Six Steps to Strengthen Your Family on the Journey to Financial Freedom

J.D. is on vacation in Alaska. This is a guest post from Dustin Riechmann. Dustin created Engaged Marriage to help others achieve the extraordinary in marriage and in life. Together, his family paid off $54,500 in debt to simplify their lives and achieve financial freedom in their household.

Financial freedom is clearly a desirable goal, and we read about the associated benefits every day here at Get Rich Slowly. It seems like everyone should be paying off their debts, growing their savings accounts and investing to build wealth. So, what's the problem?

Surely, there are many reasons why folks fail to create a plan and (especially) follow it: laziness, lack of knowledge, apathy and disorganization to name a few. However, there's one major reason that may not immediately come to mind.

The Fear of Harming Our Family
I think the fear of harming others with your plan can be a major cause of inertia, particularly for those with families. Focusing your energies on your finances and fighting your way out of debt can be tough enough when you're single. However, when you add a spouse and, especially, children into the mix, the anxiety level can skyrocket.

The path to financial freedom isn't easy. It requires deep sacrifice in lifestyle, cuts in spending, extra hours or even additional jobs, and a keen focus on money matters. Our current situation may not be all that we want, but it's familiar, and it keeps our family happy enough. Plus, it's “normal” and looks a lot like the lifestyle of most of our friends.

When we consider the changes necessary to get ahead and make real progress in our financial plan, it seems like our family could legitimately be harmed in the process. The kids may not get to participate in all of the activities they enjoy, your spouse may have to forgo any wardrobe upgrades for a while, and all of the additional work needed to generate extra income could be a real strain on your marriage.

It can be scary to really examine your financial situation and then face up to the family sacrifice required to make a major change.

Change Your Perspective
While these concerns are legitimate, and there are sure to be times of stress along the way, operating out of fear will never get you the results you desire. Instead, a change in perspective is required to see that, in fact, your family is actually going to be harmed by inaction and there is a great opportunity to grow your relationship through action!

The journey to financial freedom can be an incredible way to bring your family closer at a time when financial stress could instead create friction. It provides the opportunity to forge a lasting bond and set the course for the lifestyle you desire. And your family stands to benefit for generations to come when you create a lasting legacy of financial responsibility and success.

Six Core Actions for the Journey
If you're ready to lead your family toward financial prosperity, I encourage you to take these six actions to maximize both your chances for success and the positive impact enjoyed by your spouse and children:

  • Get your priorities straight. Following an intense plan to get out of debt and start saving requires incredible focus and a commitment to put your finances above most other things in life for a while. However, it's important that you don't allow your financial goals to become the top priority. Aside from your faith, you must keep your marriage first, then children, and then your finances. A strong marriage is a source of strength that will fuel your journey as long as you continue to respect it and maintain a healthy perspective.
  • Be unified. Make sure from the start that your family knows that everyone is in this together. Be clear and precise about your common goals, and express faith in one another. Your spouse and older children should understand the importance of teamwork and (especially) accountability to the family. There are few things as powerful as a fired-up family that is committed to each other and a plan they believe in.
  • Demonstrate leadership. If you're heading up the charge to make meaningful changes in your financial life, it's critical that you lead by example. You must “walk the walk” by working hard and being sacrificial of your own wants. Not only will your actions build trust in you, but they'll also build trust in the process and the plan that you must follow to meet your goals. When times get tough, remember the commitment you made to your family and be a real leader.
  • Reach goals and celebrate together. If you have a lot of debt to pay off or a very tight budget to follow to make progress, the journey can be long and trying. While you always want to keep the end game in mind, it's vital that you establish “mini-goals” along the way. It's much easier to maintain your momentum when you have small wins along the way to fuel your resolve and build confidence in your plan. When you reach a goal, take the time to celebrate your achievements and have fun together as a family. You've earned it.
  • Commit to lasting change. When you finally reach your ultimate goals, it's certainly time to commemorate your accomplishments and do something special to celebrate. However, all of your efforts will be for nothing if you allow your old habits and attitudes to seep back in over time. As J.D. teaches us all on a daily basis, building wealth is a long-term process that requires living on less than you make and making wise decisions over the long haul. Commit to your new lifestyle, and you can enjoy your lives together on the “richer” side of “for richer or poorer” for years to come.
  • Change your family tree. By involving your children, or living by example for your future children, you have the power to truly change the financial destiny of your family for generations to come. You can end the cycle of debt-dependence and lay the groundwork for financial freedom for your children's children. You can build a legacy.

The path to financial freedom is full of challenges that require real commitment and strong leadership. It's certainly not easy, but it's worth it. Even better, it's an awesome opportunity to bring your family together, and to build a lasting bond with those that you love.

More about...Planning

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Jeff @DeliverAwayDebt
Jeff @DeliverAwayDebt
10 years ago

Working my way out of debt has been a wonderful experience. I know that sounds weird, but for the first time in our marriage my wife and I have been on the same team. All our choices have been made together, and we’ve grown MUCH closer as a couple.

All 6 points you make are the building blocks for succuss. Families need all of them to make it work.

Awesome post.

Chuck Arnold
Chuck Arnold
10 years ago

Great article Dustin,
These are the principles that if implemented can save many families from the heartache we now face in this country. It’s very sad that the concept of “Spend Less than you make” is so hard for many to get their minds around. Best of luck with prayers as you help families “Do the Right Thing”!!

juyipey
juyipey
10 years ago

lurker here and first time to write a comment. i love this post so much! it hit the nail right on the head of those with own families like me. thanks. btw, did you really mean “walk the walk” or “walk the talk”?

ArandomPerson
ArandomPerson
10 years ago

While I don’t have a family, these sorts of articles that discuss money and family are interesting to me.

If/when I ever do have a real relationship/family then these sort of posts help me better understand what I am getting myself into money-wise and how to deal with some of the problems that can arise.

So long way to say, nice post.

Jake
Jake
10 years ago

Excellent post Dustin. It is so important to go through this together. I have been trying to involve my wife more now that she is out of work and I think it makes for less stress when she understands what I am concerned about. Together we will kick our debt burden.

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

When I resovled to pay off our debt in 2007 my new husband thought I was crazy. He was all for the idea of being debt free but could not fathom how we could get there and therefore his level of commitment was low. One of the keep steps I took was, once we had a clear understanding of our debt, to produce a detailed spending plan for the year which included a plan for paying off our non-mortgage debt. Once Mr. Sam could see, on paper, a plan (even if the plan was quite aggressive) he got excited about… Read more »

Chett
Chett
10 years ago

The biggest mistake young married couples make is discussing personal goals and desires in the future. For instance, “do you want to be able to stay home when children are born?”

Upgrading to larger homes, better appliances, and new cars all seem like a good idea until the debt they create traps you into two incomes. I’ve spoken with a lot of families who would rather live in smaller homes and drive older cars so they could spend more time with their young ones.

Erik
Erik
10 years ago

I think one of the best items in this article is being unified. I have many friends whose marriage seems like a company with different departments. They both have the same ultimate goal, but they go about it their own way. Contrast this with a unified couple who function as a single unit, in general. When a crisis hits, the first couple would spend a lot of time and energy moving in different directions looking for a solution while the unified couple presents a united front and puts all of their energy in moving in a single direction. Visually I… Read more »

Holly
Holly
10 years ago

The worry of disappointing our 3 kids is a huge concern for us. This post hit the nail on the head. Just this week I had to tell the kids that (even though the beach rental we use is ‘dirt cheap’ at only $400 for the week) we are unable to afford a vacation this year. This prompted the kids to count their own money and bring it to us in a jar. They wanted to help. Breaks my heart! I explained to them that although I appreciated their generosity, I would not spend their ‘hard-earned’ savings on a vacation.… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
10 years ago

Chett,

Why do you automatically assume every married couple wants children? I found it ironic that you describe being “trapped” in a lifestyle. I can’t think of anything that “traps” a couple more than children!

No thanks. I’d rather have the big house and nice things (not to mention freedom to do what I want, when I want).

Alexandria
Alexandria
10 years ago

I could not agree with Kevin in the #1 response post more! We have been married for over ten years and kids are not on our radar! I really liked this article because it does reinforce that we (my husband and I) are working towards a common goal of “building our empire”. I would like to see an article about relationships with other people who are not on “the plan”. For instance, my husband and I budget for vacation every year, usually a week long cruise, which we pay for a year in advance. Its a good way of rewarding… Read more »

Rex Huston
Rex Huston
10 years ago

I think this is a great article not just for families in debt but for any family trying to create a strong financial future. These are excellent tips for those who are already married or are going to be married.

-Rex

partgypsy
partgypsy
10 years ago

If it was just myself, I feel I could live pretty frugally. If it is a choice between financial security and new clothes, I know what I’d pick. But with children in the mix, it is more difficult. For example my husband has wanted our daughter to start taking piano lessons since age five. She is now age 7 and herself requesting lessons. But they would cost anywhere from 800 to 1400 a year. So I keep putting it off but feel bad as I know that learning piano was a very rewarding experience for me.

JimmyV
JimmyV
10 years ago

Thanks for this post. I’ve been out of debt since my parents laid a strong groundwork for me. I am extremely interested in further investing goals, beyond getting out of debt, while keeping my priorities straight. I would enjoy a post on this topic, particularly by Dustin, in the future.

KP
KP
10 years ago

Dustin, this post is very encouraging for families aspiring to get on the path to financial freedom. The key ingredients for success are:
– Having the commitment to change
– Taking the necessary actions to make it happen

Financial matters are one of the leading causes of broken families today. I hope those who read your post and have this goal are inspired to achieve success.

Congratulations to your family on achieving financial freedom!

William
William
10 years ago

@Sam

My wife and I have a similar financial goals spreadsheet tool. We use Google Documents and share a spreadsheet there that we can both update and track our progress. I will second that this method is helpful for laying out everything in one place and not getting yourself overwhelmed.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@A Random Person – Thanks for the kind words. I find it’s vital that finances are thoroughly addressed as part of marriage preparation, so I encourage you to give it a lot of attention if/when that day comes! @Jake – Awesome, man! Addressing your money together is really the only way to go (in my opinion) if you want to be successful in your finances…and your marriage. @Sam – I love your story! My wife was just as reluctant as “Mr. Sam” when we started our journey to paying off debt. With time and, especially, with progress, she got on-board… Read more »

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Chett – I’m with you, Chett! Although my wife (currently) chooses to work and enjoys her career as a teacher, we have fought hard to avoid getting ourselves trapped into a lifestyle that *requires* two incomes to simply survive. @Erik – Although I think J.D. may disagree, I’m a big believer in the unified approach to marriage. Not only does that line up with my spiritual beliefs, but I have found it to simply be the most effective approach. I like your analogy with the bungee cords! @Holly – Your comment really means a lot to me. We’ve had those… Read more »

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Kevin – Thanks for the comment! To clarify, I *don’t* assume that being married means having kids at all. For some of us, that’s a reality and it represents the “worst-case” for the issues addressed by this post.

However, I think the same ideas apply when you are married without kids. Financially speaking, I’d say you’re right about kids being a trap for your money…but *for me* they really do give me more of a sense of freedom and fulfillment than any house or sweet car could ever provide. For you, not so much, and I’m cool with that!

Donna
Donna
10 years ago

I see the posts already being kids vs. no kids. I don’t think the author meant that the kids “trap” you into the lifestyle but rather the debt traps you so that your chosen lifestyle doesn’t go how you thought it would and it affects those around you especially kids who don’t really understand what’s going on. The trap is there whether you’re single or married or have kids or not. There is just more guilt associated when you decide it’s better to have an emergency savings account or pay off a loan early instead of letting your child be… Read more »

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Alexandria – Thanks for you comment and for seeing the value in the points even though you don’t have plans for children. I can totally relate to the friction that comes up with friends who aren’t in the same place financially.

@Rex – Thanks for the kind words!

@partgypsy – Thanks for sharing your struggles. I know how tough it can be to handle a lot of seemingly important priorities.

Money Smarts
Money Smarts
10 years ago

In my opinion kids are resilient, and they’ll bounce back from any disappointment they feel. One day they’ll understand why you’re doing your best to work your way out of debt. In fact it can be a good teaching time, to show them that sometimes in life the hard decisions have to be made, and the only way to get out of debt is through hard work and perseverance. Great post!

chacha1
chacha1
10 years ago

Is it just me or do the comments seem to be totally out of order? oh well, whatevs … Another one with no kids here, but I thought Dustin’s essay was spot on. I expect MANY of us have spent money we couldn’t spare, to please others in our families or to give them something we wanted them to have. But it’s very possible to live a good life when money is tight … it wasn’t till years after the fact that I realized how broke we were when I was a kid. The one thing Dustin might have added… Read more »

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
10 years ago

Having your family on the same page is key. My husband and I would not be doing nearly as well if we didn’t have the same long-term goals.

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

@Alexandria… If you asked me to go on a cruise vacation with you, I might tell you I couldn’t afford it. That’s only partially true– I have other things that I want to spend money on than going on a cruise with you and your family. I could afford cruising with you, but it would mean giving up additional savings. And I’m sorry, but I just don’t like you that much, as nice as you may be. Of course, socially it is easier to focus on the “I can’t afford it” than “I just don’t want to spend time with… Read more »

Cam
Cam
10 years ago

Is it just me or are the post orders are reversed?

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@JimmyV – Thanks! I would love to come back and write more on balancing further financial goals with family obligations…if J.D. will have me. 🙂

@KP – Thanks for the kind words. I totally agree with your synopsis and I also hope that someone will find real inspiration from this post.

@William – We used a similar spreadsheet method for years with a lot of success. We recently switched to You Need A Budget and have found it to be really helpful in staying organized with less of a time commitment.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Donna – Thanks so much for making that distinction. These issues certainly apply for anyone with “life” commitments and not just those with children.

@Money Smarts – Thanks…and Amen to your comments!

@chacha1 – Excellent points and suggestions! If you spend much time at Engaged Marriage, you’ll quickly see that I have a rather counter-cultural view of lifestyle design and of course views on marriage are a big part of that. It’s a fight against the sometimes unhealthy “aspirational” views that we all hold (myself included) that fuels a lot of my passion for these topics.

CERB
CERB
10 years ago

Yes, the post orders have been reversed for a couple of days now. It makes it harder to refer to previous comments. Hope that gets straightened out soon.

Great post by the way!

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – I totally agree, and my wife and I have seen acceleration in our financial success as we’ve grown (proactively) to get more and more on the same page.

@Nicole – Well said!

@Cam – Yep, it looks like the new comments are appearing at the top. Maybe this is by design to encourage more comments that don’t get lost in shuffle?

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@CERB – Thanks for the props! And I must say I’m doing my best to keep up and respond as I value every comment, but this format is a bit confusing. 😉

But I think I’ve hit them all so far!

Chett
Chett
10 years ago

@Kevin, My comments didn’t imply that “every” couple wants children, that was just the example that I used. Your assumption is that every couple that has children feels trapped simply by creating something that requires personal responsibility. You could make the same argument for someone who has a pet or plants a garden. Both of those examples require you to make some types of personal sacrifice and take time to nurture and care for, but they are worthwhile for those who want them. Consciously bringing something of value into your life doesn’t trap you. It is an opportunity to share… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
10 years ago

Hey, all! Checking in from the Inside Passage, just pulling into Baranoff Hot Springs. Two to three foot swells, windy, and cold today. Good trip so far, but very spotty internet connection (and cell phone signal), which is fine (and as expected).

Not sure why comment order is reversed. Looks goofy to me, too. Sent e-mail to the person handling comments asking him to fix it.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Brad Chaffee
Brad Chaffee
10 years ago

Dustin, As always you have really done a great job of pointing out important factors in effectively managing money. I see so many people going into debt because they wish for their kids to attend an event, play a sport, or receive special training in something. Wanting something for your child does not negate the fact that you can’t afford it, nor should it be an excuse to go into debt for. As partgypsy stated “For example my husband has wanted our daughter to start taking piano lessons since age five. She is now age 7 and herself requesting lessons.”… Read more »

Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio
Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio
10 years ago

Hey Dustin, Thanks for posting on some of the challenges we face (especially the self-imposed ones) of taking control of our finances and making positive changes. Two of your recommendations strike a real chord in me: Be unified and Celebrate My wife and I have grown tremendously in our unity and intimacy since working very hard to get to the same page of the playbook. I’m a driven person, so I rarely left room to celebrate accomplishing one goal in favor of moving on to the next. My wife has shown me the power of encouragement and motivation that comes… Read more »

Jan
Jan
10 years ago

As a teacher I think that children should be “let into the secret” and told that there is something other then their lessons that need to be paid. You would be amazed at how 4-8th graders step up to the plate. Kids that know share in the experience to get out of debt and do not feel guilty later when…and if… they end up in an even worse situation (homeless). Let them know that lessons or vacations need to be on hold. Then let them come up with solutions to enjoy the time. I hosted a number of plays by… Read more »

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@J.D. – Sounds like you’re having a blast! Thanks again for the opportunity to connect with your fantastic readers. It’s been an awesome day with many great new connections!

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Brad – Thanks for the kind words and your great insights into battling debt. That’s why you’re known as the Enemy of Debt! 🙂

@Derek – Excellent points, as expected. If you’re reading this, and you like exceptional podcasts on all things financial and life-related, you really should check out Derek’s work at Past Due Radio.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@Jan – I could not agree more with your great advice. Kids really *need* to understand that things cost money and money requires work.

And I definitely share your attitude towards children…even though mine are still little and quite expensive. 🙂

finallygettingtoeven.com
finallygettingtoeven.com
10 years ago

another first timer here…well not 1st time, i have lurked for quite some time now, but now you get the opportunity to start hearing my opinions…(lucky, lucky you)… i think that the journey will be hardest on the families that embrace this lifestyle later on in life…AFTER they have tasted the life of over-consumption, wants & greed. It’s like taking a cookie back from a baby. But later is still better than never, and the initial wounds will start to heal and if one stays true to their commitments and what they are trying to accomplish then the goals they… Read more »

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

@finallygettingtoeven.com – I’m glad you decided to come out of hiding and leave a great comment! I totally agree with, especially your last sentence.

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ufc 109 results
10 years ago

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sam
sam
10 years ago

[snark]i’m an atheist, so my lack of “faith” may free up some extra effort for things that exist.[/snark] i really do appreciate the content of the blog, all kidding aside. my wife and i have “financial dates” several times per week. it definitely has opened up lines of communication about things other than finances, too. i don’t know where you live, but in michigan, financial stability is incredibly attractive, so there’s a whole other bonus in the efforts you might make. when your finances are open discussion, you essentially open up comment on everything that a person does. there are… Read more »

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