Personal Finance

Dad needs to grow up and be financially responsible

The dilemma: I’m a mother, wife and a hard worker who makes a good living. My husband has a job with benefits, so we do OK.

Here’s my problem. I handle all the bills for us and always worry about saving enough for college and for retirement after everything’s paid. My husband is like a kid and always wants another toy, trip or splurge and doesn't understand why we can’t always indulge. I get tired of arguing and usually give in so he won’t pout for days. Newest toy is a dirt bike!

Now the kids, ages 11and 9, are getting to be like him, always asking for things and arguing with me, like their father does. He says sure to everything. Or ask your mother. I hate being the bad guy, but how do I teach our boys values when their father obviously doesn’t recognize the need? How do I make sure we have enough for the important things, like college and retirement? One son told me he hates his college fund because it keeps him from getting things now. This stress is killing me.

Meg’s solution: I can just imagine. Money, values and the value of money — things that you need to teach to your children because they certainly can’t learn it from the media or their peers, and obviously not their father. The world has changed enormously, but good values are still a parent’s to teach. Perhaps your husband missed those lessons growing up. It seems a lot of today’s parents did by the looks of what children are given, willy nilly. It horrifies me to see such bounty.

How do they learn to work and save for what they want when it just appears? How do they learn patience? How do they learn to value what they have, and not what someone else has? Up to you, mama, and a tough job.

You need hubby to be an adult in your household, not to mention help with saving for your family’s future. You’ve lost your power, and that’s not OK. Your husband is being disrespectful to you, and of course the boys are going to pick up on that. Unacceptable on so many levels. So your first line must be to somehow get through to your husband, not in an argument, but an honest lament at an appropriate and solo time. Kids need a united front to thrive in, and you cannot always give in, for all of your sakes … even if you’re the bad guy. Fight it through until you find a family solution or you’ll have spoiled brat teenagers on your hands in a few years.

Try dealing with facts. Engage the services of a financial planner who can literally show you the future of what you’ll have for retirement based on what you’ve saved so far and what you’re putting away. He or she’ll help with a budget (sorry, bad word, but necessary) so you can easily see what your fixed overhead is, as well as the extra or discretionary items. Put the college and retirement savings in the fixed overhead category and see what’s left to play with.

You can do this online with some of the planning software programs, but I think you may need a third party professional to tell your husband the facts. He probably has tuned you out long ago. Of course you’ll need to find a place in the budget for toys and ventures because they’re important to him — and can be fun for you — but not before savings.

As for the kids behavior, nip that in the bud. Help your husband see what he’s doing. It’s not just the money; it’s this sense of entitlement that’s developing in your children. You need to find a way — therapy or even the financial planner, some books if he’ll read them — to let him understand how he needs to help your boys form good values and respect, even if it’s new to him. It’s just the right thing.

Lastly, consider giving your children a small allowance each week to save or spend. Offer them chores to earn more if they want. Then they can save up to pay for their latest “need” or put on their wish list for birthdays and holidays where presents are given — just like Mommy and hopefully Daddy.

Got a dilemma? Email Meg Green, CFP, is a wealth manager with offices in Aventura. Her Money Dilemmas column runs monthly in the Miami Herald.