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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Facing Financial Hard Times Together -- Twenty Two Keys for Couples

SURVIVORS AND THRIVERS: Couples may tend to have a short frame and lose sight of the big picture. Many couples may be tempted to throw in the towel rather than see that marriage is a growing machine . Couples who have been married for decades often take pride in how they have faced hardships together. BITTER OR BETTER: Ask yourselves how economic challenges can make you better instead of bitter. When we look back on our lives we realize the pride that we take in having weathered hard times. We both had to put ourselves through college. At one time Robert was eating left-overs from the trays in the college cafeteria until his financial aid came through. Linda laughs that she might have become a smoker when she was young but she could not afford a pack of cigarettes. WEAR THE SAME UNIFORM: Teamwork is essential and couples need to wear the same colors. It is important to use the word "We" when discussing economics and avoid behaving like enemies. It feels different to say "How can WE solve this problem" instead of " I intend to sell the car". THE HEALING POWER OF HOPE: Research has shown that happy couples do not lose sight of their dreams. (Gottman,2003). They support the dreams of one another. According to CS Lewis, Gift Love refers to giving because we want the best for our partner. Need Love is based on a sense of insecurity and shortage. We do not need money to exchange gift love every day. EMOTIONAL BANK ACCOUNT: Every night before we go to sleep we tell one another one thing we appreciate about the other. This adds up to 365 deposits in an emotional bank account. WE MAGNIFIY WHAT WE FOCUS ON: If you focus on shortage, you see more of that. If you focus on the abundance of beauty and grace that surrounds you every day you will see more of that. THE FIELD OF BEHAVIORAL FINANCE: Conventional economic theory assumed that people behave rationally and predictably. There is now a lot of research in the field of Behavioral Finance that shows how people make irrational financial decisions. THE BLACK SWAN: A black swan is a highly improbable and unpredictable event with massive impact. We concoct an explanation in hindsight to make it appear more predictable. HYSTERICAL IS HISTORICAL: This is a sage phrase from Al Anon that refers to our tendency to over-react in relationships based on past learning. Dr. Linda was brought up by a single mother to be super independent so when she needed to cut back her work to spend part-time in another city with Dr. Robert she became hysterical about the idea of becoming economically dependent. She cautioned Robert that he must never sound like a "Sugar Daddy". They had to learn together what it meant to be interdependent and put their values first. SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER MUMBO: Research in behavioral economics has shown that if you write out the last two digits of your social security number it will influence your guess about the worth of an item . For example if the last digits are less than 50 you will guess lower and over 50 you will guess higher. Your unconscious expectations influence your economic decisions so it helps to review your history and examine your decisions. RIGHT WRONG GAMES: Since we are all irrational in some ways about money be open to the ideas of your partner. Be flexible and willing to consider new ideas. We tend to hang out with people who will support our bias that leads to faulty financial decision making. In the movie, Fireproof the husband realizes that his rigidity about money has damaged the marriage and does not represent the values he wants to maintain . . . .As a result he decides to anonymously pay his Mother in Law's hospital bill. THE REARVIEW MIRROR: Many of our mistakes seem clear after the fact. It is important for couples to be able to practice looking back together and learning from mistakes. In order to do this you need to avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. (Gottman,2003) HERD BEHAVIOR: Human beings are born mimics who tend to imitate the behavior of the larger group. Based on your deeply held values you may not even want stuff that your neighbors have. It is important to ask yourselves as a couple, " Who are we and what do we want?" In case those questions seem superficial you can spend a lifetime following the herd and failing to find your answers. MARKET MOVES: The current stock market crisis and housing bubbles were fueled by private investors and venture capitalists with the reassurance that many others were doing the same thing. A strong herd mentality drives financial professionals in fierce competition for shareholders, ratings and bonuses. REALITY TALES: As couples face our current economic reality, decisions need to be based on strong values instead fear. Couples need to decide what is most important and think of money as an instrument for an authentic life and not an end in itself. OVERCONFIDENCE: Partners need to avoid being too full of themselves. A great deal of research shows experts like doctors, bankers, and mutual fund managers who overestimate their abilities. Accepting influence from your partner and open-ness to differing opinions help keep us humble. ENVY: Envy is an ego trick that can take us way down the wrong road. Work on being the best YOU and help your partner do the same. BEST BAD DAY: A dear friend of Dr. Linda knew a child at school who had a Mom with terminal cancer. The soft spoken second grader told Amy she was having a bad day since her Mom was getting chemotherapy . Amy suggested they make it a "best bad day" so they made a card and placemats for the Mom. We often see this skill among those with lasting and loving relationships through creative "Best Bad Days. GAINS AND LOSSES: Losses have more inpact than an equal amount of gains. In marriage there is a tendency to hold on to the negative. It is essential to balance the negative with gratitude for the gift of family. John Claypool wrote after the death of his 11 year old daughter, " For years I took for granted and assumed having a healthy family was precisely what I deserved. I see now what an astonishingly good fortune even a single day really is. " THE REAL DEAL: The Chinese have a character for Crisis that combines the words "danger" and "opportunity". Although these are difficult and challenging economic times there is a longing to connect with the truth of our lives and to disconnect from the illusions that everyone from politicians to advertisers portray. MOVE FROM MATERIALISM: These trying times can be a healthy correction . We may not be able to control the economy but we do have control about what we decide to care about. THE HOUSE OF THE HEART IS NEVER FULL: Review your priorities as a couple , embrace the things you care about and see life as together as a journey filled with challenge, joy and love. by Dr. Linda Miles

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