As a blogger, the approach of Father’s Day brings thoughts of old-fashioned gender-role stereotypes – and the value of breaking them.
You know the old routine, portrayed in TV shows ranging from The Honeymooners all the way to Desperate Housewives: Dad makes the money, Mom figures out how to spend it. Good for sit-com plots, maybe. Not so much for families.
katThe better approach to modern family money management is one in which both parents collaborate openly on budgeting and spending decisions, and involve the whole family in age-appropriate ways.
I’m not saying there’s only one right way for families to handle money; in fact, each of the three basic approaches to budgeting for a two-income family has its pros and cons. Suba at Broke Professionals has a really good breakdown of the three: pooled accounts, separate accounts and a hybrid of the two.
No matter what path you follow, though, the keys to success are openness and across-the-board involvement.
Some experts advise that you run your family budget “like a business,” and that can work – up to a point. But you have to keep in mind that in a family, emotions are always going to play a role. Keeping certain secrets can help a business bottom line, but at home, clarity and communication are your top priorities.
And don’t shut the kids out of that equation. Simply saying “no” is quicker and easier than an explanation and a discussion, but it wastes a very valuable learning opportunity. Keep in mind that today’s younger kids don’t perceive money as something you earn. As Lori Radun points out in a blog post, from a small child’s point of view, money is something you get by pushing buttons on a machine, without even getting out of the car. The only way they’re going to learn that the supply is limited is if you, the parent, teach the lesson.
Take the time to make it a two-way conversation, too. It’s not just about teaching kids where money comes from and how to manage it. Budgeting, remember, is all about setting priorities and making choices. Even the smallest members of the family need to be heard on those decisions.
Just make sure they understand the difference between being heard and getting their way. Mom and Dad make the final call, but share the thinking behind the decision. “Because I said so” is another stereotype response we can safely discard, I think.
So do away with the stereotypes already and work on making your finances a collaborative family decision.
The Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her newborn, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union.
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