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This brief YouTube
video previews some of what you'll read here:
This article offers...
questions typical adults should ask
about common family "money problems,"
Q1) What are
common marital and family "money
Though details vary infinitely,
there are common themes to surface
"money problems" in typical families...
income amounts and allocations
investment decisions and management
loans, and gifts to family and
wills and estate plans
saving vs. spending
of these can cause significant conflict and stress in and between family
homes. Stress often blooms over several of them at once, combined withother marital
and family "problems"
"Problems" are unfilled needs
each topic above can be a
significantstressor, but is NOT the real issue.
Each is a symptom of several underlying primary problems which
people (like you?)
are often unaware of. If adults focus only on trying to resolve surface
problems, they're likely to recur and/or multiply. See Q2 below.
Don't know how to avoid or
identify and resolve values conflicts
(Q4), loyalty conflicts (Q5),
and associated relationship triangles (Q6).
And typical women and men...
how they try to resolve their "money" (and other) problems, so they
focus fruitlessly on the surface (secondary) disputes, and grow frustrated because of many of these communication
If conflicted partners seek professional
help to resolve disputes over "money" (or other issues),
they can't find
consultants who know the prior four problems and what to do about them.
Does the premise that "all 'money
problems' are not really about money" seem more credible now? Do
any of these primary problems apply to your situation?
As you progress at this vital work together, also...
Commit to learning how to problem-solve effectively(i.e. to progress on
and add this to your top life-priorities. This includes learning how
to avoid and resolve values conflicts (Q4 below), loyalty conflicts
relationship triangles (Q6) together.
Invite other people affected by your "money
problems" (including any professional helpers) to read and discuss this
article and take appropriate actions. If minor kids are affected, help
them understand what you're doing and why, in age-appropriate language.
If you're in a divorcing family or
stepfamily, see Q8-Q15 for more steps.
For "extra credit," consider
alerting others in your workplace or
school, church, community, region, state, or nation what you're learning
Pause, breathe, and reflect - how do you feel about these three "money"
questions and answers, so far? Are you motivated to take the steps above
now? (No > sort of > yes). If not,
suspect that a well-meaning
values conflicts, and how do they
relate to disputes over "money"?
This brief YouTube video previews what you're about to read. The video
mentions eight self-improvement lessons: I've reduced that to seven.:
Can your family adults and
clearlydefine (a) avalue, (b) avalues conflict, and (c) how best to
avoid and resolve such conflicts?
Manysurface disputes about money
occur because people have different values - priorities, preferences, habits, and rules - like "I'm a spender,
and you're a saver;" and "I'm conservative, and you're a risk-taker." Values conflicts
occur all the time between (a) your dynamic
and between (b)
which control other adults and kids.
So as mutually-respectful
partners, help each other learn to spot
values conflicts and
evolve a co-operative
(a) compromise peacefully or (b) agree to disagree.
Popular (false-self) alternatives are
arguing, manipulating, avoiding,
debating, blaming, power-struggling, trying to convert the other person (win), whining, explaining,
superficial changes, and numbing out.
None of these
lose-lose strategies fill your or your partner's
primary needs. Note that one common need causing surface money problems is
the primal drive for current and long-term security. Notice what it
feels like to say "We have a disagreement over security, vs. "...over
money / debts / savings / expenses / investing / gambling / etc."
partners get better
at spotting and resolving values conflicts, teach the kids in your lives how to
ident5ify and master them! Did
your early caregivers do that for you? If you don't do this - who will?
Stay aware that two requisites for
avoiding and resolving significant values conflicts over anything are...
your true Selves are steadily
guiding your personalities (Lesson 1), and...
you and any partner are gaining fluency in these
skills (Lesson 2).
your family adults have these requisites yet?
For more perspective on resolving
internal and interpersonal values conflicts together, see
What are loyalty conflicts, and how do they
relate to "money problems"?
This brief YouTube video previews key points here. The video mentions eight
self-improvement lessons in this site: I've reduced that to seven:
Try saying your definition of
loyalty out loud now. Are you loyal to some people and not to
others now?Do you need and/or expect some adults and kids to be
loyal to you? How do you assess loyalty?
Loyalty conflicts occur when an adult or child feels impossibly
supporting either of two or more
conflicted people s/he cares for and/or needs. Any choice risks
the unchosen person/s feeling slighted or abandoned, hurt, and
resentful. No choice risks all other people feeling
are a type of values conflict (Q4 above). They occur among personality
subselves as well as people - e.g. is your
subself more loyal to your
or to your
Loyalty conflicts often have two parts - an
inner values or loyalty
conflict, and an interpersonal conflict.
Disputes over "money
issues" (Q1) and financial values often
polarize family membersinto opposing camps. This often promotes interactive loyalty conflicts
that can quickly multiply into a web of concurrent disagreements, antagonisms, and
associated relationship triangles (Q6 below). In other words,
family loyalty conflicts often don't stand alone.
check to see that your Self (capital "S") is steadily
your other subselves. If not,
free him/her up
or lower your expectations
encourage all of you to
aware of your
communication process as you work toward resolution. In particular, watch for
which can amplify the original conflict or add new ones!
check for multiple inner and interpersonal conflicts, sort them
out, and focus on one at a time. Resolve inner conflicts (between
subselves) first, and then re-evaluate your interpersonal conflicts. This requires clear self-awareness, patience, and an
accurate knowledge of your
active subselves. See
encourage brainstorming for compromises
that are acceptable enough to everyone, without taking responsibility for
"fixing' the other people's problems;
acknowledge the loyalty conflict and describe how it
feels to the other
people involved, without blame or guilt; - e.g. "I'm feeling torn
in the middle of a loyalty conflict. I want to support each of you if I
can - I don't want to take sides." If the other people don't know about
these conflicts and are open to learning, teach them;
if circumstances permit,
ask each of the opposed people
something like "What do you need from me on this conflict now?" -
and then listen empathically, without judgment. They may need something other than what you assume!
affirm (a) each person's personal
rights and dignity
(self-respect), and (b) your respective responsibilities to meet your
own needs. Conflicts involving kids are more complex because they
depend on one or more of you to fill certain needs.
the "money" conflict involves primary partners (e.g. "Who do I support -
my mate or my parent?") and no viable compromise appears,
and wholistic health first, your relationship second, and everything
else third, except in emergencies.
every major loyalty conflict as a learning opportunity, rather
than a frustrating obstacle to overcome.
encourage all your family adults and older kids to...
learn what loyalty
a common language to describe and discuss them together, and...
evolve a mutually-respectful
strategy to resolve them when anything
sets them off, not just money.
As you do these, help each other develop...
your awareness of
(a) values conflicts (Q4) and how recognize and resolve them,
and (b) how to spot and unhook from
relationship triangles (Q6 below); and develop...
all seven communication
skills, including how and
dig down below surface clashes to
unfilled primary needs that cause them.
For more perspective
on loyalty conflicts, see several articles starting
What are relationship triangles, and how do
they relate to "money problems"?
This brief YouTube video previews what you're about to read. The video 9ntro
mentions eight self-improvement lessons: I've reduced that to seven.:
In any group, circumstances can cause three people to
complementary roles (attitudes and behaviors) called the Persecutor, the Victim,
and the Rescuer. These roles polarize their relationships
in stressful ways.
ThePersecutor hurts the
Victim in some way - e.g.
shames, punishes, threatens, scorns, ignores, taunts, insults, and/or abuses
him or her; and the Rescuer
defends the Victim. This can easily trigger one or more loyalty conflicts
(Q5 above) and lose-lose power struggles (I'm right." NO, I'M right!"),
which compound everyone's stress.
PVR triangles are toxic because they foster reciprocal hurt, frustration, anger,
guilt, disrespect, and anxiety - specially if they're chronic. Triangles inhibit
family teamwork and loyalty by promoting alliances, coalitions, and
antagonisms among some members in and between homes and generations.
Stressful PVR triangles also happen
all the time!
Many things can trigger family PVR (relationship) triangles. A
"money-triggered" triangle happens in under a minute, when a father (P)
sarcastically calls his wife (V) irresponsible and
frivolous about spending their money. She glowers and denies this, and
he belligerently escalates his criticisms. Their 16 year-old son (R)
then tells his father to shut up and leave his mother alone. Limitless
variations of this involve senior parents, adult siblings, minor kids, in-laws,
friends, teachers, financial and legal consultants, and others.
Can you think of a PVR (relationship) triangle that occurred in your family recently over
a financial issue or something else? What was the outcome - did anyone
benefit or get their needs met? Do your family members know what these
triangles are and how to manage them? Did your childhood adults know how to
do so? Did they teach you how? Are your kids learning how to spot and manage
The first steps family adults can take to avoid or dissolve triangles
are to (a) learn what they are, and (b) discuss and agree on why they're harmful to
everyone. Then (c) evolve a family vocabulary to use in
describing and managing triangles - e.g. "Looks like I'm the Persecutor
here, your sister is the Victim, and you're the Rescuer, huh?"
The next step is (d) every family adult to take ongoing responsibility for
true Self in charge of their other subselves, and help others
do the same (i.e. progress on
Lesson 1 together). Then
family adults commit to learning how and when to use these
basics and seven communication
Again, notice that "money" is not
the problem, though wounded, unaware people like the trio above might
insist that it is. If they were aware of subselves and triangles, the adults would focus
on admitting and dissolving their triangle, rather than escalating lose-lose
arguments over the wife's spending habits and choices (a marital
For more perspective and options about avoiding, spotting, and
dissolving toxic relationship triangles in any setting, including
inner family of dynamic subselves,
Is there a
best way for
adults to make significant family financial decisions?
I vote "yes":
all family adults should want
to study and apply the Lessons in this
and model and teach them to their kids. Then with their true Selves in
charge, work at win-win
problem solving to master any surface disputes (Q1)
about money (or anything else).
Q8)Do typical divorcing families and stepfamilies have common "money
problems" in addition to those
in intact biofamilies (Q1)?
Yes. Each such family can
have a mix of complex extra issues like these:
negotiating divorce-related property and
debt division and ownership, and alimony, if any;
evolving pre-nuptial agreements
new partners if assets warrant this;
family adults agreeing on pre-re/marital and
pre-re/divorce debt ownership and responsibility;
negotiating ongoing regular and special
child-support obligations, allocation, and compliance, including
resolving any legal battles over these;
negotiating child-related health and life
insurance responsibilities and coverages;
agreeing on if and how much stepparents should
household living expenses and family
stepchild expenses, including
clothing, food, activities, allowances, education, vacations, insurance, and
legal bequests to stepkids, and...
paying down their partner's prior debts;
More special "money problems"...
"fairness" issues (values and
conflicts) among bio and step-relatives about financial and other gifts
and support for kids and grandkids; and adults in typical divorcing
families and stepfamilies must resolve disputes over...
what financial values to teach minor kids,
who should teach them, and how; and...
choosing a competent financial advisor -
i.e. one who understands the special complexities of divorcing families
and stepfamilies in addition to financial wisdom.
And an overarching
special issue is...
to resolve significant family financial disagreements effectively.
This can be much more complex than in typical intact
biofamilies because there are...
more wounded and unaware people who are
more concurrent values and loyalty
conflicts and relationship triangles to sort out and resolve, and
less informed, effective help available
to resolve these (and other) stepfamily problems than for biofamily members.
well prepared do you think average divorcing-family and stepfamily adults
are to plan for and co-manage their regular financial tasks
a dynamic mix of these (and other) special tasks?
Co-parents who invest
significant time and energy in
Lessons early earn the best odds of succeeding at this challenge together
over time. Their living and future kids depend on them to do so!
Adults in typical intact
biofamilies have fewer of these barriers, and they're usually simpler.
another primary problem is...
Ignorance - typical stepfamily adults
what they need to know about
stepfamily realities and
hazards, so they often have
unrealistic role and relationship
expectations of each other. This
usually results in a web of significant
stressors which makes solving
one problem at a time difficult; and...
- many average stepfamily adults don't (want to) know they're a
stepfamily (ignorance), or they deny their stepfamily
and what it
can also deny that a stepchild's "other bioparent" and kin are full
members of their
These extra factors guarantee webs of stressful loyalty conflicts and triangles, which
sometimes escalate into bitter
legal battles over child-related issues
including custody, visitations, financial support, and
Biofamily mergers -
typical stepfamilies develop over some years by merging up to
three or more co-parents' biofamilies.
This causes webs of concurrent
and associated relationship
triangles which typical adults and lay and professional
supporters don't know how to avoid or resolve.
Bottom line -
there can be up
to nine simultaneous, interactive core problems promoting groups of
significant surface "money problems" in typical divorcing
families and stepfamilies. The best defense adults have against these core problems is to
commit to helping each other progress at
Lessons starting in courtship.
Q10) Is there a
best way for stepfamily mates to manage their money?
Yes. I believe the best
strategy is one
which consistently meets their respective (a)
primary human needs and
and co-parental needs. Each mate will have a
unique mix of needs which will vary over time. Can you name your sets of needs
Three money-management options that most stepfamily mates choose
common ("ours") checking, savings,
and investment accounts;
yours and mine accounts;
yours, mine, and ours.
Each has pros and cons. Which
option is best for you two will depend on many unique
factors that are beyond summarizing here. You may
experiment over time to see which option promotes the most personal,
household harmony (satisfies everyone's needs) for you all.
Whichever option fits you best, the real keys here are...
you being able to define clearly (a) what you
need about managing your
assets and debts,
and (b) how you
being able to
assert your needs effectively, and...
each of you feelingheard clearly by your partner, and...
To do this, you'll probably each need to be able to answer
questions 1-8 well enough. Take your time, and help each other learn and apply
these ideas. Then teach your kids and other key people what you learn,
including ex mates!
Q11) Should stepparents and
step-grandparents include stepkids and step-grandkids in their wills and estate plans?
Including someone in a will or
trust, and how much money or value you bequeath, publicly demonstrates how you rank that person
with other beneficiaries. You caninclude stepkids and
stepgrandkids in your will from a mix of duty (obligation) and
guilt ("I should..."),
from genuine affection or love and concern for them.
Whether to include stepkids, and how much to
bequeath compared to biokids and biograndkids, will depend on your
values, assets, debts, psychological bonds, and priorities.
Focusing only on dollars and "fairness" risks causing
loyalty conflicts and
triangles ("hurt feelings") in relatives
who feel discounted and excluded. Theemotional impact of
inclusion/exclusion decisions on your stepfamily relationships and
nurturance level can't be
measured in dollars.
Because stepfamily systems are so psychologically,
structurally, and dynamically complex, one way for mates to
answer complex questions like bequests is to say "Where no clear
resolution appears, put...
Then explain and discuss this
scheme honestly with all concerned. The long-term value of the
scheme is that it helps to protect all family members from the great trauma and
loss of potential psychological and legal (re)divorce.
Adults who (a) reject your
as a multi-home stepfamily, and/or (b) reject some children or adults as
members are most apt to have major
loyalty conflicts over who to include in
estate plans, and to what extent. The risk of conflict is higher if the adults...
Q13) How can we
pick an effective stepfamily financial advisor?
Income, expenses, assets, debts, and
financial security can be major sources of conflict in any family. This is specially true for average multi-home
divorcing families and
stepfamilies. If your
adults decide to ask for expert
advice on investments, wills, debt-restructuring and management, insurance,
and tax obligations, use criteria like these to select the most effective
advisors: the person should...
be licensed and
experienced in the relevant area of financial expertise, and...
s/he should have
significant experience in
working with typical divorcing and remarried clients,and...
The best candidate
will also have some knowledge of the legal rights of stepparents and
stepkids in your state, and/or s/he should be able to refer you to a veteran family-law
attorney who knows about these rights. For more perspective on choosing an
effective family financial advisor, see this
and this when you finish here.
Q14)How can we
resolve our major stepfamily arguments over financial "fairness"?
Arguing over financial (or any) fairness in typical divorcing
families and stepfamilies is usually a special kind of
loyalty conflict. Such arguments often bloom
when people unrealistically expect these families to behave like (ideal)
defining "fairness" out loud now, as to a young child. Would you agree that
whatever the surface issue ("My stepparent gives her son real expensive
gifts, and gives me just cheap stuff."),
fairness is usually about perceived
personal respect and priority?
inescapable reality in typical stepfamilies is that despite vows not to play
favorites, many bioparents instinctively care more
for their own children and grandkids than for their stepchildren and
step-grandkids. There are many exceptions. Another reality is that the bonds
between pairs of stepfamily adults - including ex mates and their families -
vary from dislike to "polite disinterest" to deep affection and
respect to love.
realities suggest that most fairness disputes can be best handled
Are there any "money"
for stepfamily adults?
The only one I know is
Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage
- Handling Delicate Financial Issues With Love and Understanding; by Patricia
Schiff Estes. Patricia
is the remarried founding
editor of Sylvia Porter's Personal Finance Magazine, and a former Board member of
the (now disbanded) Step-family Association of America. There may be other books - search the Web.
While expert at financial topics, I suspect Patricia is not fully informed
on these Q&A topics - specially these five
Her book is useful anyway. For perspective on choosing any materials
about stepfamilies and remarriage, see this.