The Blessings of a Downturn

Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our family today?

The economic downturn we face in the United States may or may nor be termed a recession, but the financial pressure many families feel at this time is real. Our family relies on the construction industry for our livelihood, and we began to feel that pressure on our finances in the closing months of 2007.

The prospects felt bleak when we did not have a clear vision of what the future might bring for my husband’s small business. Right away, we turned to our faith as a means to gain some perspective and seek help. We did not just pray and expect God to do the rest. We did all that we could do. While I cannot say that we have enjoyed the experience, the situation has been an opportunity for us to learn and grow in several ways.

• Improved Communication in Marriage

We knew we would need to consider our short term cash flow and needs, as well as our longer term plans. Like most couples, we have never discussed finances very well. “The American Bar Association has indicated that 89 percent of all divorces can be traced to quarrels and accusations over money. Others have estimated that 75 percent of all divorces result from clashes over finances.” (see One for the Money, Guide to Family Finances) I wouldn’t say that we clash over finances, but communication is tense when we need to create a new budget or when we have unexpected financial obligations. But over the past six months we have created a new computerized budget, brought our banking up-to-date and learned to discuss and agree upon financial priorities as a couple.

The blessing: Confronting and resolving our most difficult communication issue has led us to communicate better in all aspects of our marriage.

• Differentiating Between Wants Versus Needs

We also have had the opportunity to counsel with our children about the financial and time commitments of our activities. Our 8-year-old daughter led us in charting each activity under one of three columns: good, better or best. We discovered that although some things we were doing were good, we needed to use our resources for those things that were better and the best. We also had to use the same mental chart with all of our discretionary expenditures like food, entertainment, clothing, and gifts to determine our most important needs and prioritize our wants.

The blessing: We spend our time and money on what we really value, and we are more conscious and appreciative of what we already have.

Planning For the Future

While I would really love to be planning a vacation get-away when the economic picture improves, this experience has reminded us of the importance of paying off debt (including our mortgage) and saving for the future. That is probably one of the most difficult adjustments to make—changing habits to focus on the long term financial picture rather than the short term one.

The blessing: Our perspective of the financial goals we want to attain in the years to come has become more clearly defined in our minds.

Optimism is replacing pessimism in my life and not just because business has increased this spring. Ultimately, my hope comes from something deeper than money. The most important blessing of this downturn has been to remember that “In God We Trust,” is more than a symbolic statement on paper.

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1 Comment

  1. Julie
    Apr 10, 2008

    I totally agree that financial communication is very important in a marriage and the statistics you quoted are alarming, yet very telling. My husband and I have had our own difficulties and have had to learn and re-learn similar lessons. One of the hardest things for us to do is learn to balance our needs versus wants… and to remember that a short term gain can mean long term pain. It’s been hard but we are learning.

    Thanks for your insight and I really like how you found lessons in the problems.

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