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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
How to Achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early with a Large Family
Most things written about financial independence and retiring early is from white males. In more recent years, other voices have come through, often still single or double incomes before kids, or with only one kid.
In my experience, it is much easier to achieve financial goals without children but as someone with 4 kids, that isn’t the journey I’m taking. We have 2 daughters from my first marriage, my partner’s daughter from his first marriage and a son together. Aged 13, 12, 7 and less than 6 months.
My partner comes from Vanuatu and in his culture, it is expected you support the parents in their later years. Vanuatu does not have an aged pension, welfare or many of the things we have here. Incomes are extremely low so even with some retirement savings, it is impossible to live off, let alone aim for a large retirement nest egg.
Also, it is not uncommon for the wealthier family members or those in a better location to support nieces and nephews through school. His parents supported numerous cousins of his and still do. Since his sister has two children, it is possible we will have not only our kids but hers at some point too.
Our situation and FIRE goals are different to most.
Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.
What can you do to Achieve FIRE with a Large Family?
Knowing what you want, creating a plan of action and going for it are with commitment is how. You might not achieve it as fast as someone who doesn’t have kids or your expenses but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
Please remember to live life still! Don’t scrimp and save on everything, sacrificing fun memories with your kids in an effort to retire early. I see too many families cutting off everything, not really living in an effort to retire a year earlier or 5 years earlier. Your kids will remember their childhoods. If you are off working 24/7 or constantly side hustling and cutting corners so they never get to do anything, they will remember it.
A strong relationship with your kids is more important than retiring a few years earlier. Always aim for a balance between reaching your goal of retiring at a certain point with having great times as a family.
What we do for Family Fun
Having time with your family and lots of fun doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A few key things we do are:
- Friday Family Fun Night: an activity as a family, usually on a Friday night. Every week, we do an activity together. It might be watching a movie on Netflix with treats, going for a hike, the beach until midnight, any activity we enjoy. The point is, our kids know that every week we have a few hours doing something as a family and they look forward to it all week.
- Dinner Together: every night we have dinner as a family. We often cook these meals together too.
- Grateful and Compliments: at dinner we all list 3 things we are grateful for plus a compliment for each other. With the compliments, it is about catching each other doing something good and recognising it rather than superficial compliments.
- Family Travel: we are a family that loves travel. So much so, that we have side hustles based on it. Family travel doesn’t need to be expensive, most of ours is free but our kids have the best memories. Check out free campsites for weekends away, stay with friends and family interstate, go on a random road trip.
- Private Conversations: at any time, our kids can ask either one of us for a private conversation and the whole family will respect that and give us space to talk.
- One On One Time: I try to take the kids out individually, even if just for a walk on the beach together. Having that one on one time with me makes a huge difference to the relationship.
All of these things add up and have ensured our children are emotionally stable, confident and happy to work towards our goals. They aren’t constantly asking for new things and we don’t feel the need to buy them things because they get our time.
Find a balance between work, side hustles, reaching FIRE and the time with your family.
Sort Out Your Budget
Go over all your expenses, your income and plans. Create a proper spending plan to tell your money where to go before it lands in your account. Be sure to include regular savings and investing as part of your budget. Treat them as a bill instead of an afterthought. They should be paid first and work with the rest of your income for everything else.
Look at ways to cut back and as you do, transfer those extra amounts to savings or investments. If you are hopeless with money, try using the envelope system to begin with so you use cash and physically see the money go.
What is the Envelope System?
Multiple envelopes for different expenses are used. Take out the cash amount you set aside in your budget for each area e.g. groceries, petrol, bills and once you have spent the cash, it’s gone. For every purchase, put the receipt into the envelope so you can properly track where and how you spend your money.
For many people, seeing how much cash they spend and how much they waste is confronting. This alone is enough to make them change their spending habits.
Other people prefer to use separate accounts online and transfer the money between them. Try each method and do what works for you.
How we do Our Budget
Every Sunday we have an Abundance Meeting. We sit down together, go over all our income, investments and expenses to ensure we are on track. Our investments are set up to be automatic, as are most of our bills.
Each week we get our own ‘play’ money which is a specific amount we can do whatever we want with. The minimum aim is at least 10% to investments and 10% to savings. Right now, we are saving $30,000 fast to pay cash for Mr Aspiring Millionaire’s career progression. It will see a huge leap in income from his previous career stage.
Once we have paid for that and cleared our remaining consumer debt, all excess is going to investing. Right now, our current investments are 3 properties owned outright in Vanuatu, one business there, a business in Australia plus shares and crypto.
For shares, we’ve been doing small amounts through Spaceship (get $5 when you join here) and $10 of Bitcoin if you want to try crypto with Coinspot. You get the money once you make your first investment which can be as little as $20.
We use Kiva for donations and send money back to family in the islands. Plus, we like to support some charities in Vanuatu aimed at gender equality and helping women. Read how to know which not for profits to support to know more about what we do.
Maximise Your Money
Set your money up right and you can make or save thousands. Look at all the ways you can maximise your money. Some examples are below.
Free Interest and Bonuses
If you’re good with your money, credit cards can be used to acquire points to save money on travel and in other areas of your life. Many businesses have sign up bonuses, banks have account opening bonuses and other incentives. Look for the right products for your needs then get them set up. We have over $500 worth listed here.
Salary Sacrificing/Tax Benefits
Check to see if your employer or government offers bonuses or salary sacrificing to make your money go further. Different occupations and companies offer different salary sacrificing, retirement and bonus options.
Cash Back and Rebates
Look for rebates and cashback when you go shopping. Do what you can to ensure you are making the most of the money you have.
Check and Combine Retirement Accounts
Regularly check your retirement fund or funds to ensure your employer is paying into it. Next, check the fees and charges plus benefits of all of them to see which one is best then combine them. Often, as we change jobs, new accounts are set up. Paying fees for each is a waste of money.
Increase Your Income
Do what you can to increase your income and put all the extra into investments to enable you to reach financial independence and retire early. Get a promotion, increase your income, start a business or look at side hustles to make more money.
Some of the ways we make money include websites, freelance writing, crypto, shares, odd jobs and consulting.
Get a Promotion/Increase Your Wage
If you are working, one of the easiest ways to make more money can often come from your job. Look at promotions or ask for a raise if possible. Overtime is another option but it takes more time whereas a raise or promotion often means you make more money in the same amount of time.
Depending on your career, if a raise or promotion isn’t possible, it might be worth looking at other options, retraining or seeing what is necessary to get the wage you want.
As an example, Mr Aspiring Millionaire changed careers a couple of years before we met. However, in the islands, the wages are extremely low ($5,000AUD a year is not uncommon). And there is a limit on what he can do in that career or how far he could go.
Moving to Australia and doing a specific course means he has the potential to earn his old annual wage in a day. It takes training and dedication and is a risky job. When he first switched, even though it wasn’t an option in the islands to go all the way in this career, it was his dream. Now we are in a position to make it happen. Doing this accelerates our FIRE number massively.
Find ways to make money on the side. For over a decade I have been making money from home, both with a business which I will discuss more and with side gigs. Below are a few of my favourites and some of the most profitable. 99 Side Hustles for Aussies has 99 great ideas anyone can do, most are fine even if you aren’t Aussie.
Freelance Writing $150+ per article
This would absolutely be one of my favourites and most profitable. Writing is a passion of mine and has been since I was a child. Freelance writing has enabled us to travel, make money from anywhere and meet fun people.
To get started with freelance writing, create a few articles and get active. Meaning, you can set up your own blog or start writing on Medium or similar so you have examples of your work. Pitch yourself in Facebook groups, on work marketplaces or directly to businesses.
To be more professional, it helps if you have a website. Siteground is my preferred website host. You can get low monthly hosting, buy your domain name and set up WordPress or other platforms through them to set up your website. They walk you through it all making it easy.
Online Surveys $5,000 per year
No one makes big money with online surveys but an extra $5,000 a year to invest makes a difference. Especially when that $5,000 can be made while you’re waiting to pick up the kids from school, watching TV or similar.
Flipping Items over $10,000 a month
When I did this actively in Melbourne, I made over $10,000 a month while doing other projects too. My aim is to get back to that which is why I started this site. Flipping items can be one of the easiest ways to make money. Check out this guide on how to make over $10,000 a month buying things to resell.
To track my progress, what I am flipping, where and for how much, click here. I have outlined it all and update it as I go along. My eldest daughter has started doing this too and is learning what sells well, what to look for etc. She has bought and sold a dress, some Lego and is starting to do books too.
Start a Business
I’ve had a few businesses over the years: hairdressing and beauty, a marketing company, blogging, consulting and now a tourism business in Vanuatu. Some businesses can be started for under $100. It depends what you are doing and how big your start up costs are. If you don’t need stock on hand, you can easily get started for next to nothing.
Some businesses you can start for next to nothing include drop shipping, blogging, services such as virtual assistant, cleaning, babysitting etc.
Blogging as a Business
My favourite business has been a blog I bought in 2014. Within a week, I had made back the purchase price. In a few months, it was making a full time income. Now, it does most of it passively and I have been able to work on other projects while that runs itself.
Check out this full guide on how to set up a blog and make money blogging for more on this.
Reduce Your Expenses
There are only so many ways you can cut back which is why I focused on making money first. Spending less than you earn is the only way you will be able to save and invest anything to be able to retire though so it is crucial.
Most experts say to keep the cost of housing below 30% of your income. Given the rising costs of housing this can be difficult. If you have a mortgage, look at refinancing to see if it will save you money. Consider getting in a boarder if you have the room or renting out your garage if you don’t use it.
For renters, share housing is becoming more common since there are not many cheap rent options available.
When it comes to buying a home, truly think about what you need and want in a home. A room for each child plus a study might be a want but is it affordable? Be realistic with your home and reduce your housing costs to ease financial stress.
Meal planning, shopping with a list, buying items on sale or in bulk to save money all help. They might seem basic but it is the basics that can make the biggest difference if you get them right. Find ways to use up leftovers, eat what you have, eat in season and take advantage of special offers.
For example, get $90 off HelloFresh box here. $100 off Marley Spoon, split across your first 4 boxes, $60 off Dinnerly which is split across your first 3 boxes and up to $75 off your first box with EveryPlate. Use a different one each week or month to get the specials and save on groceries.
Combine errands, walk or ride your bike instead of driving and see if you have free public transport options in your area. Cars themselves are expensive from purchase price through to maintenance and daily running with the cost of petrol.
Look at ways to reduce the cost through using a fuel app to lock in or look for the cheapest fuel. Service your car regularly to prevent major issues and fix things as needed. Rotate your tyres, get a wheel alignment, keep it clean and keep a logbook.
Start saving to replace your car as well to prevent paying interest on a loan when the time comes to upgrade. Or look at your options such as salary sacrificing if that works out financially better.
Review All Your Expenses
The above are 3 of the biggest expenses for most households. Check all your expenses and look for ways to reduce them. Compare insurance providers, electricity, internet, phone, all of them. Be sure to never renew your insurance and instead, get a fresh quote each time.
Doing this has saved thousands. Now, I set aside time each year to go over all our expenses in an annual financial review. I look to see what deals there are and how we can change our habits to save more.
Reaching FIRE as a Large Family
It is doable but requires more work than a single person who can live for free in many ways and save a significant portion of their income. Having kids means you have more expenses but it doesn’t mean your goal is impossible. You just need to work around it a little more.
What tips do you have for a large family wanting to achieve financial independence and retire early?