Arguments about spending, the permeating sense of futility when problems and habits are caught in a never-ending loop: Money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it’s the top cause of marital discord . . . and divorce.
But bankruptcy not only puts strain on a marriage, it also taxes the country’s economy, said Steve Economides, who, with his wife, Annette, runs the Home Economiser newsletter and Web site.
"In 2002 there were 16 million bankruptcies in the country," Steve Economides said. "If each of those people defaulted on a $1,000 debt — and that’s a conservative estimate — that’s $16 trillion taken out of the economy in one year." If the defaults included home loans of $50,000, the total jumps to $800 trillion.
"That causes a ripple effect," he said. "The effect on companies, in turn, affects other people through layoffs, unemployment."
With proper planning, communication and spending, none of this would be an issue, said Economides, who will lead a "Getting Your Family Finances in Order in 2004" seminar this month in Gilbert.
"Only 5 percent of families are so tight that they never overspend — usually people who grew up during the Depression," Economides said.
"Another 5 percent earn so much they never have to worry.
"The other 90 percent could use some help."
Steven Dart, an Episcopal priest at a Carefree parish, and his wife, Chrissy, fell in that other 90 percent until they went to an Economides seminar six years ago.
"We weren’t in dire straits," Steven Dart said. "We were in a pattern that could have led to trouble later on, but nobody was banging on our door for money. We realized it was a negative trend."
At their seminars, the Economideses teach families how to create budgets and plans to increase savings and pay off debts. It’s not one-on-one counseling, but they provide the necessary materials for selfstarters. For those who need more attention, representatives from Crown Financial Ministries and Consumer Credit Counseling Serving are expected to man booths at the seminar.
"In American society, there’s no real training to be frugal," Annette Economides said. "We don’t teach it in schools or colleges, it’s not a part of premarital counseling. Where do we learn how to save and not to spend?"
The couple are not financial planners, but embody the success that can come from frugal living on a limited income: They spend $350 per month to equip a family of seven, including food, paper goods, cleaning supplies and personal care items. At the seminars, they share the tips and tricks that helped them pay off their debt and start saving on an average yearly base salary of $33,000.
Once the Darts committed to a frugal lifestyle, "it became liberating," Steven said. "We were able to tackle something that had been weighing heavily on us, and beginning to see there was a way out of this."
As a result, today the Darts "are in a position where instead of being borrowers, we’re lenders because we’re investing money," he said. "It’s freed up a lot of income. Instead of servicing debts, we’re able to be a lot more generous. It has a huge impact on one’s outlook and emotional well-being."