Heart of Money: In God We Trust?

Heart of Money: In God We Trust?

In this election year, there’s so much talk about the state of the economy. While the powers that be continue to point fingers, I’ve lost faith in our financial institutions. Have there been any regulatory changes you can share that would change my attitude?

Financial institutions provide services to us, and we grant them trust. While there are regulatory changes proposed, you can’t infuse ethics, honesty, and virtue into an organization with laws and regulations. The government can try to regulate behaviors, but as many financial institutions have proven, they are experts at figuring out ways to manipulate regulations to their benefit. I suggest dealing with those companies that have values similar to yours.

My husband insists on keeping our finances separate, because he believes we have different values when it comes to money and spending. I am worried he is hiding something from me. How can we resolve this?

Open communication and transparency are crucial for the survival of any relationship, so you need to ask him directly if he is hiding something.

It is great to have separate checking and savings accounts, because they help to maintain marital bliss. I suggest that each of you have equal access to the information in the other’s account, so that each of you knows exactly where you stand with regard to personal finances. As a couple, it is important to have a handle on your income/spending as well as your net worth, even if you agree that it’s best to keep your money separate.

I’ve heard that many nonprofits misuse donations made to them. What types of questions should I ask before I donate to a cause I want to support?

Some nonprofits seem to be in the business of perpetuating their existence more than serving those they claim to support, so I empathize with your dilemma. Look at their financial statements and have a representative go over the numbers with you. Also ask to see proof of service. Meeting with the organization’s executive director or a board member may give you a better feel for the “culture” of the organization. To donate wisely, I suggest giving to organizations you like and trust and forgo donating until you are comfortable and enthusiastic about the organization’s people, mission, values, financial stewardship, and services.

In my culture, it is customary to give money to younger siblings without any questions or restrictions. I still struggle with this idea as I know my siblings would misuse it, but my parents keep pushing me to do what they believe is the right thing. How do I honor my culture while also listening to my gut?

I believe that a family can be described as “a group of people defined by what is not said.” Ask your parents, “If my younger sibling is using the money for drugs, alcohol, or frivolous spending, is that OK?” Hopefully that question will open the door to a conversation about money and your parents’ values around it. Understanding how your parents were raised and where their values came from may give you insight on why it’s important to them that you help support your siblings. They may also realize how their situation may not pertain to yours and see how their guidance may be teaching you and your younger siblings bad financial habits.

My brother is starting a business and wants me to invest. I want to support him, but how do I do this without potentially hurting our relationship?

I do not think “money” hurts a relationship any more than anything else. If you and your brother have a healthy relationship, then money won’t compromise it. I would make sure that your brother has a lot of “skin in the game.” For example, has he borrowed on his home, sold his coin collection, cut back on dinners out and really put his life on the line to fulfill his dream? If not, don’t invest. If he fails and needs a couch to sleep on, tell him you will be there for him.

If you really want to invest, feel that the prospects are good, and you like his vision and business plan, then invest in it. However, do not invest more than you can afford to lose with grace and no hard feelings. Love is not affected by money and business. Money can jeopardize trust, but if you enter into a business agreement with your brother, love should be a constant in that relationship.

My son received a $100 birthday present from his grandmother. How can I guide him to use the money wisely while also giving him the room to start making decisions on his own?

Teaching gratitude is the first lesson when it comes to money, so the first investment your son should make is in a thank-you note to Grandma. Take him to the local card shop and have him pick out a card for her. After that, have him call Grandma and ask her what she thinks he should do with this wonderful gift. First and foremost, the money is an opportunity for your son to connect with his family.

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