For Richer or Poorer... Keys To A Sound Financial Future

11/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

We've got a tiger by the tail. And, that is not a good thing when it comes to the economy. What do you do when you find yourself and your family in such a horrendous mess? If you are like the many whose stories I hear pretty much every day, what you planned for your future in terms of financial security, bears far too small a resemblance to what is before you. In one particular case last week, a woman shared with me that her father, who'd spent his lifetime working to create a secure financial portfolio for his family, at significant cost to his relationships, came to a dead end. Seeing no way out when the market crashed, he took his own life. Part of the note left behind pointed to his feeling that "I've failed you all, and have nothing left to leave...." A tragic permanent solution to what is really a temporary problem.

I don't know about you, but these events remind me of the importance of perspective. The words of Michel Beckwith comes to mind with his phrase "bless the mess." True, we have a mess on our hands these days. A global mess. Our relationship with prosperity is sadly lacking. Still, there is a universal law in nature related to 'what goes up must come down.' We do well to remember, at discouraging times, that no matter how bad things may appear, the pendulum always comes back to swing another way. It's called 'enantiodromia.'

What do you do in the meantime? Let's look at another form of relationship with which you are more than familiar by comparison: marriage. Even if you are single, you've got lots of familiarity in the marriages you have known. (And, no doubt, made many of your own observations!) Think back to the last wedding you attended. For me, this was Jenny and Pierce's wedding. Her second, I paid particular attention to the vows. They had been adjusted. The two were wise enough to consider and express their own customized fit for the pledge they wanted to make to one another. However, in those vows, I noticed that the usual 'for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health' were included.

I doubt there was a friend or loved one in the audience with some 'tread on their tires' in the marriage department, who did not appreciate that this marriage, like all marriages, would be tested. This is part of the dance. But, we also know that through the tests, and our response to the test at hand, we are shaped. Our character gets to grow, or morph. If we choose the former, our confidence and sense of direction and gratitude develops exponentially. On the other hand, if we choose to become martyrs, or victims of the unexpected in our partner, we rigidify. Whether a marriage thrives or grows stale is a reflection of the degree to which each partner is willing to take on the unexpected with an attitude of appreciation, and a resolve to work out the conflict together, for 'richer or poorer.'

This is no easy matter when it comes to money. As a 'shrink,' I can tell you that problems in the wallet, stock market, and bank account very often lead to big do-do in the divorce department. Why is this? Very simply, whenever we place our freedom and security in some external source, it shakes up our confidence, trust, and direction. We lose connection to our own wisdom. We lose our faith. And when we lose our faith, we lose our way. Hence, the man who 'offed' himself when the market crashed.

So, how do you 'bless the mess,' be it in marriage or finances, with the tests that have come, and more on their way? I don't know about you, but I'm aware of just how overwhelming the unknown can be, especially if you have responsibilities for others, as well as yourself. We can do ourselves in getting lost in the complexities. In light of this, over the next number of weeks, let's consider together the Keys to a Sound Financial Future in a series. Let's not only consider how to bless this mess, but entertain one simple key at a time that can be used to shift the level of stress, and restore a sense of confidence.

Toward this end, let's start a productive conversation together. If you are growing weary of the 'doom and gloom,' let's see what we can offer one another that might be useful, growthful, and directional. Please know that I not only welcome your response today, and each week, but am most welcome for whatever you would like to share from your own experience. Not only am I waiting to hear from you, but others you've not yet met, are standing in line, as well. No one can say it like you.