Basketball and money

March Madness: What college basketball can you teach you about family finances.

The team that takes the championship in the annual “March Madness” basketball ritual will have mastered many skills. One in particular will be an ability to work together to achieve the designed outcome. Great teams have role clarity – be it point guard or power forward. The same is true when it comes to managing your money at home.

I see couples in my workshops all the time who are struggling to get a handle on their money. One of the first things I recommend that they do is to clarify roles, to make it abundantly clear who is accountable for what.

Here’s how:

1. Discuss the context: As a couple it is important to discuss the “context” for money. This simply involves answering the question “what is our money for?” This will help set your direction in terms of spending, saving and investing and also remind you of why you’re doing the work (especially when your eyes are bugging out trying to find lost tax receipts).

2. Brainstorm the roles: Role clarity does not mean one person does all the work. Brainstorm everything you can think of that needs to occur over the course of the year. For example: Pay the bills, keep on top of investment performance, complete tax returns, develop and maintain the family budget etc.

3. Assign the roles: The next step is to determine who is going to do what. You can base it on interest level, skill, time, or keeping roles balanced within the family. Remember that there is no “right” way to divide tasks and that you can make changes down the line.

4. Communicate regularly: It is really important to have regular check ins about what is working and what is not working about your roles. Some couples connect monthly and others just twice a year. It is important to keep information flowing to head off any issues before they blow up.

The bottom line is this: Role clarity improves accountability. And accountability is one of the key ingredients to getting a handle on your money so you can live the life you want.