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Houston, we have a problem.

 For many households it can feel like you’re about to drop on the dark side of the financial moon and you could spin out of orbit… lost forever in the overwhelming abyss of money mayhem.

You’re stuck in the confines of the family rocket ship with a crew of misfits that keep breaking the rocket and adding expense after expense and it feels utterly unsustainable – and so it was with Captain Jim Lovell (If you haven’t seen Apollo 13 – I highly recommend you do so after reading this article).

 So here are five lessons learned from the most prolific ‘successful failure’ in the history of space travel – and how they apply to your successful navigation of the family budget.

1. Exemplary Leadership

Someone must take control of the machine. All too often the compulsion is to avoid the issues, and in a family environment, money is the hot potato no one wants to touch. For the good of the crew, nominate yourself (or someone) as captain.

 Good leadership doesn’t mean doing all of the work, but it’s important that everyone around you knows that the buck stops with you and where there are tough decisions to make, you’re it. If Lovell had gone to water in the crisis – the crew of Apollo 13 would be drifting past Neptune right about now.

2. Timely Communication

The best time to take control of your money issues was 5 years ago… the next best time is today. Taking control means knowing and understanding the beast and that means talking about it.

While it is a topic that can cause a lot of friction in the home, we recommend creating a safe and judgement-free environment to put all money issues on the table and have the tough conversations. Exemplary leaders (most likely you!) will allow all parties to have a voice and be the moderator through difficult conversations.

If you aren’t all on the same page and aren’t all communicating about where you are heading in a reasonable timeframe, you’ll be left high and dry.

3. Supreme Teamwork

On the Apollo 13 mission, it took hundreds of people to land the return module on earth. Sure, there was the crew of three on the ship, but it took hundreds of people on the ground working around the clock for 87 hours straight to rescue them.

Your team is bigger than you and/or your partner. Your team involves your kids, extended family, friends… even the banks, financial institutions and MOST IMPORTANTLY… quality advisers! You’re not on your own.

Surround yourself with people who share your strategic mission and goals. Be clear on what you want and need from them, the role they play in managing your family’s finances and don’t do all the heavy lifting on your own.

“I will stand behind every decision you make. We came into the room as a team and we’ll go out as a team.” — Gene Kranz, Apollo 13 NASA Flight Director.

4. Absolute Adaptability

Sometimes (most times) the solution to your problems is at hand. If you’re still reading this and haven’t watched Apollo 13 yet… do so! I don’t want to spoil it… but the actual solution used to rescue the crew was an amazing feat of ingenuity. 

Taking control of your finances is no different – you don’t always need some big elaborate or sophisticated plan. Sometimes it’s better to apply ‘Occams Razor’… simplicity is often better than complexity.

Rather than try to make massive sweeping changes to family budgets with a 50% cut to expenses over a one week period, consider making a 5% cut per month, each month, over the course of the year.

Just like the crew members and their rescue team, put all of the tools at your disposal on the table and rule nothing out. Don’t apply a sledge hammer where a claw hammer will do, and don’t be afraid to look to your team members for adaptations that could help your financial situation.

5. Prepare for the Unpredictable

You may have heard that “prior preparation prevents poor performance”, the crew of the Apollo 13 trained for over 400 hours on various space simulations and all were advanced pilots in their own right with thousands of hours of flying time between them.

While they would never have trained for the exact scenario that deviated the mission forever, their preparation equipped them with the skillset to not panic in catastrophic circumstances. They never gave up and were well geared for how to behave in an emergency.

Your finances are no different. A great coach or adviser will provide you with the training, education and understanding to not panic in light of major change and volatility. Accepting issues and financial hurdles as an integral part of financial management will strip away the stress and duress when the world throws you a financial curveball.

For your family, the theme of the Apollo 13 mission rings true – when it comes to the success and well-being of the people you love, there is only room for leaders to effectively communicate and promote teamwork. Your team must be supremely adaptable and give you enough support and guidance that you can be prepared for the unpredictable… for there is one final comparison between you and the Apollo 13 mission – Failure is not an option.

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  • Life Sumo

    Life Sumo have one core belief. People would make better choices with better education. We understand that a lack of education and understanding is the critical reason why so many people are let down by the system and why so many good people stumble their way through life. Providing this education and helping everyday Australians to take control of their financial lives has became our core business.