ORLANDO – For years, Jane Honeck watched couples come into her office, and immediately start arguing – sometimes quite passionately. It was always over the same issue: money, and their different attitudes about spending, saving and how to manage their finances.
“They are driven by money beliefs they are not even aware of,” Honeck said. “When I work with couples, I’m able to see how they’re working at cross purposes because they both have a different set of beliefs.”
Honeck, who lives in Falmouth, Maine, is not a marriage or family counselor, though. She spent most of these years working as a certified public accountant and money coach who specializes in tax and financial planning for professionals, small businesses and individuals. And what she found is that far too many couples today just can’t get on the same page when it comes to that highly sensitive issue: money.
“When I work with people because I have the CPA background, I kind of strattle both worlds,” she said. “I ask them, ‘Why do you keep doing the same things over and over again?’ “
Those years of dealing with couples who had fundamental differences over finances eventually led Honeck to move in a different direction.
“I just always had this side of me looking for something more in life,” she said. “I really didn’t think when I died and went to Heaven, they’d say ‘You did a really nice tax return.’ I was always looking to give back.”
Honeck does that today as a Certified Empowerment Trainer. She’s developed Cent$ible Living financial workshops and money coaching sessions to help clients make meaningful and lasting changes in their financial lives.
She’s also the author of the book “The Problem With Money? It’s Not About the Money!” which is available at www.theproblemwithmoney.com.
“For most of my career, I’ve worked as a traditional CPA doing tax returns and financial planning,” she said. “With all of my years working with couples, the traditional approach is to tell them what to do with their money. I found out I talk to people and work with people and they get engaged and say ‘Yes, I’m going to change’ – and they are not able to follow through on it. It seems like it keeps us stuck in these patterns we can’t break out of.”
Honeck decided to enroll in the Empowerment Institute in Hudson Valley, N.Y., which certifies graduates as empowerment trainers.
“They have a couple of different tracks you can do,” Honeck said. “I chose the track you had to be interviewed and approved for, and that was to write your own financial workshop model. I developed a workshop for both baby boomers and young adults, 20-somethings. Those were the products that came out of this training.”
Honeck knew she would have a client base. A SmartMoney magazine survey showed that 70 percent of all couples talk about money at least once a week, but their communication isn’t very effective. Honeck says she has some good advice that can help couples make arguments about money a thing of the past.
“I just got a phone call from a new client,” she said. “I’m actually getting referrals from therapists who are discovering through their work they can send them over to me to work with on the money issues. I’m able to take the stress out of talking about money.”
Attitudes about money often develop early, when we’re children, observing the spending habits of our parents, she said.
“I ask the couples, ‘What did money look like when you grew up?’ ” she said. ” ‘What do you remember about mom and dad? What was significant about money in your house?’ When they talk about this, you suddenly see where the other person is coming from.”
We might have watched our parents be really extravagent or we might watch our parents be penny pinchers,” she added. “But we don’t think about this, we just take it in. With our spouse, we feel they should be thinking about money the same way we are.”
There are no set patterns that couples follow when arguing about money, she said, such as one being a spender and the other a saver.
“It’s a whole variety of things,” Honeck said. “One couple I worked with, they were multimillionaires, so their problem wasn’t that they didn’t have enough money. The problem was the wife couldn’t relax and was always worried there wouldn’t be enough money. So sometimes it’s getting to a place of peace. It’s really a whole variety of places we come from, but what I do is bring up the awareness, and once you have that awareness, it’s easy to see where that comes into our lives.”
Couples should be focusing on an overall vision and money plan that keep them moving in the same direction, she said.
“Once you have done that, the small everyday decisions about what to spend your money on take care of themselves with little or no effort,” she said. “When we have clear communication and know why we do something, the ‘What to do’ with our money is easy.”
Her tips for couples include talking about money, finding a balance where it’s not one person making all the money decisions, having a clearly defined money management system all the way from who handles the mail to who sends out the checks, addressing problems immediately, and scheduling an annual money checkup with each other.
“A lot of people come in because there’s a lot of conflict around their relationships and money, and they don’t know how to start talking about it, so they just ignore it,” she said. “When they come in, they can talk to me and get together and figure out where they want to go with their money – together. I think the starting point is just to get them to be able to talk about money in a non-judgmental, non-loaded way. I think typically when money starts being an irritant in a marriage, we go to ‘Why did you do that?’ That immediately puts them on the defensive and communication stops.”
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