Culture

  • Culture,  Life Lessons

    How to Review Goals and Cultural Obligations

    This past year was a mess. That is putting it mildly. We achieved some great things but so much of my life was on hold. No childcare, moving house twice, high achieving kids requiring a lot of my time to get them to and from events etc.

    I had no time for myself or for my $2 to $1,000,000 project. With 4 kids here and doing most things on my own, I can barely think.

    On top of that, there have been some big changes and issues with some cultural matters. I’ve written before about how we manage our cultural obligations (including sending money back to Vanuatu, planning to support the parents there in retirement etc).

    This means it is time to review my goals and cultural obligations.

    3 of the kids playing where we were living in Noosa.

    How to Review Goals

    If the goals you set aren’t working for you, it’s ok to change them. It’s also ok to take a break if you need to so you can reset and decide if those goals will truly get you the outcome you want.

    My $2 to $1,000,000 goal is mainly a hobby and bit of fun for me. As such, I do it when I can but haven’t focused on it as much as I would have liked.

    Some opportunities were suggested that would have worked great with that goal. However, it’s been months and those things still have not happened, so I am moving in another direction with it to ensure I can keep doubling my money.

    Making these decisions wasn’t easy. Here is how I reviewed my goals.

    1. Look at the Past, Compare the Good and the Bad

    Maybe you set a goal and it isn’t moving ahead as fast as you thought or it’s not providing the result you wanted. Look at what has been happening with it, both the good and the bad.

    Have you dedicated proper time and resources to the goal to ensure it happens? Was it a realistic goal to begin with? Did you have a proper plan?

    What success have you seen on the journey with this goal?

    Thoroughly review what you have done and can do to achieve this goal. Be honest with yourself. We often overestimate what we can do in some stages of life and at times we need to adjust our own expectations.

    For me, with a baby, a toddler, two teens, doing it pretty much on my own, dealing with other issues in the background plus needing to move house twice this year and having severe health issues due to a traumatic birth means realistically, I couldn’t do my goals.

    I achieved numerous other things but in this stage of life, with no childcare or help, I need to be realistic and accept I cannot do the things I wanted to, yet.

    2. What End Result do I Want?

    While we do need to be resilient and persist so we can grow, it’s also ok to ask yourself if this goal will get the end result you want? When life changes, sometimes goals we set are no longer relevant.

    If a goal won’t get you the life and end result you want anymore, and you are being honest with yourself that it truly won’t, it’s ok to change tactics.

    How is This Impacting my Family?

    Family is my everything so this is something I ask with every decision I make. If my goals detract from my family, cause stress or anything along those lines, it is not worth it to me.

    Due to all the other issues this year, my goals needed to take a backseat while I supported my family. Now, moving into 2023 and beyond, I can focus more on myself.

    3. How is This Impacting my Mental Health?

    If you set goals then beat yourself up because you didn’t achieve them or you feel awful because you can’t achieve what you set out to do, it might be time to re-evaluate your goals and choices.

    At times my mental health has suffered because the goals I set were too extreme. This impacts my family as well so is something I need to constantly check.

    4. Make Changes

    If a goal will still provide an end result that you want but it isn’t working for other reasons, work out what changes you can make so you still achieve it. Sometimes a few tweaks is all that is needed to make it easier or better.

    How to Change Cultural Obligations

    Let me start by saying, it wasn’t me that lead the decisions on this. Being Caucasian means I haven’t grown up with these expectations placed on me. We tried to make them work but due to various lies and other issues, we are stepping back.

    Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

    You cannot help others if you are struggling or barely breathing. As with emergencies on a plane where you fit the mask on yourself first and then help others, the same can be applied to cultural obligations.

    A lot of pressure was put on us to provide financially, for the parents to retire, for us to buy a new car for the family there (we did pay to repair theirs and then a family member messed around with it and completely destroyed the engine).

    We keep getting asked to buy a boat and so many other things.

    Yet, in the past few years we had to repatriate, set up our home, get residency, a commercial diving course, move states etc. All up, it’s been about $100,000 to get set up here with all of that. On top of regular living expenses.

    We did send money back, paid for house repairs, car repairs, new phones, education and more. But we have goals here that aren’t happening because of the pressure and expectations from Vanuatu.

    It is ok to put yourself first.

    How much more could you do and how much better off would everyone be if you got your own life sorted first? One thing I noticed, with the financial expectations from family is how they expected us to improve their life before even being set up here.

    Getting a house here, a second car, childcare and other things mean we can then develop more in Vanuatu. So we have started to say no and set proper boundaries.

    Let Them Know

    This was hard. Letting them know we won’t buy them a boat, a car, pay for retirement right now or anything else as we have other things we are focusing on was tough.

    Not everyone handled it well and there were some things said and done that showed true colours. That also helped solidify our decision though.

    Decide how you will let family know things are changing. You don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Set a time to call or if you are going to see them in person, it might be better to do it then.

    Outline the changes. Make it clear these boundaries are firm. Then stick to it.

    Stand Firm

    Family will push back and try to guilt you into doing what they want. Stand firm on your boundaries. If you let them keep pushing you around, you will never achieve your financial goals.

    As hard as it can be, if they behave this way, you might need to step back for a while. Don’t let them suck you into drama.

    Be clear on the life you want, the plan you have for your finances and stick to it.

    What tips do you have for reviewing goals and financial obligations?

  • Culture

    How to Afford Cultural and Family Expectations

    4 Tips to Afford Cultural Obligations

    We shared the difference in finances when it comes to cultures and how we manage it before. Now, we are faced with a big decision due to numerous issues – how to afford cultural and family expectations.

    Last year there were funerals and other expenses, the family car in Vanuatu (which is also income) needed significant repairs and we had strong pressure for new phones and other things for the family.

    Since we live in Australia, the view from Vanuatu is we are super rich and can afford everything. In some ways, we are a lot wealthier, have higher incomes etc.

    But we also have high expenses and it cost us around $100,000 the past few years to repatriate, set up a house, buy a car, retrain for a new job, move to another state etc.

    Yet we have been constantly pressured to buy a new bus/van for the family which is about $40,000AUD or $27,000USD. Buy a boat, pay for education, retirement and more.

    We have been happy to do what we can but the demands have grown and we have to make some tough decisions. It is at the point where the expectations exceed what we can do and things need to change.

    Bells Beach, Australia on a work trip

    How to Afford Cultural and Family Expectations

    For many of you reading this, I assume you are in a position where you have extra expenses due to culture. Or you are in a relationship where the cultures are clashing with money and expectations. Or something came up suddenly and you now need the cash, fast.

    Here are our tips on managing these unexpected expenses and cultural expectations in general.

    1. Determine If It Is Essential

    Being Caucasian (I, Ms Aspiring Millionaire, am) means so many things can be dismissed. The cultural expectations are not as strong and it is easier in some ways to decline demands.

    Mr Aspiring Millionaire is from a rich culture in Vanuatu where certain things CANNOT be ignored or dismissed without causing more issues. Many cultures around the world will understand this.

    There have been some things we could ease off on but others need to be adhered to. If you are facing cultural financial expenses, determine if it is truly essential, what the pros and cons are of adhering to it and what you can do.

    As an example, we paid for car repairs last year as, without it, his father couldn’t work. But the phones were not essential, we gifted them for Mother’s Day.

    The car we have fixed many times on a block of family-owned land in Vanuatu

    2. Decide on Your Budget

    What the family says you need to spend or send doesn’t matter. How much you contribute is up to you. As an example, recently, family requested $10,000 Vatu (about $120AUD) for a funeral. We sent that immediately, without hesitation.

    However, the constant demand for a new bus is not in our budget and not something we are willing to do at this time.

    For 2023 and the next few years, we have decided to send a set amount each month. That is it. We won’t be paying for anything extra on top of that.

    If we don’t set this boundary, we will never get ahead here. Buying a house and some educational expenses for the oldest two children are top priority instead.

    It is ok to set a boundary around the budget and say no to everything else! They might push and try to guilt you but the reality is you cannot help if you aren’t set up.

    Set yourself up, follow your own goals and path, while continuing cultural obligations within a budget you determine.

    3. Plan It Out

    Realistically, everyone needs an emergency fund for unexpected and unavoidable expenses. Those in interracial relationships should also add a category for cultural expenses. We all know they will happen.

    Set aside a small part of your budget now so when things come up you have some money at least to manage things. This might be for you to fly back to the country for a funeral or something else. You decide what an emergency covers and how that money will be spent.

    Do not let the family know you have this account. Otherwise, there will be an endless stream of ’emergencies’ and you still won’t get ahead.

    Create a plan for this account, how you will fund it, how much will go into it and what it will be used for.

    A plan is essential because it is too easy to get into debt or take on too much due to cultural pressure. Know your limits, put your immediate family first and plan out what you can and can’t do.

    Our neighbours in the Solomon Islands where our kids spent every day until we repatriated mid 2020.

    4. Make Money

    Chances are you haven’t set aside money up until this point and you are reading this because you are disagreeing over money and cultural matters or you suddenly need to find $10,000 or more.

    Be honest with the family, if you don’t have it don’t say you do and don’t go into debt for it. Look at ways to make money but do it quietly. If you happen to make enough and want to send it, you can.

    There are many ways you can make money fast. Here are a few we have done:

    Reselling

    Buying things to resell has been great for me. Especially rockabilly clothing and collectables. Know what things are worth, where to sell them and be consistent. Check out How to Make Over $10,000 a Month Reselling for exact tips on this.

    Renting A Room

    If you have a spare room, rent it out. For those renting, check with your landlord first otherwise you might breach your lease and that would leave you homeless. This won’t get you heaps immediately but if you have a month or so to get the money together, you might save $1,000+

    Odd Jobs

    Delivering flyers, cleaning, yard work, deliveries etc. There are so many odd jobs available through Facebook groups, apps such as Airtasker and delivery apps too.

    If you have the time you might be able to generate an extra $1,000 or more a week with this.

    Overtime or a Second Job

    Again, this requires time and isn’t always feasible. If you can get overtime at work or you are eligible for a second job, it might be a good option. The consistent income will also help you budget but it can be exhausting juggling two jobs.

    How We Afford Cultural and Family Expectations

    Previously, we sent money and paid for things as they came up. As of now, that is not happening anymore.

    We have decided to focus on our goals here in Australia. Mr Aspiring Millionaire will send a set amount each month to his parents. That’s it.

    If we don’t have it here, we aren’t providing it there. By this, I mean we don’t own a house in Australia, so we are not paying for his parents retirement yet. We don’t own new cars so we are not buying them a new car. A boat would be amazing for our lifestyle here and until we have one here, we are not buying one for over there.

    Did this ruffle some feathers among family? Absolutely. Do we feel better about our finances and direction? 100%!

    Making these changes will see us achieve our goals here faster. This means in the long term, we will be able to provide better over there as well.

    How do you manage cultural and family obligations?

  • Culture,  Save Money

    What is Insourcing and Why You Need to do it aka How to get Everyone to Help at Home

    Too often everything in the home falls on the shoulders of the mother. The mental load is huge and expectations are high. Mothers now are expected to work as if they don’t have kids and raise kids as if they don’t work.

    Research shows a woman’s workload increases when she gets married. Even more once kids are involved. The amount of us that are doing almost everything at home, working full time, doing most of the child things plus all the paperwork and mental load things is huge. Burn out is real and this is why.

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

    What is Insourcing?

    Insourcing is getting others who live with you to do things. In our home, we are of the view that we all live here so we all need to pitch in. This means we take turns cooking dinner, my kids pack their own lunches, whoever cooks dinner doesn’t have to clean, laundry is alternated etc.

    Although there have been many times where it slips, for the most part, having this approach means the actual chores within the home are shared. The mental load is another thing though.

    How do you get Everyone Else at Home to Help More?

    The younger you start, the easier it is. As soon as my kids show any interest in any house chore I was doing, I involved them, even though it meant the task took longer.

    Some examples, as soon as my son could walk, he wanted to help his older siblings take the rubbish out, he wanted to help load the washing machine and push the buttons. By encouraging this, I know he will turn out the same as his older siblings.

    His older siblings are 13 and 15, they each cook 2 nights a week, clean the kitchen after dinner, take the rubbish and recycling out. Once a week other chores such as the bathrooms, floors etc are rotated and they do these. We all live here so we all help and they don’t complain, they just do it.

    Involve your kids! It can be a pain in the beginning, messier and slower but it is worth it. My kids have been capable of everything including cooking dinner since age 7. My nieces and nephews are the same.

    Fair Play

    At one point, things slacked off at home. My son was a few months old, I was the only one providing financially, we were trying to get a residency visa, did a 3 week road trip in the middle of Covid to get all our stuff from another state (Noosa to Melbourne and back) and so people could meet my son.

    I ended up doing everything and I was exhausted. So much paperwork for the birth of our son, registering Mr Aspiring Millionaire, the visa, Medicare, tax, stuff with the teens. It broke me.

    Enter Fair Play, a deck of cards that really helps show just how much each person is doing, the mental load we carry etc. There is a book and cards. Both are so useful in visually showing and getting everyone in the family to see what the reality is when it comes to who does what and how much needs to be done.

    Life Admin Hacks

    If there was ever a book that would save you time and money by helping you organise everything from doctor appointments to tax, this is it. Life Admin Hacks covers every aspect of your life and budget, and provides you with resources and systems to streamline it and make your life easier.

    It is a must-read book for everyone.

    Family Calendar

    This was a game-changer in our house. While my family has been pretty good with splitting chores, no one really understood how much was required to run the home and our lives efficiently.

    Once I set up a family calendar and started putting things in, time blocking and allocating what needs to be done, they realised how much I did. Every appointment and task from car maintenance to the dentist was put in.

    A family calendar also helps everyone see if there is time to go to a friends or accept an invitation etc. We know what we are all doing and when so nothing is double booked or forgotten.

    Meal Plan

    We shop once a week and plan our meals around what is in season and on sale at the market. Before we shop, I cook what we have left or organise it into things so nothing gets wasted. For example, any vegetables that are too soft will be used in a soup or spaghetti bolognese or similar.

    The foods made from what’s left at the end of the week are typically meals we can freeze to use on a night we don’t feel like cooking. It prevents us from getting takeaway on those nights and prevents general waste.

    A meal plan makes it easy for the kids to know what they are cooking and when. It also enables us to teach them more recipes and for them to make decisions about what they want to cook or learn to cook.

    Childcare

    This one is still a juggle and a work in progress. As most of my work has always been done around the kids, it was taken for granted that I would do the bulk of the childcare. However, with a toddler and a baby, Mr Aspiring Millionaire working long hours and sometimes away overnight, it got tricky.

    With no childcare available, we had to work out options and routines to make this work better until the youngest two get into childcare or we get a nanny. Otherwise, I won’t be able to work much at all and all our goals will be on hold.

    The way we’ve ‘insourced’ childcare, for now, is the kids all play together at times. Our toddler thinks he is one of the teens anyway and they love teaching him things. Then on weekends or if Mr Aspiring Millionaire finishes early, he looks after them for set times then so I can work.

    Our main reasons for doing it this way until we can get childcare is so I can still have an income, the kids are all close and the older ones do not feel like permanent babysitters. It’s important to us that it is play, not constant childcare when they are with their younger siblings.

    Chores

    With the rest of the chores such as washing, sweeping, mopping, the bathrooms, ironining etc. I do some during the week, around the younger two. The older two chose their chores and we aim to do all the big chores on one day so it doesn’t feel like constant work.

    Since we all live here, we all help. By having that attitude and the kids being raised that way, insourcing this has been relatively easy.

    What and How do you Insource?

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  • Culture,  FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early

    How to Manage Cultural Differences with Money

    What do you do when your Cultures Clash over Finances? What is Bride Price, Compensation and Custom Fees?

    Mr Aspiring Millionaire comes from Vanuatu and Ms Aspiring Millionaire comes from Australia. They met in the Solomon Islands and Mr Aspiring Millionaire has a daughter there to his ex-wife. Ms Aspiring Millionaire has 2 daughters to her first marriage who are part Tongan and part Maori. That’s 5 cultures with financial differences to be taken into account and managed.

    So how do we manage issues such as Bride Price which is extremely important in Vanuatu and Solomon Islander cultures but non-existent in Caucasian Australian culture? Or the fact children are expected to financially support their elders in his cultures while in her culture, the parents leave an inheritance and support the kids. What about the expectation we support the family in the islands because we are considered wealthy?

    Here I’ll share some of our experience then tips to help you navigate cultural differences when it comes to finances.

    The Rocky Road to Settling our Cultural Financial Differences

    Juggling multiple cultures and needing to be respectful has caused a few issues. Ms Aspiring Millionaire was aware of some but not all. She was also unaware how important some were to Mr Aspiring Millionaire, such as Bride Price. To her, it was a dated practice about ownership which she had no interest in participating in. For him, it is about thanking the parents for raising the daughter well and showing he is capable of providing. Not paying Bride Price would be an insult to him and shameful to his family.

    While Ms Aspiring Millionaire had some understanding of Islander culture (which does vary country to country and even from village to village in those countries). She was not fully prepared and some has been difficult to manage. On the other hand, for Mr Aspiring Millionaire, the attitude towards money in Australian culture took a bit to get used to and understand.

    Numerous discussions about culture, goals and expectations took place before meeting kids and taking the next step in the relationship. That did not stop the various issues and blocks along the way.

    Image: Caucasian woman, Asian man and their son in their lounge. Text reads how to manage cultural differences with money.

    Some of our Major Financial Differences

    A few have been mentioned but there were 5 major cultural differences when it comes to finances we had to work through.

    Bride Price

    This was dismissed by Ms Aspiring Millionaire immediately as being Australian, she assumed it was not applicable. Mr Aspiring Millionaire didn’t say much because Ms Aspiring Millionaire had such a strong view on what she thought Bride Price was about.

    She thought it was the man buying the woman (and in some cultures it is as well as some men assuming bride price means they own the women). However, in Vanuatu it is thanking the family for raising the woman. It was extremely important to him which only became clear the more serious marriage was discussed.

    Because Ms Aspiring Millionaire also had no desire to remarry, so it wasn’t going to matter. Over time though, because Mr Aspiring Millionaire did want to marry, the discussions shifted.

    Education and understanding was key for dealing with the differences around Bride Price.

    Supporting the Parents and the rest of the Family

    Ms Aspiring Millionaire had assumed some level of support would be required since the options for retirement are limited. There are no pensions, no welfare and hardly any retirement funding available in the islands. Children are expected to support their parents and family.

    If you happen to get a good job or live in another country, you are also expected to send money home, pay for schooling and other things if you can. The expectations were more than Ms Aspiring Millionaire was aware of. In her culture, the parents supported and helped the kids. If she needed money, she could get an interest free loan from her parents. They also gifted money when they visited or would buy gifts, items for babies when born and help where possible.

    This is not to say Mr Aspiring Millionaire’s family don’t do any of that. When in Vanuatu, his parents take care of everything, they got new furniture for the front two rooms so when we visit we have our own space. They let us use the car whenever we want, take us to the family-owned beaches and Mr Aspiring Millionaire has inherited nicely because of his family.

    White Are Wealthy/Being Used For A Visa

    This was a big issue for both sides. White people are assumed to be wealthy but usually assumed to be Beverly Hills wealthy. They are wealthier than Ni-Vanuatu and Solomon Islanders but not to the level assumed. On top of that, a relationship between someone from those countries and someone from Australia is usually assumed to be done for a visa, that the white person is being used and played.

    We faced opposition from both sides of the family until they met us in person and saw how happy we were, how our relationship was much more loving and supportive than our previous marriages. Friends who were there when we met and had spent a lot of time with us already knew this but our families didn’t and they were cautious.

    Given the history of both countries, the amount of people who have been used for a visa and the blackbirding trade (where Australia stole people from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and many other nations to be slaves on plantations), the fear is understandable.

    Compensation

    In the Solomon Islands and some other island nations, if you do something wrong, you have to pay compensation to the person you wronged. This was hard for Ms Aspiring Millionaire to understand, she was not in a position where she ever wronged someone and had to pay. But it did cause them to be careful in each country.

    Females Do Not Inherit

    This one took a lot for Ms Aspiring Millionaire to understand or be ok with. In Vanuatu and many parts of the Solomon Islands, only the men inherit. The women are expected to be taken care of by their husbands. They can own their own land if the work and buy it themselves but they will never inherit it.

    Even if it was put in a will, the customs would override it and the lands taken. This is why a son was crucial for Mr Aspiring Millionaire. The family needed someone to inherit the family’s wealth, otherwise it would go to another family.

    A compromise with this is the son will inherit the custom lands in Vanuatu, the daughters from Ms Aspiring Millionaire’s first marriage will inherit property and business in Australia. While the daughter in the Solomon Islands cannot inherit, options for her are still trying to be worked out so as not to offend either culture and not to be lost to other families. It’s way more complicated than most families.

    Image of man of colour kissing hand of woman of colour. Text reads how to manage cultural differences with money

    How to Manage Financial Cultural Differences

    Communication is key. Being clear about what is important, discussing it all with an open mind then deciding what is best for your family is essential to making this work. Financial issues are a leading cause for divorce. Throw in cultural differences and it becomes a million times harder. Here are some tips.

    Determine The Lifestyle You Want

    If you are clear on the life you want, you can create a plan to make that happen. When working this out, you need to include career goals, property, essentials for the families to be culturally sensitive, hobbies, who will stay home with the kids or if you both work and have a nanny, all of it.

    Discuss your childhoods so you have a clear idea of what was normal for each other and what is within your comfort zone. Share your dreams and the lifestyle you want. Write it down and compare. Do this early, before kids, before marriage and before committing too much.

    Once you are committed, if you haven’t had these discussions you might find yourselves on completely different paths and it is much harder to compromise at that point.

    Decide together the lifestyle you want.

    Be Clear About Your Cultural Expectations

    As mentioned, Mr Aspiring Millionaire expects to pay Bride Price, he expects to support his family and participate in any cultural matters. Ms Aspiring Millionaire expected to provide for herself and her immediate family only, not everyone.

    Boundaries had to be put in place around the cultural expectations and how much could be catered to so both were satisfied and respected. This could only happen once all expectations were put on the table to be discussed.

    Work Out What The Deal Breakers Are

    Some cultural expectations might be easy to let go of for one partner others might be total deal breakers. If there is a cultural expectation that is a deal breaker for you, be honest and state what it is and why it is a deal breaker for you.

    Doing this early in the relationship enables you both to decide if it will work or if it is something you will fight about forever.

    Communicate With An Open Mind

    When discussing finances and culture, do so with an open mind. No one’s way is the right way. Each tradition or expectation has merit and cultural importance so don’t dismiss or belittle any of them. Discuss them all with an open mind, be understanding and if you don’t understand something, ask questions in a non judgmental way.

    Being non judgmental makes it easier for the other partner to open up and share their culture, values and beliefs. If you are judging it, pushing your way or viewing your way as the only right way then communication won’t work.

    Compromise

    Now you have a clear idea of the different cultural expectations, what the deal breakers are and the life you want, work out your compromises. You might be ok with accepting all of it or you may need boundaries in place.

    A few examples of ours:

    Bride Price: Ms Aspiring Millionaire’s parents are uncomfortable accepting money when they are so wealthy compared to Mr Aspiring Millionaire’s family. A compromise from them was the debt Ms Aspiring Millionaire owes them can be paid by Mr Aspiring Millionaire as the Bride Price.

    Plus a piglet named Kevin. No joke! One of Ms Aspiring Millionaire’s sisters asked if that could be done at the Bride Price ceremony and Mr Aspiring Millionaire laughed but said that is easy, we can do that.

    Money to Family: Mr and Ms Aspiring Millionaire pay child support to his ex-wife as agreed when they did child custody. Education is important so paying for a cousins degree, paying for the daughter to get a good education and budgeting for the nieces and nephews to attend school is all included.

    Also, planning for businesses and growing them to support the family through retirement instead of simply sending money. This compromise grows wealth without being a handout.

    Females do not inherit: as mentioned, the son will inherit custom lands but other property and wealth can and will be inherited by daughters.

    How do you manage financial cultural differences? What are some considerations for your culture?

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