Monthly Archives: June 2011

Families who play together, Stay together

Summer is finally here and along with the warm weather, many people become inspired this time of year to being, or to ramp up, an exercise routine. Regular exercise is so important to our physical AND mental health. Setting aside some part of your day to engage your body in a little exertion can do wonders for your stress level. I applaud anyone who has recently begun an exercise routine and encourage those of you who haven’t – to get moving. But wait! Don’t get moving alone…take your partner, your friends, and most importantly, your children with you! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children ages 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. Think…riding bikes, playing tag, going for walks, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a baseball – any of these will do. Exercise is just as important for children as it is for adults. So what can parents do?

  • Lead by example. Your children look up to you and learn from you. If you engage in a healthy, active lifestyle, your children will learn to model this.
  • Set some goals. Setting goals is a great way to make and implement a plan to engage in healthy activities with your family. Free, printable goal setting sheets are available here, through the Let’s Move campaign.
  • Make it fun. Time spent together as a family should be enjoyable. If you’re going for a walk, make a game out of counting the number of birds you see. Engage your child in conversation while tossing the lacrosse ball. Then, physical activity time also becomes parent-child quality time.

Since summer’s just begun, it’s prime time to set a goal of how you will become a more active family. Make the goal reasonable, but also something to strive for. Consider taking the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge – which allows you to track your progress towards success. Whatever it is that you decide to do over the next few months to become more active, bring your kids along. Ready, Set, Let’s Move.

 

Merging money

The art is not in making money, but in keeping it. -Common Proverb

Deciding how to merge money as a couple is definitely an art. Unfortunately for so many couples, dealing with money can feel less than skillful. In fact, arguing about money is one of the most common issues that brings couples to therapy. Sometimes the disagreements begin while preparing for marriage, or sometimes they are sparked after a life transition like the addition of a new baby. The arguments are about spending, saving, budgets, paying down debt…the list goes on and on. But no matter how the arguments begin or what they are about, they are fraught with intense emotion, poor communication, and –all too often– little mutually satisfying resolution.

“So once we make the money, how should we keep it?”

This article from 2004 reports that the majority of couples (64%) put all of their money in joint accounts, 14% keep all their money in separate individual accounts, and 18% use a combination of both types of accounts. These three systems of money management are the most common and each has its own set of strengths and challenges.

  • Entirely joint accounts require a lot of trust and transparency between partners and constant, open communication. This system may work well for couples with similar spending and saving habits, or for couples in which one person acts as the main money manager. Problems may arise if one partner doesn’t feel consulted about a big purchase, and resentment can build if one partner overspends and then both partners have to recover from the debt. Since all income goes in to and all bills are paid out of the same “money pot”, so to speak, all money is our money.
  • Entirely individual accounts require predetermined rules about divvying up who pays for what. Some couples decide to split every bill or household purchase (like groceries or summer camp for the kids) 50/50, while others decide to assign bills to one partner or the other (like partner A always pays the rent and partner B pays for the utilities and internet). This system works well for couples in which both partners want to retain complete control over their own income and spending. Problems may arise if one partner is unable to pay their share of the bills or if partners sense that the other is keeping secrets about how they spend their money, and it must be significantly altered if one partner loses their income due to unemployment or the decision to stop working. Since all money is separate, money is either yours or mine.
  • A combination of both types of accounts also requires predetermined rules about 1) how much of each partner’s income goes to the joint versus individual accounts and 2) about what bills or purchases should come out of the joint versus individual accounts. This system works well for couples that want to have personal spending accounts, but who also want to pay for joint expenses from a joint account. There are as many different ways to implement this combination system as there are couples! Some couples reserve a fixed amount of money (say, $100 per pay check) for each individual account and put all the rest of each pay check in the joint account. This way, each partner has the same “personal income” to spend as they like. Other couples decide to put a percentage of each pay check in each account (say, 70% into joint and 30% into individual). This way, a partner’s “personal income” is proportional to how much he/she makes. The options for deciding which bills are paid from the joint versus individual accounts are just as varied. Because this system is completely customized to the couple, the examples are infinite. In this system, money is yours, mine, and ours.

Which system is right for you? Stay tuned for my next post about strategies to help you talk about money with your partner and decide on a system of merging your money.