Written with love, by Pastor Dave Page
Simply put, money matters in marriage. Money can ruin your marriage. In fact, it's one of the leading causes of marital conflict and the number one cause of divorce.
Making matters worse is that couples don't talk much about money before committing to each other. A good starting point is figure out is what your partner thinks about money. Your views about money have been shaped by a number of factors such as, your parents, the media, and financial decisions you’ve made in the past. These money views translate into money habits, so it’s important that you identify upfront any differences in how you think about money. Dig deep and ask your partner why they think about money the way they do.
Below are three topics to discuss before you say “I do”:
TOPIC #1: MANAGING MONEY
Who will balance the checkbook and pay the bills? What happens when you want your own spending money? What my wife calls, “Mad money.” I recommend letting the spouse do it who is best at handling money. No matter who takes on this duty, be sure that you and your spouse both know what is going on with your money and make financial decisions together. The most important factor in money and marriage is being aligned in your values and practices regarding your finances.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that getting married means you have to merge all your finances. I recommend that both spouses establish a joint account where you transfer a percentage of your income used to pay for shared expenses like your mortgage and groceries, and keep separate accounts to pay for personal purchases like clothes, entertainment and gifts.
We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like.
We all seem to want more than we can afford. It’s the American way. Spending too much money leads to debt. King Solomon said, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). The first months of a marriage are when couples establish the spending and saving patterns that will determine whether they will prosper or become lifelong slaves to creditors.
Like it or not, lots of people have debt. It could be from a student loan, a credit card, or bills accumulated over time. When you get married, you may become responsible for your spouse’s debts, so you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Ask your partner how much debt they have and if they have a plan for paying it off? It’s also important to know your partner’s credit score as it may determine the interest rates you receive on large purchases such as a home or car.
People say money talks, but actually it just walks away quietly. And we wonder where it went. How do you spell relief? B-U-D-G-E-T. We opted for a budget when we first got married. We used the envelop system because it works. Each time we got paid we put our income into separate envelopes for certain household expenses. Nowadays, you can do this digitally on your computer.
TOPIC #2: EARNING MONEY
Asking someone how much they earn annually can be taboo, but if you’re considering spending the rest of your life with your partner, you need to know. Your annual household income will determine where you live, how much you are able to save and your quality of life.
According to Daily Mail, “64 percent of women said they aspire to find a husband who brings home a larger pay packet than they do.” None wanted to marry a man who earned less. And, “69 percent said they would prefer to stay at home to look after their children when they are young if money were not an issue.”
I recommend couples sit down together, look over income and bills, and do the math. You don’t have to be wealthy, but you do need to make sure you’re able to support each other. Is your joint income enough to support your new family? Or, does it make sense to defer your marriage until you are both financially stable? Love doesn’t pay the bills.
Is your future spouse a serious wage earner? Does he have a track record of employment? A strong work ethic? I know one wife who left her husband not because she didn’t love him, she did, but because he couldn’t hold down a job and she felt overwhelmed.
TOPIC #3: SPENDING & SAVING MONEY
Money exposes the differences in our personalities. I believe there are two personalities when it comes to money - spenders and savers. The typical marriage has one of each. Given the choice of spending or saving, savers are more likely to opt for the latter. Savers live with the possibility of a rainy day on their minds. Savers sleep best when there is money in the bank. The thought of overdrawing a bank account makes a saver uneasy. Savers are reluctant to use credit; when they do, they're driven to pay the balance in full every month.
Spenders, on the other hand, are carefree with money. They are optimistic and daring. Because they assume there will be more where this came from and everything will work out in the end, spenders believe it's okay to spend all they have now plus whatever they can get their hands on in terms of credit. To a spender, available credit is the same as income. And spenders don't usually worry about how they will repay their debt. In a healthy marriage, the saver-spender combination creates balance. Spouses keep one another from going to extremes.
Getting your marriage financially healthy doesn't require more money. It's about the hard work of open and honest communication. It comes as you are able to share your deep seated beliefs about money. As you do, be careful not to be judgmental. Remember that money can be a sensitive subject so keep an open mind and create an environment of trust where your partner feels safe to share.