Given all of the things I write about on The Simple Dollar, some people tend to assume that all of this just comes easy for me and my family. To put it simply, it doesn’t. Just like everyone else, we struggle with decisions at times and find ourselves flailing at things that seem easy on paper.
The Five Financial Problems My Family Deals With
Clutter / Keeping Too Much Stuff
I’m a collector of things that are important to me now, but I have no problem letting go of collections that I’ve grown away from. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t collect as much, but she’s very sentimental about the things she has collected.
As a result, we run into problems where one closet in the basement is full of board games I’ve picked up at various sales, crowding out her box of She-Ra toys from her childhood that she keeps for sentimental reasons. A corner of our garage is devoted to several tubs full of “sentimental” items of hers that she rarely looks at but gets upset at the scarcest mention of tossing out or selling. Our son somewhat follows in his mother’s footsteps here, as the thought of getting rid of some of his most favorite toys freom his early childhood makes him very upset.
As a result, we simply accumulate too much stuff over time. On occasion, I go on large purgings of this stuff, usually with her blessing and a few rules as to what not to touch. Still, my feeling is that we have far too much stuff accumulated here and there throughout our home.
My wife prefers to pay bills with a checkbook by looking at the statement, writing the check, and sending it in. I prefer to do that all electronically.
The end result is that several times a year, we both pay the same bill. She’ll pay the cell phone bill by check, while I’ll pay it electronically, and the next month we have a bill with almost a zero balance on it.
While this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it does mean that we’re losing interest on that money during the “extra” month and it also means that we could communicate better when it comes to such bill paying and basic planning.
Again, this is another “digital versus analog” conflict. My wife puts all engagements and appointments on a paper calendar in the kitchen. I do all of my calendaring on Google Calendar. This means that we need to sync the calendars on a fairly regular basis.
When that doesn’t happen, of course, there are problems. “You didn’t check the calendar? Today’s the day you’re supposed to pack a vegetarian sack lunch for Joe!” “Didn’t you see? I have a teleconference today at 2!”
Of course, the real solution is probably about two or three years down the road – a digital kitchen calendar that syncs with Google Calendar. I’ll be early in line for one of those.
Limits of Spending Choices
My wife and I are both strongly on board with spending less than we earn and, on the whole, we do a good job at achieving that goal. Of course, we each have different ideas on what some of the better choices on the fringe of frugality are.
My wife, for example, tends to be very picky about cleaning supplies, whereas I’m happy to clean with vinegar and baking soda. On the other hand, I’m very particular about the food we eat – I’ll choose organic milk, while she’ll choose the cheap milk.
If we were on the same page on these issues, we would probably save a lot more money than we do. But, since neither one of us spends money in any outrageous fashion, we let the other one have their way on buying decisions like these.
Long-Term Investing Risk
Sarah is far more risk-averse than I am. We’ve known this for years, but it really came up recently when we both took a quiz identifying what sort of investments our retirement savings should be in.
My investments suggested 95% of the money should be in stocks, with a good portion of that in foreign and developing country stock and in small cap stock. My wife? 40% stock, 30% bonds, 5% real estate, 25% cash. She’s thirty years old.
What we’ve done so far is to put her retirement savings in a portfolio that matches her risk and put my retirement savings in a portfolio that matches mine. Of course, since we’re tied together, that does mean that she’s exposed to more risk than she’d like and I’m more conservative than I’d like, but it’s worked fine so far – even through the 2008 bear market.