I know a family which facetiously claims to put the “fun” in “dysfunction.” They’re a large family… with individual, unique skill sets, passions, and opinion. Sometimes they share their opinions with one another respectfully, and well, sometimes they don’t. But they’re “family,” so they are committed to working even the tough things through, challenging and emotional as they may be.
They’ve had a tough road in recent years. There are days it at least appears that there is more that divides them than actually holds them together; it’s on those days that remembering they are family is especially important.
Like most families, while there exist multiple causes of conflict, the number one argument stems from managing their finances. Yes, families fight — we fight — about money. The dysfunctional family in question fights about money — seemingly, arguably, all the time.
Now prior to sharing more insight and analysis regarding this dysfunctional family, I must offer a semi-humble caveat. Remember: it was in the early years of the Intramuralist where one commenter strongly suggested I wasn’t “smart enough” to run a lemonade stand. (Granted, it should also be noted that I took a bit of sarcastic satisfaction in the fact that the not-so-gentle gentleman misspelled the word “lemonade.”) I share that to acknowledge that there exist different opinions on how to navigate via a family’s finances.
This dysfunctional family is in debt. Massive debt. What denotes “massive” is that (1) they have spent more than they have taken in for years, and (2) they have zero specific plan to pay it back. After putting food on their table and paying the electricity bill, when they don’t have enough money to pay for their cell phones, kids’ gymnastic lessons, and/or cable TV, they simply borrow more money. In other words, no one wants to go without something they already have; so instead of sitting around the family table, having an undoubtedly painful but necessary conversation about where they can and must save, the dysfunctional family only asks how to get their hands on more money. My sense says there is no “fun” in that level of dysfunction.
Let’s be sure we give great grace to one another here, friends. I mean, the reality is that this is hard. We all would prefer to spend instead of save. None of us like asking the question of “what can we do without” or “where can we cut?” We are far more comfortable asking others to give than addressing our own sense of entitlement. That’s true for far too many.
That sense of entitlement is an authentic challenge… I need my cell phone… we need cable TV; have you seen how few channels come without it??… and exactly, my especially talented kid needs those added lessons! The challenge is that we allow our wants to pose as needs, thereby hoping that no one would actually consider cutting something that has now evolved into perceived necessity.
In order for any family to become less dysfunctional, when discussing family finances, there needs to be an accurate assessment of the problem. There needs to be a comprehensive acknowledgement of all that has contributed to the dire financial straits, as opposed to only focusing on the issues that my side of the family is most passionate about… the issues that my side of the family has prioritized.
We can’t simply keep borrowing. We can’t simply quit spending. It is very possible that the family patriarch may need to find a higher paying job or other members of the family might need to go to work. But netting a larger salary or finding a better job will only equate to an applied Band-Aid if the spending problem is not seriously and significantly dealt with.
We cannot keep allowing our wants to evolve into needs — and then omit that evolution from our conversation regarding responsible finances.
Otherwise the family will remain dysfunctional…
… with no “fun” included whatsoever.