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Break up with Your Money

By Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil

As we face an economic downturn unlike most of us have ever seen, what I call “breaking up” with your money can be an important step for your financial well-being, for your relationship, and for your sanity. We never know what the future may hold – things may start to get a lot better, or they may get worse – but creating healthy relationships with your finances and budget is something that will pay off no matter what type of financial situation we face as a nation or you face as an individual or couple.

The first step is to realize the areas in your relationship where money has “intruded” to create what i call a triangle. I discuss these areas in more detail in my book, Financial Infidelity, but here are some possible triangles, and how you can break up these patterns!

1. Family/Money/Relationship: Family legacies of money behaviors are not always contained in our subconscious minds – they can be very real! Demands of extended family members for financial support can be one way in which money can encroach and put a strain on a couples finances AND on their relationship.
2. Children/Money/Relationship: Nearly 70% of couples experience relationship stress after having kids. When a couple becomes contentious over spending on their children, the couple’s relationship can suffer – as can the family’s relationship.
3. Spending (or saving)/Money/Relationship: This can be a case of “opposites attract” in the extreme: the relationship then becomes at risk for damaging power struggles, sneaky “pay back,” and other deceit.

Hiding or denying the role money has in your life and in your relationship – as in any of the scenarios above, or other scenarios – has a toxic affect on a relationship. These types of “triangle” behaviors negatively influences your relationship with your partner. You may not think of it as cheating, but if you continue in this type of lop-sided relationship, it will take a toll. Attachment to your money can often ruin chances for you and your partner to build an intimate relationship.

Learning to prioritize the role of money in your relationship is an important step toward a healthy dynamic between your, your partner, and your money. I’ve come up with several ways to do this – here is one such exercise:

Withdrawals and Deposits:

Day 1: pretend you have suddenly been forced into bankruptcy. You are poor and have nothing – no money, no investments. Take your negative fantasies into the extreme – imagine yourself selling everything you have, being free of all your material goods.

Day 2: Visualize yourself with plenty of money, and all that entails. You are comfortable and able to do the things that are truly important to you.

Day 3 – and forever after: be consciously grateful. Each day, count the things you are grateful for.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil has been an internationally acclaimed relationship therapist for thirty years. New York magazine named her one of the city’s top therapists and Psychology Today named her one of America’s best therapists. Her most recent book, Financial Infidelity, is available on Amazon.

Pay Day Loans – Legislating Rates

The payday loan industry is enormous at over 85 billion dollars. In 2008 the state of Ohio passed legislation limiting the interest rate to 28% for businesses offering payday advance loans. This puts the interest rate at close to the same rate as a credit card. The state supported this bill by 64%. Proponents of the bill noted that payday loans cause the poor to get caught in a vicious cycle of debt that they cannot escape.

The interest rates on these types of loans ranges from 300% -600%. It is also important to understand the amount of risk involved with this type of transaction for the person lending the money. Given the size of the industry it would seem that there is plenty of profit motive to enter the market and that someone would lend at a lower percentage to pick up more business. However, the only thing to factor in must be the size of risk involved. More innovative online pay day lenders such as those that offer no fax payday loan have actually decided to stop lending in Ohio due to the new legislation.

This limits choice for Ohioans and others in States that limit pay day interest rates. Some have suggested that state level assistance programs may be necessary in the absence of this form of credit.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Does the new legislation protect those who would otherwise be taken advantage of or is this a necessary service that people depend on that will no longer be an option?

Ultimatum game – How to trade effectively

In life we are constantly making deals in ways we might not even think of. It doesn’t have to be as big as buying a house, paying off debt or some other major life event. We make deals as simple as splitting a piece of gum with someone. Traditionally, I’ve used the 50/50 split rule. It seems intuitive and fair. Growing up when I used to split a piece of gum my mom used to tell me, “you split, I pick.” This method ensured that we both had a common interest in making sure the split was as fair as possible. However, you may be able to get a little more if you don’t get to greedy.

Enter the science of what economists call the ultimatum game. In this scenario, there are two participants. One participant is given a sum of money. He or she is told that they must make an offer to the second participant. If the 2nd participant accepts the offer they can both keep the money. Remember, the 2nd participant will always be better off by accepting some offer. For example, a single penny is better than nothing. As you can imagine, the 2nd participant declines the offer at some level. What numerous studies have shown is that regardless of income level or size of offer that the 2nd participant usually declines when their share drops below 30%.

This has numerous implications for deal making and sharing of resources. As long as you can position yourself to let the other person think they are getting more than 30% of the benefit in a deal there is a good chance they will accept.

If they have the gum in the future you may want to opt for a more even split :)

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

One of the most interesting facts about how products are sold, is that the products which can do you the most harm are often the most flattering to you in their ads.

 

Flattery used to belong to the domain of interpersonal relations. You “buttered someone up” if you wanted something from them. You flattered someone to influence a result in a positive direction. Sadly, this tool has been adopted by the marketing industry.

 

We like being flattered. Plain and simple, there’s no one who doesn’t like it, though they may be shy about receiving such flattery in public. There’s a rush of recognition and pride in knowing that others share a good opinion of you. How does this translate to marketing?

Alcohol companies talk about exciting lifestyles, smoking was always for the adventurous and stylish, and our cars tragically live more exciting lives than we often do. Credit card companies are the most entertaining with how they offer you a veritable Olympics of card recognition. First gold cards, now platinum, then platinum plus. You are given more and more recognition as they flatter you. Pre-approved applications come with directions indicating that they will be handled with “special care” as the company is honored to offer you your due.

Attending bars and drinking alcohol are marketed as part of adulthood, which makes them all the more attractive as soon as youth turn of legal age. Credit cards, also viewed as a staple of adulthood, are offered in universities to youth eagerly trying to establish their adult identities.

 

Just as with flattering individuals, we need to look through at the motivations behind the flattery. In the end, we truly are doing a favor to a company when we buy or use its product, but we do owe it to ourselves to make sure we receive the maximum benefit for the money we spend. So look beyond the flattery, and see what the flattery is trying to hide.

Your investment decisions can have global effects

If you could choose only one, would you choose to (a) save a thousand people in a foreign country from dying in an earthquake, (b) save a hundred people in your home town (but that you don’t know) from dying in a plane crash, or (c) save your best friend from dying in a car accident?

Most people will answer (c), and will choose (b) over (a). (Up the ante by changing “your best friend” to “your child” and all but the most Vulcan-like among us will answer c.) You could call it egoism–the view that humans always act based on rational self-interest–or emotionally-motivated behavior or just plain selfishness; but given the choice, people almost always choose to do what benefits them, even at the detriment of other people, especially if those other people are distant strangers.

This is healthy human behavior; we value what we have and what we know, and we act to protect what we value. Rationally, however, if we assume that human life in general is valuable, we know that (a) is the most logical choice. Most of us don’t worry too much about this, since saving one’s best friend from death is pretty big, and after all, it’s just a hypothetical dilemma.

Now let’s talk about the food crisis. Chances are you’ve heard that food prices are rising and seen it for yourself. There are a number of factors causing the higher prices: increased demand, low reserves, the weak dollar, the high price of oil…and speculators. This Washington Times article describes how investors are putting money into futures markets for corn, wheat, and rice (among other things), which actually drives prices higher.

Speculators have always played a prominent role in commodities markets, but in the past year, they have literally overwhelmed them, causing a dramatic increase in trading volume, volatility and prices and disrupting many of the normal relationships between producers and end-users.

…As with the credit bubble before it, the explosion in commodities prices has its origins in a global savings glut and massive trade imbalances…The difference this time, however, is that even before it bursts, this bubble is causing economic discomfort for households and businesses around the world, and misery for hundreds of millions of hungry people who suddenly cannot afford a bowl of rice or scrap of meat.

Generally speaking, your financial decisions affect you, your family, and maybe a corporation’s profit margin or a stock broker’s bonus. But this is a new twist in financial decision making, where deciding to make some money could mean making a family just like yours–even if it’s on the other side of the world–go hungry.

If you could choose only one, would you choose to (a) feed a hundred starving people in India, (b) feed ten hungry people in your home town, or (c) make a little extra money off the stock market?

Choosing to invest in the stock market, even in the commodities market, won’t directly bring you to that choice, of course. But it’s true that thanks to our truly global economy, your financial decisions can now truly affect people in foreign countries. What would you choose?