My daughter asked me awhile back how much money Bill and I had in our retirement account.  I got my back up, just like a little old lady who’d been asked if she masturbated and said, “I don’t discuss my finances.”

And I don’t.  I, who am so open about many other things in my life, find the very word “money” embarrassing.    It could stem from being so poor as a child.  Poverty is shameful.  My mother used to borrow from people and never pay them back.  I recall very clearly as a little girl, seven or eight, cringing in embarrassment, but hoping they’d lend her the money to buy bread because we were hungry.  Of course she never repaid her debts.

I’m embarrassed today to say “I can’t afford that.”   I’ve started to say “because I don’t have any money” just flat out.  It somehow has a humorous tone to it and so far, nobody’s been mean to me about it. 

So when I heard about this book, I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to read it.  What a book!  This woman has done the research and opened her own soul to criticism as she shares how she screwed up—-and succeeded—in handling money and the emotions attached.

 That’s the crux of this book, the emotional roller coaster that our attitudes toward finances present in our lives.

She describes many cases of marriages that are mismatched in attitude.  A cheapskate will marry a spendthrift.  Their attitudes often stem, as mine do, from childhood.  Fear is a huge emotion attached to money for some.  They fear going broke so much they will hang on to every penny as if it represents their last sandwich.  Others, fearing, oh, say, public opinion, will spend their last penny on good shoes rather than food.

Marriages are lost over money issues.  Families are torn apart over inheritances.  This is not only the very rich, either, parents who leave behind a modest nest egg probably watch aghast from the spirit world as their children fight over that $5000.

Many of us try to buy affection with money.  I know I do that.  It’s not only an attempt at emotional blackmail when I buy my children nice things, I do want them to have everything, but in part, I’m trying to make up for my flaws as a parent.  I’m hoping that cute blouse will make up for snapping at Sarah; or the video games will compensate for the time I’m not able to spend with my grandsons who live farther away than the other grandchildren.

We feel inferior to others who have more money and better possessions than we do.   Depending on the society, money often determines social status.  

As Liz Perle rightly points out, money is at the heart of most of our interactions with others.    And while I know intellectually that money can’t buy happiness (watching my best friends’ families fight over their parents millions has taught me that), it seems that if I had a lot of money, my life would indeed be easier and happier.

When I was a senior in high school, I lived in a small house with other women, worked half the day, went to school the other half, and paid all my own bills. Money wasn’t a huge issue in my first marriage, if he wanted something and we had the money, he got it, same with me. Neither of us was a big spender, but we never fought about money. We fought about other things, just not that.

My second husband was a lazy man and wrote checks that he couldn’t support. I was a nervous wreck all the time over money. Our marriage only lasted ten months and I divorced him with him owing me money, but I thought it was worth the price.

Money has been a huge issue for all the 26 years Bill and I have been married. I’m a spender, he’s a saver. A hoarder, more like. He’s fairly generous with himself, he likes good clothes and his toys are top notch, while I tend to DI and yard sales (he would say “junk”), but I appreciate that he understands the value of a dollar. Because he’s a car salesman, he understands interest much better than I and he usually can negotiate a good deal when we purchase appliances, etc.

His income is based on commission and that can get hairy. I’ve gotten quite good at making sure the bills are paid (we have excellent credit) and all our needs are taken care of despite the ups and downs. Our children always had everything they needed. (Jessie still mourns that Barbie jeep I refused her and Sarah is SO going to buy her daughter an Easy Bake Oven, but still :)).

Money burns a hole in my pocket and because I’m the one who buys the birthday and Christmas presents, who tends to the wedding invites and all the social obligations, I spend more money. I’m awful in the grocery store and don’t get me started in Wal-Mart! These things have led to a great deal of contention in our marriage.

My attitude has always been one of faith. We have always paid our tithing and other donations and donate as much as we can to charity. Somehow it’s always worked out. Bill has about put himself in the hospital with anxiety, however, through it all.

You would think, since his parents always provided well for him, he’d worry less and that I, who had nothing as a child, would worry more.
I’m never dishonest with money, but my philosophy of “enjoy now, save later” directly conflicts with Bill’s “save it all for a rainy day” thought processes.

Because I suspect we are the norm rather than the departure, I recommend this book, “Money: A Memoir” by Liz Perle to all.

And I have some questions, because I really really need to know if I’m normal (Bookslinger, I already know what you think…..):

1.  Do you discuss money, how much you make or spend openly or are you, like me, more reserved?

2.  For women, have you ever spent money and hidden it from your husband?

3.  For guys, have you ever hidden money from your wife?

4.   How has money impacted your marriage?  Are you a spender or a saver?

5.   Are you worried about the economy and concerned that you’ll end up on the street?

6.  For guys who are the sole breadwinner, do you feel it’s your money or our money?

I’d appreciate any insight here :)