FAMILY MATTERS

Financial Responsibilities in a Family

By Samuel M. Njuguna

When I was growing up, The Beatles (a popular music band in the ‘60s) sang an appropriate, song, “Money can’t buy me love”.

During the first years of our independence, some people ventured into coffee smuggling business — remember Chepkube episodes?

Chepkube Market in Mt Elgon was known for the lucrative business of smuggling coffee from Uganda into Kenya.

They made so much money from the coffee sales that some husbands bought their wives BMWs “Be My Wife” cars as gifts.

Such emphasis on money led to breakages in families confirming the fact that too much money or the lack of it is not synonymous with love or stable marriages. Money should support and build marriages not lead to stress and breakdowns.

All married couples therefore should spend time together discussing their income, and responsibilities at home.

Openness and Trust                                                                                     

When couples enter into marriage, they encounter challenges on how to handle their resources. They need to always have open dialogue regarding available resources and liabilities.

The first meetings should be very open and honest and be held in an atmosphere of trust, remembering that each spouse is a stake-holder in the other’s income.

That means that each spouse should openly declare how much they will bring to the table. It should be an honest open meeting revealing gross income and net-worth of each spouse.

The meeting analysing income and expenditure of a spouse reveals his or her financial income and commitments e.g. mortgages, car loans, and any family expenses such as taking care of sick parents, siblings or even education commitments for self or for siblings.

The above revelations should be followed by financial statement for the family needs e.g. basic needs like rent, food, clothing, electricity, water, mortgages, loan repayments, school fees etc.

It is at this juncture that the couple identifies their needs and wants. It is important to always keep records of the first meeting or any subsequent meeting on finances.

There should also be a discussion on the responsibilities and roles that each spouse will implement. The whole exercise on financial management calls for strong discipline to ensure that the couple lives a dignified lifestyle within their income.

When shopping remembers to strictly adhere to the budget and to avoid impulse buying, excesses and not to be influenced by promotions and advertisements.

Saving and Investments

Each family is unique and sources of income differ from family to family. The expenditures of each family should reflect the income.

Whatever the circumstances each family should endeavour to set aside some savings for emergencies, unforeseen debts, and for acquiring assets such as vehicles, houses and household items as deemed necessary for the family.

Wherever possible, they should invest in long-term investments like bonds, fixed deposits, stocks and shares that will form start-up capital for any future business upon retirement or cater for necessary expenses in old age.

Notably most couples these days are professionals, in which case they individually hold personal bank accounts. In addition to this, it is necessary that couples hold a joint account with both husband and wife as signatories.

This becomes an operation account for the family so that even when one spouse is away the other will continue paying for various family expenses like, electricity bills, water, school fees shopping and other family requirements.

The other joint account for the family should be an investment account, i.e. fixed deposits, stocks and shares etc, that take care of long term investments.

Such arrangements ensure that in case of sudden death of any spouse the remaining spouse will not suffer and the family will be comfortable during such difficult times and are assured of dignified future.

Remember that in marriage all spouses are stakeholders in each other’s finances and this call for total respect trust and understanding. Employed spouses should start saving and planning early for retirement to ensure a comfortable retirement.

Insurances

It is important that each family keeps necessary insurances; domestic packages covering the house-hold items, electronics, furniture, clothing against fire and theft; personal accident cover; comprehensive insurance cover for the; health insurance cover for the family; education insurance cover for the children’s education; public liability cover and retirement benefits.

Finally, it is important to write a will soon after marriage. The will should be deposited with your lawyer who can always amend it as required when you acquire or sell assets. It is not a rigid document and if you are not sure how to do it, your lawyer should do it for you professionally.

Financial matters are very personal and each family should hold such issues with total trust and secrecy. Lastly entrust your life to God, who will take care of all circumstances in your life.