be great for them. We have their best interest at heart, so we are saving for them now. I’ll always teach them what I believe is healthy for them when it comes to saving and my wife will teach them what she believes. Between, the two of us, I think they will get a healthy sense of how to save and spend money.
At the end of this article, I wonder, what is this all about? I think the different answers from everybody speaks for itself. In the beginning, I was confused about my husband’s response to my questions but now I am not , the word that comes to my mind is Respect, to understand where we come from whether it is cultural, personal, emotional, or individual reason. Whether it makes sense to us or not to respect and understand why and how we are different and teach our children a nice middle ground if necessary. To give and take. Whether we speak about such a loaded subject as money or somebody’s behind. My annual visit with my in-laws is coming up, I think I will greet my mother-in-law with, “Hey Mom your behind is getting bigger and bigger every time I see you! How is that for understanding?! I am only kidding, I will stick to my own comfort zone and give her a huge loving hug.