Resolving conjugal money issues
Why do we need to account for our spouse’s remittances?
First of all, money issues are the leading cause of marital conflicts—particularly among overseas workers.
After we published an article on “How to make a list,” which suggested that spouses left behind make a list of monthly expenses as a basis for demanding financial support, we received several e-mails requesting additional advice.
Here’s one response from RDB of Saudi Arabia:
“I read your column at Inquirer regarding remittances of OFWs to their wives… It happens that I have the same issue with my wife. I keep wondering how she spends my monthly remittance of P75,000. We have one taxi unit and we have our own house. We have two children—one in college and the other in high school. My problem is, every time I ask about our savings, I am told that this amount is just enough for their monthly expenses. But she can’t show me a breakdown of her expenditures for me to verify it. Can you please advise me what to do?”
Here’s the advice of psychotherapist Alice Labao. On the OFW wife’s common lament that remittances are barely enough, she said this should be understood in the context of the husband’s absence. When the OFW family receives the remittance, which is a large amount of money compared to what they probably earned in the past, they tend to overspend.
However, she encouraged RDB to take the initiative and make a monthly list of expenses versus present family income and and validate the list with his wife.
Bantay OCW “Pera Eskwela” segment host, Joyce Delovieres shared these other tips—several “Ps” to guide OFW families on money issues.
Profiling. If the remaining spouse is good at financial management, consider that a bonus. If not, then don’t give up, a few sessions of financial literacy and money mind-setting will plant the seed for financial growth. Don’t give up, Continue nurturing financial intelligence.
Prepare the list. Before leaving the country, spouse and OFW should sit down and talk about their finances. Each should have a list of their regular, normal expenses (allowances, utilities, rent, amortization, tuition fees, etc.) and also periodic payments like insurance, real estate taxes, and health cards. Having no budget is like spending on high. This will lead to financial crash.
Pinpoint responsibilities. Establish accountabilities via financial spending caps. Normally in a company, there is what we call a petty cash fund. The same thing should be adapted in a family. Yes, it is somewhat irritating for a partner to consistently have to account for every single centavo. What couples can do it establish spending limits or caps—like amounts greater than P3,000 or P5,000 should warrant consensus or dual approval. This curbs compulsive spending.
Pay disclosure. Be honest about your pay. Mutual financial honesty can hasten meeting goals and lessen overseas tenure.
Plan together. Both spouses should agree on financial goals. One’s participation and commitment is vital to meeting these goals. Make your financial goals as specific as possible and continue to revise or modify them accordingly.
Protect. Work on saving first for emergencies, protection and debt repayment before unnecessary spending. Rule out emotional spending to cover up physical absence.
Parenting presence. Virtual parenting via Skype and other online means is doable and will strengthen budgeting. It will be difficult for the left-behind spouse to say no to kids’ unnecessary expenses or unbudgeted expenses when the OFW-parent, on the other hand, gives in to the children’s whims.
Productivity. Left-behind spouses, even employed ones, should strive to sustain personal growth. For stay-at-home moms, do not be content with ministering remittances. Find ways to be productive, to also contribute to the family income.
Labao added that it is also important to provide an allowance for the spouse or relative who is taking care of their home and their family. Honestly, the OFW cannot even calculate the value of his or her better half acting both as father and mother in the family. This way, our overseas worker can focus on his work abroad while being a responsible provider for the family.
Susan Andes, also known as Susan K., can be heard over Inquirer Radio dzIQ 990 AM, Monday to Friday, 10:30 am-12:00 noon.Audio/video live streaming is at www.ustream.tv/channel/dziq.Helplines: 0927-6499870/ 0920-9684700
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