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Financial Support Inventory (FSI):
Needs and Wants Budget

The need for financial support (see financial support) is usually selected by women as one of their most important emotional needs. Men rarely indicate any need at all for financial support, although we may see this change in the future. But at present this sex difference becomes obvious when you ask people, "would you marry someone who would expect to be supported financially, who preferred doing something that didn't earn an income, such as raising his or her own children, or volunteering his or her services?" Today, most men would say, "yes," and most women would say, "no."

When a woman has a need for financial support, she expects her husband's income to support her and their children, while her income is discretionary (gifts, vacations, luxury items, and other extras). This expectation is rarely explained, and many men think their career-oriented wives want to, or at least should, split the household expenses. In a moment of abandon, however, women will sometimes explain to their husbands that they did not expect to divide expenses. Then they often apologize for being selfish and go back to dividing expenses. They continue to be uncomfortable with that arrangement, however, because one of their most important emotional needs is not being met.

A sensible way to approach this problem is to begin with an analysis of how existing financial resources are being allocated. If a husband's income is sufficient to support his wife and family, the problem may be solved by simply dedicating his salary to pay for the family's basic needs. He gets credit for providing financial support, and that's the end of it. But if his income is insufficient to meet basic needs, then cutting household expenses may be necessary, or a change in job or career may be warranted.

I've designed a form to help couples with this analysis, the Financial Support Inventory: Needs and Wants Budget. Every household should have a budget, but this budget is a little different than others you have seen: It helps clarify the need for financial support. It is assumed that the spouse with this need-very likely the wife-will find fulfillment when her definition of financial support is met.

The spouse with the unmet emotional need for financial support completes this inventory. Under the heading, Needs Budget, the family's most basic living expenses are calculated and totaled. If that total is less than or equal to her spouse's income, then, by definition, her need has been met all along: She simply didn't recognize that his income was supporting her. If, however, his income is insufficient, then there are at least two solutions to the problem: (1) reduce household expenses while still meeting her basic needs, or (2) increase his income with a raise at work, a job change, or a career change.

While the Needs Budget is the primary focus of the inventory, the other two budgets are also very useful. The Wants Budget reflects the cost of meeting reasonable desires that would be more costly than necessities. In this column, the income of both spouses should appear. The Affordable Budget column helps you identify the wants you can afford, and will be determined by the sum of both incomes. This Affordable Budget is balanced: The income equals the expenses.

I'll make one final point on this subject. You and your spouse should agree on career choices and finances before you make any final decisions (Policy of Joint Agreement). You will find that your wisest decisions will reflect a willingness to meet each other's needs and preferences. One of you may have no desire for added furniture, while the other is deeply troubled with what you have. Solutions recognize that while you cannot have everything you want, you can usually have the things that are most important you each of you. A certain item may not be important to both of you, but because it meets a need for one of you, the other can be genuinely enthusiastic about it and make an effort to accommodate that need. That's what happens in great marriages.

Please note: You will need Adobe® Acrobat® Reader installed on your computer to view the FSI. The software program is FREE. Simply click on the "Get Acrobat Reader" image below and begin the download process. Once the program is installed, come back to this page to view the FSI.

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The Financial Support Inventory

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