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The importance of spouses agreeing on financial decisions

Supporting parents (or in-laws) is not exactly a rare phenomenon. U.S. adults provided $17.5 billion in support to parents in 2020, according to a 2021 U.S. Census Bureau survey. That was down from $26.4 billion in 2019, but it’s a drop the Census Bureau acknowledged, “may be explained by financial hardship during the pandemic, limiting the amount people could give to parents.”

However, the $17.5 billion figure is up by more than a third (38%) compared to 2013, when parents received $12.7 billion.

Now imagine that you, too, are sweating to make ends meet, which is the situation the Business Insider writer described to Christensen. Though she didn’t delve into specifics, the writer referred to being in "a different stage of life [with] expenses" which were not shared by her husband's siblings who had decided to get behind the parents financially.

Christensen acknowledged that the writer had no compelling reason to drop everything and overextend herself to help people who had failed on multiple occasions to be responsible stewards of their money.

To that end, the columnist stressed the importance of spouses staying in alignment. “You and your husband seem to be in complete agreement about your financial plan, and that's the main thing,” she wrote. “I advise you to continue taking confidence and cues from one another when making shared decisions.”

Yet, loaning out money didn’t seem to be the core issue for the letter writer so much as a strong disapproval over how her in-laws managed their financial affairs. So, rather than take issue with numbers, savings or budgets, Christensen concentrated on ‘gold’ of a different sort when offering the reader advice.

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Cashing in on the Golden Rule

“When in doubt,” she advised, “think of the Golden Rule to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Evaluate your attitude towards your in-laws through this lens.”

This, in essence, answered the reader’s ultimate question — “Are we being harsh?” — with an implied question: “How would you feel if members of your family judged you like that?”

It’s anything but headline news that families are messy. Throw money into the mix and we’re talking about a big, hot mess a lot of the time.

To be sure, withholding money can be an act of tough love when it means cutting off addictions to shopping, gambling or running up debts. But by not teaming with the rest of the family to address a difficult situation on a compassionate front, Christiensen believed the reader and her husband have only impoverished themselves.

“To have that [caring] family, you have to be that family, which means showing up for your in-laws when their health is too poor to keep their house inhabitable,” the columnist concluded. “This doesn't mean you need to give them money… But you can show up for your family in other ways. You can help with the house repairs or connect them with budget-friendly carpenters.”

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About the Author

Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo

Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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