Sunday, 7 July 2013

Who Should Manage the Family’s Finances? [AKINJIDE AKINYEMI]


Many homes seem to have experienced financial difficulties one time or the other due to poor money management.

When I was growing up, I often heard of families where the man was the neighbourhood drunk, and one of the ways you knew the man has received his salary is when he orders drinks for everyone at the bar and spends the night in the gutter.
He would get so drunk that he could not make his way home successfully, ending up in the gutter. Often, village youths who know the drill will follow him to the gutter and help him empty his pockets. He usually staggers home at the break of dawn with a hangover and empty pockets, ready to pick a fight when the wife dares ask for housekeeping allowance.

In some instances, other women come into the picture. The man maintains two homes with no clear plan for the future. He becomes a rolling stone that gathers no moss. He works long and hard but has nothing to show for his days of toiling.

A future dependent on pension

I have heard so many complaints from wives about how the husband mismanages the family finances. The most common complaint is that the husband has refused to build his own house and has become comfortable as a tenant, in some cases to a much younger landlord. In some cases, the man actually built, but in the village.

The house in the villages remains empty attracting no rent while the family remain tenants in the city. Many wives complain the husband has become so busy doing good to outsiders while his household lacks. Apart from not having a place of their own they can call home, the family has no emergency fund for the rainy day.

The family’s financial future is pinned on a paltry pension whose regularity is not guaranteed. These wives feel insecure, naked and exposed, and often look for what to do to protect the family financially in case of the unexpected.

Saving for a rainy day

Often when the man loses his job, it is the wife that comes to the rescue. In one case, it was the wife’s collection of gold jewellery that saved the day in putting food on the table and sending the children to school. Had the woman fallen for the trap of gathering boxes of clothes, shoes and costume jewellery, the family would have had to beg, and the children may have to drop out of school and take to the street, trading to fend for the family.

Few men recognise the wisdom of saving for the rainy day but are busy keeping up with the Joneses until the rug is pulled from under their feet. They go on as if there is no tomorrow but when the rainy day comes, they become helpless. It begins to seem like the men have no sense while all the common sense resides with the women.

My wife had rescued me many times from dumb financial decisions in times past when financial illiteracy was my middle name. Women seem to be blessed with superior discernment abilities and can smell trouble miles away before men, who seem to wait until they see the danger with their eyes, which is often too late. Women seem to be able to smell phonies while men easily get carried away by sight and appearances, especially if the other party is a pretty female. I have gotten my fingers burnt when I forged ahead regardless of warnings. In the early years of my marriage, I wanted to prove that I am the man and do have my own mind. With the benefit of hindsight, I have come to see that two good heads are better than one.

Are women better money managers than men?

Are all women good with money?

I believe the answer is yes and no. On the whole, it may look like women are more mature when it comes to handling money. They are in the front line when it comes to making sure that the household is catered for. They are the ones the children cry to when they are hungry or become sick etc. They are in the trenches while the man may get caught up with the corporate world, football and politics.

However, it is not all women who are saints when it comes to handling money. Some women do not know when to apply the brakes when it comes to clothes, shoes, jewellery, even mobile phones. Some wives pester the living daylights out of their husband when a new phone hits the market. Some men do not trust their wives with their ATM cards. Some men have had to settle debts (gbese) piled up by their wives. Such women love to be in the happening crowd. They have their own clique and club. Their asoebi is first class; you need to shell out a hundred thousand naira or more to belong. Membership is by invitation only. If your husband is not loaded, you have to steer clear. They travel to the US, London, Paris, Dubai etc to do their shopping and spare no expenses to belong to the top class.

The rainy day can wait, today must be lived to the fullest. Some husbands, for the sake of peace, give in to their wives and wipe out their savings on the latest automobiles, exotic holidays etc. The husband makes the money while the wife spends it.

Who the cap fits

Financial illiteracy afflicts both sexes. None is exempted. Who suffers this disease more than the other? We have different experiences and stories to tell. In a marriage, one partner is usually good with managing money while the other wants the good life now. Marriage counsellors would advise that the partner who is good with money should manage the family finances. It may be the man, it may be the woman. Marriage is team work and the strength lies in working out a synergy from the diversity. If the woman is the guru in money management, commonsense dictates she should be the one to manage the family’s portfolio. You do not want to leave bananas in the custody of a hungry monkey. Managing family finances needs a level head, impulse control and the ability to focus on the family’s financial goals. One’s sex is not an indicator of one’s money management skills.

I tend to think women are generally better in the issue of money management. For most of us, if our mothers had not been sound money managers, we would not be where we are today.

Sent in by AKINJIDE AKINYEMI


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