The #1 Cause of Conflict in Relationships Isn’t Money. It’s a Lack of Financial Literacy.
Many reports, surveys and studies suggest the #1 cause of couple and family conflict, is money. Some even report ‘the money thing’ to be a major cause for divorce. Having built and sustained a profitable practice of 22+ years as a mediator, conflict management specialist and business coach, I have helped many people productively navigate through difficult personal and professional conflicts. While being very good at navigating people through their conflict is very satisfying, I am helpless when it comes to plotting a course through ‘the money thing’ itself. Until now…
Have You Heard This Story?
Once upon a time a villager rescued a sick person found floating down the river. Pulling them to shore she nursed the sick person back to health. The next day two people are seen floating past the village. They too are pulled to shore and administered healing care. The following day 4 people float by and more villagers come to help the sick. The next day, 8 sick people are rescued. Before long, there are too many sick people coming downstream to heal them on the riverbank. The villagers decide to set up a hospital near the riverbank to better facilitate the nursing needs of these sick people. Soon hundreds of the sick are rescued from the river as an efficient system is set up to get the sick out of the river and to the hospital. Hearing of these heroic efforts, people from around the world come to study their system, looking to duplicate the villager’s now famous success. One day, a student of the village system, being perplexed, asked, “Why doesn’t someone go upstream, identify what is making these people sick and prevent them getting sick before they end up in the river?”
Mastering skills that help people through the difficultly of their conflict is wonderful. But, what if one also had the means to alleviate that thing causing their conflict altogether? Would it be shameful not to offer and provide this means? Though it is noble to pull sick people out of a river and create an efficient system to nurse them back to health, does it not make more sense to move upstream and eliminate exposure to sickness?
“Financial difficulty is understandably a major source of family conflict, especially when parents or couples develop money worries and find themselves unable to pay household bills or go into debt… (some estimates claim discussing family finances causes around 3 arguments a month on average). Indeed, having financial problems or disagreements is often cited as one of the main causes of divorce” (What Causes Conflict in Your Home?).
“Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a survey of people in a relationship or partnership released Wednesday by SunTrust Bank, (Feb 4, 2015)” (Fighting With Your Spouse? It’s Probably About Money).
“…[C]ompared to non-money issues, marital conflicts about money were more pervasive, problematic, and recurrent, and remained unresolved, despite including more attempts at problem solving” (For Richer or Poorer: Money as a Topic in Martial Conflict in the Home).
Financial Illiteracy is the Sickness
— A 2017 GOBankingRates survey found that more than half of adults have less than $1,000 in savings.
— According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual household spending in the U.S. is $57,311. Based on that amount, the average emergency fund should be $28,656 — enough to cover six months of expenses.
– 55 percent of Americans can’t cover six months’ worth of living expenses if they lost their job.
– 54 percent of Americans don’t have enough saved to cover medical emergencies.
– 42 percent of Americans can’t cover emergency car repairs.
– 65 percent of younger millennials ages 18 to 24 can’t cover six months’ worth of living expenses, followed by 60 percent of older millennials ages 25 to 34.
– 62 percent of younger millennials don’t have enough saved to cover medical expenses, followed by 59 percent of older millennials.
– 54 percent of younger of younger millennials can’t cover emergency car repairs, followed by 44 percent of older millennials.
— About 61 percent of women versus 46 percent of men don’t have enough saved to cover six months’ worth of living expenses in the event of a job loss. Nearly 60 percent of women don’t have enough to cover medical emergencies, compared with 45 percent of men. And 47 percent of women don’t have enough saved for car repairs versus 34 percent of men. Furthermore, 23 percent of women have less than $100 saved for living expenses in case of a job loss, while just 13 percent of men have that little (GoBankingRates.com, Feb 6, 2018).
The problem goes beyond spending less money or making more money. Many believe the solution to not having enough money is to make more by adding extra hours, adding a second job, adding a degree or another certification. Unfortunately, this solution is the product of financially illiterate thinking. Robert Kioysaki teaches in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and in “The Cashflow Quadrant,” it is not how much money you make, but how you make your money that matters. If we are going to change our thinking, then we must educate ourselves with quality information.
Financial Literacy is the Cure
Programs teaching how to manage spending are good. However, spending management is a small part of the whole story. Managing spending and getting a raise can only marginally affect the statistics above. A ‘money’ education, what money is and how money works, better serves an individual’s financial decision-making process. Financial literacy must embrace a wholistic approach to the topic of money, including not just spending or increasing one’s income, but also the rules of the ‘money game.’ Financial literacy can help families escape the river of stress and anxiety that threatens their financial health and relationship stability.
The Center for Dispute Solutions is proud to announce its partnership with a coaching company that teaches people financial security through mastering financial literacy, teaching financial principles that, when applied, can alleviate the #1 cause of conflict in families once and for all.