DH = Dear Husband
Personal Finance: A Taboo Topic
In the normal course of events, money-savvy is not something that people disclose. Personal finance is considered personalin our society, and very rarely does it come up in conversation. For some, it’s a taboo subject – very bad form to mention. Too often, it’s only when tough times hit that a person’s financial wisdom becomes apparent.
Loss of Income
I was speaking with a woman after church one Sunday a couple of months ago, and she told me that her husband had recently lost his job. Fortunately, he had secured a position with another company, but his pay would be significantly lower. A home-schooling, stay-at-home mother of a very large family, she was remarkably calm as she related this change in situation. “Are you going to be OK?” I asked. “You’ll be able to manage the mortgage and bills?” She looked around to make sure nobody was in ear shot. “We paid off our mortgage four years ago,” she whispered, as though confiding a dark secret. The sudden loss of income was not going to be an issue for this big family. Had they been carrying the average household debt, the job loss and lower pay would have been extremely stressful. Because they had no debt and knew how to live simply, they were able to absorb the changes without worry.
Although statistics indicate that married couples have only about a 50% chance of staying together, I’m always shocked when I learn of a marital break-up. When one seemingly rock-solid couple I knew separated a few years ago, I was more than shocked. I was deeply worried. The four children were still young, and the woman was a stay-at-home mom. But devastating as the break up was, it wasn’t followed by the usual disruptions. The family home was not sold. The woman did not seek employment or daycare provision. She continued to be a stay-at-home mom. Now navigating the challenges of raising four teen-agers, she is able to devote all of her energies to the monumental task at hand. Too many single moms are spread impossibly thin and are depleted by overwhelming financial anxiety. But this single mom isn’t. Debt-free and cushioned by years of frugal living and disciplined saving, she has been able to weather a terribly difficult time.
I know two different men who lost their wives far too early to cancer, and then lost their own incomes – one due to downsizing, and the other because of a concussion that made him unable to do his job. It’s always difficult to approach people in grief. What can be said? Especially when tragedy has been followed by more misfortune? In both men, I have been surprised to see a remarkable peace. Each is grateful for opportunities to speak about the love of his life. Each devotes himself to his teen and young adult children and to hobbies and interests that seem to find their way to people who aren’t spending their hours in an office. Each was debt-free long before tragedy struck, and for neither is grief being compounded by financial stress.
Time to Open up?
Every single one of these financially wise people I know would say that money is not everything. Not even close. But they are shining examples of what good money management can do for us when we encounter hard times. And we will encounter hard times. Each one of us. It’s a given. When DH went through six years of under-employment, we were debt-ridden, and there were times of such stress and unhappiness that I didn’t know if we’d last. The alternative is so much better: no debts; money saved for a rainy day; ready to weather the storm. Such commonplace wisdom. So rarely practiced. And so rarely discussed.
Have you seen evidence of someone’s financial wisdom in hard times? Do you think that personal finance should remain a “personal” subject? Or should we open up about it? I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic.