How ‘macro’ events can shape our individual financial lives
Many older adults are raising grandchildren these days. Shutterstock

My writing primarily focuses on personal financial issues. With that said, we don’t live on an island and can’t separate ourselves from the environment around us. It’s important that we periodically look at how “macro” events shaping our culture also shape our personal finances. 

In “The New American Divide” in the Jan. 21 Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray wrote about how cultural changes over the last several decades are leading to substantial changes on our nation’s finances as well as our personal pocketbooks. 

Murray focused on how 30-49-year-olds’ perceptions and practices are changing in a few foundational areas, including marriage, children and faith practices. Fewer are getting married, more children are being born to unmarried women, and many more consider themselves non-religious than has been the case in the past. 

Family breakdown

How do these changes effect one’s personal finances? In some very big ways. With children in divorced homes five times as likely to live in poverty than those in married homes, it’s clear that single parent households will not only fall short of providing their children the types of opportunities we would hope for all young people, but their dependence on aid from private charities and government programs can only be expected to increase. 

While historically, philanthropy has largely been accomplished through religious organizations, the federal government continues to expand to meet these needs. However, the government tends toward solutions that are secular in nature. These sometimes conflict with Catholic teaching in serious ways. Just consider the recent examples of Catholic Charities in various dioceses choosing to exit from placing children for adoption because of state governments’ requirement that they place children with homosexual couples. Or the more recent federal decision requiring Catholic institutions to provide “free” contraceptive prescription benefits. 

Because these approaches contradict God’s design for humanity, we can expect that they will create further problems down the road. It’s a little like putting a Band-Aid on a seriously infected wound and expecting it to heal. It won’t because you haven’t treated the underlying cause. Yet the government will forge ahead and we can expect tax burdens to increase as underlying symptoms increase. 

One example

I was visiting with someone the other day on these very issues and they shared how they were experiencing the fallout from these “macro” issues in a very personal way. The person was a grandparent in their 50s. One of their children had a child out of wedlock and wasn’t sufficiently responsible to be a parent. As a result, the grandparents are stepping in to raise the child. While they thank God they are in a position to do so, and love the child dearly, they recognize that their life will be taking a very different trajectory than they had planned. They also recognize that this change will have a significant impact on their future finances. So it is that “macro” societal issues have a way of coming back to us in personal ways. 

For the well-being of our society, our hope must be that the Church successfully defends the institution and sacrament of marriage in the coming years so that all understand that “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1660). God love you. 

Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries ( and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to