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Man to Man

Financial talk from one man to another.

By Keith Rawlinson

Volunteer Budget Counselor

What do real men do?

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that men and women are wired very differently.  We men are designed to conquer, overcome, achieve, protect and provide.  God designed us that way so that families would be protected and taken care of.  So, do real men still do these things today?  Well, they should.  Although there are some men in the world whose culture and environment still require them to fight off marauding animals or enemy tribes, or to go out and literally kill something to drag home and feed their family, most of us men accomplish those things by going to work.  By earning money, we feed our families and protect them with clothing, shelter and medical care.  If we men find our families threatened by an intruder, natural disaster or other dangerous situation, it is natural for us to want to do something about it.  If we see a significant problem, we want to fix it--we are men--that's what we do.

Things that don't make you a man:

Unfortunately, for far too many of us men, this innate drive to conquer, overcome and provide, turns into an arrogant desire to control everything around us and to appear as though we can do everything ourselves.  We are, after all, manly men who don't need anyone else's help.  This attitude is really just a description of pride applied specifically to men.  A small amount of controlled pride is both beneficial and positive.  We men take pride in caring for our families (or at least we should).  We take pride in how we appear to others.  We take pride in being successful in business and finances in general.  The pride to do these things, and do them well, is part of what drives us on to success in our lives, financially or otherwise.

One of the biggest problems we men have is that our pride doesn't stop there.  Our pride can become something that makes us mistreat our families in an effort to control them or to prove that we know everything and are in control.  Our pride can also shape our self image to the point that we are unwilling to admit it when we are wrong, or when something is out of our hands.  Dominating everything and everyone around us does not make us men.  It makes us egotistical and demanding, but does not make us men.  Trying to convince others that we are independent, need no one else's help, know everything, and that we can handle all situations by ourselves does not make us men.

What makes us men is being able to admit to ourselves that we are not all-powerful and we don't know everything.  What makes us men is being willing to set our pride aside for the good of our families and go out and find the help and knowledge we need.  What makes us men is the willingness to to accept input from our spouse and our children and consider their needs and feelings ahead of our own.  What makes us men is being willing to say "I will worry about my own needs only after the needs of my family are met."  A real man should be a leader, not a dominator--at least when it comes to his family.

Sadly, most men let their pride get in the way of the things that actually make them a man--not just some men, but most men.  Being in debt and having financial problems is normal.  That's how most people are.  A man letting his pride and ego get in the way is also normal.  That's how most men are.  The trick, for real men anyway, is to get their pride and ego out of the way so that they can truly be effective in making life better for themselves and for their families.  Being stubbornly prideful does not make us a real man.  Our pride and ego should be a tool to be used when we need it, pride and ego should not be a way of life or a way to define ourselves.

What does all of this really mean?

What this all really means is that we men have to learn how to not be typical men.  Like I said, our pride should be a tool to be pulled out only when needed.  Our pride drives us to do a job well.  It drives us to want to be successful.  It drives us to want to feel good about how we care for our families.  Those things are examples of using our pride as a tool.  We can't afford to allow our pride to get in our own way.  We can't allow pride to cause us to be unfair and dominating toward our families.  And pride most certainly can never be permitted to lead us into any kind of abuse toward our spouse, children or others.  For more about the subject of pride, please read my article  "The Three Things That Commonly Get In Your Way."

When it comes to finances, far too many men think that it is an insult to our manhood if we get help or advice from others.  If that's the way you tend to feel, then think about it this way:  If your spouse, or one of your children, is seriously injured, or is terribly ill, you take them to a doctor, right?  Why?  If you're a man, shouldn't you be able to take care of everything yourself without someone else's help?  Of course not!  You take them to a doctor because the doctor has education, knowledge and experience that you lack.  If you take your spouse or child to a doctor instead of treating them yourself, did you fail to act like a man?  No, you did not!  You saw a problem, you stepped up and got your loved one to someone who could help them.  You admitted your limitations, you were wise enough to know when you needed help, and you made sure your loved one got the help they needed.  THAT, is being a man!  Well guess what?  Taking care of your family by means of the family finances is exactly the same.  You realize your family is threatened, you recognize your limitations, you find someone who knows more about finances than you do, and you get the help your family needs.  THAT, is stepping up.  THAT, is being a man!  When your family is in financial trouble, you need to recognize the threat and find someone who has education, knowledge and experience in finances that you lack--someone who can help you to take care of your family.  That's what a real man does when his family is threatened by financial danger.  Getting help from a financial counselor, or from Eclecticsite.com's Financial Page, does not make you less of a man, it makes you more of a man.  Why?  Because you stepped up and took care of your family in a way that most men wouldn't have.  You showed wisdom that far too many other men lack.

How should we apply this to our lives?

We men should apply these things to our lives by doing the things that real men do--especially when it comes to finances.  Not the things that most men would do, not the things that society thinks makes us men, and not the things that the media tries to convince us that men should do.  So, when it comes to finances, here are the basic things that real men do:

We men are designed to work in order to provide for our families--that's the way God made us.  The mistake that many men make is thinking that this means that the man has to have a job and be the only bread winner in the family.  For many families, that arrangement works out best, but there are exceptions.  If, for whatever reason, the wife is the bread winner, then the man works by caring for his children, and doing it well.  He works by making sure the home is well taken care of, after all, it is the family's shelter.  A real man understands that the man and wife are a team, and just about all men understand the concept of working as part of a team.  If the man is disabled, or otherwise physically or mentally limited, he is still a man as long as he does the most he can with whatever he does have.  The trap that many men fall into is thinking that they should be the sole provider and then letting that thinking get them into fights and power struggles with their working spouse.  Remember, the man and wife are a team.  As long as the man is doing his part to care for the family's present and future, he is being a man.  If, however, he is sitting around the house and not really contributing while his wife works, or while the family finances are falling apart, then that is a entirely different story.  As long as the man is working to better his family's situation, whatever that work may be, he is indeed being a man.  And don't forget, that if a man loses a job for whatever reason, he is still working if he is putting in long, hard days looking for a new job.

Pretty much all men are driven to achieve.  It's built right into us.  A real man, however, knows how to define achievement.  Achievement doesn't have to mean that you have an ultra-high paying job and a high-ranking position within the company.  Doing any job well is still achievement no matter what society, or the media, tries to tell you.  Besides, if a man has led his family in making such good financial decisions that the family can get by on a relatively lower income, that is certainly achievement.  There are many men who do have high-paying jobs and still their families are struggling financially because the men refuse to get help and refuse to make the decisions and sacrifices necessary to get ahead financially.

Society, and the media, will tell us men that we need to have the expensive car, the big house and the respect of everyone around us no matter what it takes.  A real man, however, can see through this lie.  A nice car or big house is fine if you have done all of the things learned on eclecticsite.com's Financial Page, and can afford it.  But to be honest, very few real men can afford those things and still be able get their families ahead financially.  A real man is willing to make the financial sacrifices necessary to provide for his family's future.  

Understand that achievement can't always be measured in dollars.  A real man can think far enough ahead to know that knowledge can also lead to achievement.  Increasing one's education in order to qualify for higher-paying jobs in the future, or learning new job skills to further one's career, are very valuable achievements.  The media will tell us that a man is one who rules his family, forces his will on others, gets what he wants when he wants, and impresses others by his material possessions and accomplishments.  Don't fall for the things advertisers try to tell you makes a real man.  A man--at least a real man--is not defined by his car, his clothing, his house, how many expensive "toys" he owns, etc.  A real man is one who is constantly striving to improve himself, his family and his future.  

Once a man has determined his, and his family's, destination, he next needs to figure out what steps will be necessary to get there, right?  Well, it's no different with finances.  If a man wants his family to become debt free and financially better off, he must plan some steps to reach those goals.  Only 8% of Americans even have a specific financial plan, and only 3% have a financial plan and have taken the time to put it in writing.  In finances, this plan is called a budget.  In order to get ahead, a family must have a detailed, written plan, or budget, and follow it.  A man needs to have the discipline and leadership necessary to guide his family in creating a plan and following it.  If a man creates a budget, and then puts it in writing, he has already taken steps that 97% of other Americans haven't.  A man cannot expect his family to willingly and faithfully exhibit the discipline and determination to follow a financial plan unless those behaviors are first being demonstrated by the man of the family himself.  A real man doesn't coerce or force his family to comply--he leads his family to want to comply through setting a good example himself.

A man protects his family by making sure that they are taken care of now, as well as in the future.  This does not just mean protecting your family financially, it also means protecting them physically and emotionally.  A man protects his family by not being immature or foolish with money.  If a man is foolishly wasting money on immature, and unnecessary purchases, then he is risking his family's financial future for no good reason.  A man protects himself and his family by preparing for financial emergencies before they even happen.  This is done through wise planning leading the family to save money for emergencies.  And, of course, a man protects his family by knowing when things are out of his hands and then getting help and guidance from qualified individuals when needed.

As has already been pointed out, a real man provides.  He may directly provide money by working, or he may provide by caring for the home and children in order to allow his wife to go off to a job each day.  In addition to providing financially and materially, a real man provides for his family emotionally.  That means being a leader for his family and not a dominator or dictator.  A real man makes time for his wife and children, and makes sure that everyone knows they are loved and cared about.  

Final thought, man-to-man:
Be a man, plan for yourself and for your family, make sure things are on track, get help when needed, be tough enough to make sacrifices and to stay with it, be ready to react to emergencies (especially financially), prove you're a man by leading your family to being better off.

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Please know that all of the thoughts, information, suggestions and techniques given on this site are nothing more than the author's opinion on the matter being addressed.  Do further research before making any decisions.

This article copyright 2008 by Keith C. Rawlinson (Eclecticsite.com).  All rights reserved.

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