Why do people struggle financially?

Over the past 25 years as an Accountant and Tax Agent to thousands of clients, I have seen lots of people struggling financially in life and in business.  A survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) showed that 49% of Australians rated personal finances as the leading cause of stress. In a separate study by a bank 35% of all respondents experiencing personal relationship, stress said money was the primary cause of friction, followed by annoying habits at 25%. Anecdotally, from dealing with hundreds of small to medium enterprises (SME's), I would say money is also the leading cause of stress in SME's. 

When income is irregular, bills keep piling up and money is short, tempers can flare and things can quickly spiral out of control. It can be very frustrating feeling trapped in the rat race without seeing much progress or any avenue for escape. I certainly saw that between my parents until they got some advice that changed the course of life for my family.


I grew up in Ramallah, Palestine, where my father owned a bread run and grocery store. Dad was charming, passionate and full of charisma. But he was in deep financial trouble.  

Although Dad had built a successful bread run and was good at making money, he would spend it. After the bread run he would go and entertain customers or hang out with friends.  He had entrusted his grocery store to a friend to manage, but money was going missing. Dad had to use profits from the bread run to keep the store afloat. Our family’s debts grew out of control.


Meanwhile, my mother was busy looking after her five small children. She helped Dad as much as she could, doing the bookkeeping and cash counting at night. I remember my parents always fighting over money. “Where is the money and where did you spend it?” my mother would ask. Dad was always short paying the bread bills. Something needed to change. 


I was six years old when I met Eli Mahlab, my Dad’s Jewish Israeli friend. Eli knew Dad was in financial trouble. Concerned for our family, he drove from Jerusalem to Ramallah to give my parents his business and financial advice. I eavesdropped on their discussion while I pretended to play in the shop – my first unofficial business meeting!

Eli said to Dad: “Victor, you are good at making money and bringing the sales in. But you are not good at managing the money. You need to get your wife involved in the business so that she manages the finances because she is good at it and you're not.”

Eli turned to Mum and said, “Sue, you’re good with managing money. You need to step up and take control of the business finances before it collapses.”

What Eli proposed was revolutionary: empower the woman to do what she does best – manage the money. This was 1975 – not 2017! And this was Ramallah – not Sydney! This was a time when a woman’s place was in the home. How did my parents react to Eli’s advice? They debated all week!


Despite their fears, my parents joined forces with Eli. They became what I call the “Winner Partnership team”: my Dad, the Money Maker; my Mum, the Money Manager; and Eli, the Money Mentor. Each brought a different skill to the team.

With Eli’s guidance, my dad got better with managing money and my mum got better with making money.  Together my parents built two successful businesses and paid off their debts. They also bought a new truck for the bread run, built a beautiful three-storey house and saved enough money to send me and my siblings to private schools.  They both became Maker Managers, proactive with making and managing money.

While writing my book, Money Intelligence®, I realised that this story was worth sharing not only because it’s an inspiring story of love and peace during an occupation. It’s worth sharing because it’s a story of how we can improve the human condition. To succeed financially in your life, you need to take the following 4 steps:

1. Know your MQ (Money Intelligence) Type,
2. Understand your MQ Strengths, 
3. Develop our MQ Skills, and
4. Complement your MQ Type.



Are you better at making money or managing it? We each have personal strengths and natural abilities in different areas.  

I have seen many introverts start businesses – "technical" people who are good at what they do but struggle to make enough sales to grow the business and their personal wealth. However, they have good attention to detail and no problem managing cashflow and matching their expenses with their budgeted figures. These people tend to be better at managing the money. 

I have also seen many extroverts start businesses – people who bring in loads of sales but spend all the money they make. Instead of following a budget, they upgrade their cars, go on expensive holidays and struggle to pay their bills on time. These people tend to be better at making money. 

I believe making and managing money is too important a skill and everybody should have a minimum level of ability around it. That is what I have designed my MQ Type Assessment to evaluate.  I also believe that we don't need to be an expert in everything. We should partner where possible with others who have a complementary skill set to ours to create Winner Partnerships as my parents did in life and in business.  


There is a low level of financial literacy in society generally.  We don't get taught money making and money managing skills in school. If we are lucky we get taught at home. Many people are completely reactive when it comes to money. They wait for opportunities to come to them, they spend on impulse and react to money issues as they arise. I believe a high level of money intelligence is about being proactive about making and managing money. I have evaluated these skills in my MQ Type Assessment. I also plan to develop a suite of tools, resources and educational programs to help raise peoples MQ. Watch out for these.    


What do you do if you if both partners are either good at making money but spend it all? or they are good at managing money but find it difficult in generating income?  I have seen some heart breaking disasters in my time. But I have also seen success stories that I share in my book. Over 25 years of dealing with thousands of people, I have concluded that when the members of the team complement each other's skills, work towards a big vision and a common goal, their business and financial success becomes a reality. If you find yourself in that situation, think about who you can team up with that complements you. Whether you have the same or opposite MQ Type a Money Mentor is a great mediator to facilitate and balance a healthy financial relationship.  We can all be more proactive in making and managing money. The first step to increasing our Money Intelligence (MQ) is to know your MQ Type. 


If you got value from this article please share it with others.  Get your partner to do the MQ Type Assessment because you need to complement each others money type as my parents did.  Join me on the mission to help raise the financial literacy (MQ) of fellow Australians

Susan Wahhab