You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” Well, it holds true in the area of family finances, too. Establishing long-term goals for yourself and your family helps to keep your current financial picture in perspective.
For example, if one of your goals as a couple is to have a full-time parent at home when the new baby arrives, you can start cutting back on spending now in order to get out of debt and establish some savings before that big day arrives. Keeping your long-term goals in mind will help keep you on track whenever you’re tempted to spend money on extras.
A necessary step toward working together as a financial team is to establish your life goals and review them with your significant other. Ask yourself the following questions to help you determine your long-term financial goals:
What hobbies do I want to pursue to add recreation and fun to my life? What place does education hold in my future or that of others in my immediate family?
How important is home ownership in my future? What are my career goals? What further training, if any, do I need to reach those goals?
How much time, money, and effort do I want to give in the near future to charity or church-related activities?
What character traits do I value most and want to develop in my own life and the life of my children? Are my personal financial goals and decisions in line with those character traits?
What are my retirement goals? How will I take care of future healthcare concerns? How soon do I want to pay off any outstanding consumer debt? At the end of my life, what things might I regret if I choose to spend my money on less-important pursuits?
Writing out your goals and the values that are important to your family can go a long way toward keeping your life and finances on track.
But even if you don’t write down your goals, thinking through your priorities and keeping them in mind as you make decisions (financial and otherwise) is an excellent habit.
If you have trouble keeping to a written budget, you may choose a life partner whose greatest joy is keeping detailed written records of every flower growing in the yard or every penny spent on bubble gum by the kids and imagine you balance each other out in the process. Having differences is healthy, but we also know from experience that these differences can test your limits of grace and reason.
If you’re the primary money manager in your family, you will probably shoulder most of the responsibility for turning your family’s finances around.
However, the cooperation of your spouse or partner and family is essential. Although you may pay the bills each month, you and your spouse or partner both spend your family’s money, so he or she has a very direct effect on the success or failure of your financial program.
The support and cooperation of your spouse or partner is essential to getting your family’s finances back on track. One of you can’t be pinching pennies while the other is spending like there is no tomorrow. Both of you should be totally committed to getting out of debt and reducing or eliminating the use of credit.