“Life can be awkward at times. It's part of the growing process.” – Jim Fargiano
There’s a saying that “love conquers all” and to a certain extent that’s true. When you love someone you’re willing to overlook many of their flaws and focus on the positives; that can be a good thing when it comes to avoiding fights about the dishes in the kitchen sink or the toothpaste tube that’s always squeezed in the middle but it’s not a good thing when it comes to money.
Don't marry a money moron
Money is one of the major sources of conflict in relationships and often it’s one partner’s management (or mis-management) of their finances that creates much of the stress. Gail Vaz-Oxlade uses the term Money Moron to describe someone who “spends money without thinking about it, taps the savings account every time there’s more than a buck sixty-two in it, or is using credit like it’s ‘free money’”. She cautions her readers against getting into a serious relationship with a Money Moron and suggests that, if the threat of losing you is not enough of an incentive to make them change their ways then you’re better off alone.
I recently had the opportunity to preview an episode of Gail’s latest TV show Money Moron in which she helps couples who are facing financial challenges resulting from their money moron habits and I liked it. Fans of “T’il Debt us do Part” and “Princess” will recognize Gail’s signature blunt style and her way of getting straight to the heart of the situation: “you’re a money moron!” (I have to admit I struggled with the terminology because “moron” sounds like such an insult and it’s not a word I use often but in terms of shock value and driving home a point, it works like a charm.)
One thing I like about Gail is that she has a genuine desire to help people and this comes through on the show. Her process is very clear and can be followed by anyone facing a similar situation:
Step 1 – Awareness
Gail shines a bright, glaring spotlight on the issue, makes it very clear who is at the root of the problem and the impact that their poor financial habits are having on the relationship. Importantly, she manages to do this is a way that isn’t accusing or patronizing and which doesn’t put the “victim” on the defensive.
Step 2 – Understanding
Gail makes the consequences of the behavior understood in terms of how it is affecting the guilty party’s partner, she asks the partner to describe the impact and outline what the consequences will be if nothing changes. In the episode I watched this meant the end of the relationship.
Step 3 – Commitment to Change
Both partners commit to making a change and following the advice and strategies that Gail will introduce. This commitment is key to success; you can’t reach a goal if you’re not really committed to it and the support of a partner in reaching a mutually beneficial goal is critical.
Step 4 – Follow the Plan
Gail’s strategy is tried and tested through several seasons of her previous shows. Get a clear picture of your debts, your income and your expenses. Highlight the areas where you’re falling off the rails, develop a strategy to remedy it and then track your income and outgoings with military precision; a purpose for every dollar, everything in cash and everything documented in the binder.
Step 5 – Build a stronger relationship (with each other and with your money)
Gail encourages conversation about the process, about the poor habits and about the new habits that will serve to build the couple back up. The activities are designed to make the couple think about their choices and to rethink them if necessary (In this case: do you really have to spend $20,000 on your wedding?). She’s not afraid to highlight the weaknesses of the other (non-moron) partner and to also hold them accountable which definitely evens out the heat.
Step 6 – Reward Success
If the couple successfully completes all the tasks and approaches them with tenacity and commitment they are rewarded with a cheque of up to $10,000. This is a pretty big incentive for change but I think it needed to be big in order to motivate the couple to do what needed to be done in front of a TV audience. For those of us following along at home, we might not have the lure of $10,000 to spur us on but we can come up with our own incentive – knowing that there is some kind of reward or treat waiting when we reach our goal can be a powerful motivator.
At the end of the day there is a great deal of comfort in knowing that no matter how poor your choices, there is always an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and build a better future. The show reminded me that good money management is not complicated, it really boils down to knowing how much is coming in, knowing where it is flowing out and committing to paying yourself first, not carrying debt and consistently spending less than you earn. Gail is clearly on a mission to help more people find financial security and eliminate financial pressures and that mission is needed now, more than ever. This latest show is bound to be a success.