By Renee Koenig, Kewaunee County UW-Extension Family Living Educator
A drop in income due to changes in salary or wage deductions can be a scary and unsettling situation for both adults and children. It is important to talk through the situation with family members as quickly as possible–even though it may be hard to do.
“Adults can easily feel overwhelmed by the added stress and sense of reduced financial security. It is important to remember that children sense the tension in the family and may feel less secure, but don’t know what to do about it,” says Renee Koenig, University of Wisconsin-Extension family living educator in Kewaunee County.
For some families, an income drop significantly changes your ability to make ends meet. Parents may be less engaged with their children and more likely to become upset or angry over little things due to higher levels of stress. Keeping the lines of communication open during times like these can help everyone feel more connected.
Family communication can also help older children and parents find ways to work together on managing the family finances. Even young children can be taught about wants and needs, and how family financial decisions are made.
Koenig offers some tips for family money meetings:
–The most important thing to remember is to “leave blame at the door.”
–Recognize and respect each other’s different attitudes toward money and approach discussions in an organized way. Work to find common ground so you can all work in the same direction.
–Make sure it is a good time for each of you to talk. If one of you has had a bad day or received difficult news, you may want to reschedule the discussion.
–Set ground rules for the discussion. Make sure everyone has an opportunity to be heard and listen to what family members are saying. Avoid accusations and blame.
–Set and prioritize your goals together and stick to the plan unless something significant occurs and you need to alter it.
–Set aside time each month for a money meeting. Regular meetings will become easier to do and keep you on track.
You may need to meet more frequently during times of financial stress. Try to set goals that are obtainable, and leave everyone something that will keep their spirits up. When planning about cutting back on spending, find alternatives for when you have to say “We can’t do that anymore.” For example, if you can’t afford to go to the movie theatre or rent movies, start a movie-lending group with friends or borrow movies from the library. Finding free and inexpensive alternatives can keep family members from feeling the brunt of financial hardship.
Some financial decisions are harder to make. For example, you may wonder how you will afford to buy food, and pay your rent or mortgage. What will happen if you can’t pay your credit card bills right now? You need to take action right away if you are asking these questions. Find out about any and all financial supports that are available to you based on your current income. In Kewaunee County, you can find out more about options that are available by calling 920-388-7137.
UW-Extension provides an online financial management resource for people experiencing different levels of financial stress. All the resources on this website, “Managing Your Personal Finances in Tough Times,” are free. You can access the information at http://fyi.uwex.edu/toughtimes/
Koenig offers financial education during Money Smart Week, April 21-28:
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Time: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Place: Algoma Public Library
Learn about your financial strengths, gain new money management skills and build knowledge you can share with others–your kids, your spouse, friends, co-workers, and more.
Keeping Up When Money Is Tight
Date: Friday, April 27, 2018
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Place: Algoma Public Library
Learn the 5 steps you can take to get a handle on your finances – and your financial stress.