Marriage is the most exciting and challenging relationship that we’re likely to experience in our lifetime. Two people come together with different personalities, upbringings, values & beliefs about money (even if not obvious at first) and a variety of habits. All of sudden, your financial future is directly linked with somebody else’s. Is it any wonder that so many marriages struggle with personal finances? Actually, it remains the most common reason for divorce.
But there is good news! God has given us much wisdom in his word that can apply to our personal finances. In fact it surprises most Christians to find that there are more than 2,300 verses in the Bible on money, wealth and possessions.
So here are 5 tips to help prevent money from ruining your marriage:
No.1 – Have an Emergency Fund
“A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks, and suffers the consequences”.
The one guarantee in life is uncertain events. Whether it is job loss, the passing of a loved one, or a family member becoming sick, most of us will experience a life event that can flow through to our financial situation. In the current global economic environment, redundancies are common. The loss of an income can put considerable stress on a couple.
There is a simple solution, an “emergency fund”. This simply means setting aside cash in a bank account for a rainy day. How much is appropriate? Whilst it will vary based on circumstances, a rough rule of thumb is six months of living expenses. This is usually enough to allow time for you to get a new job or adjust to a new reality.
No.2 – Seek to avoid or minimise Debt
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
Nothing causes stress like a mountain of debt that needs to be repaid. The pressure of missing repayments, dealing with creditor phone calls, or experiencing a default event, can place enormous pressure on a marriage.
Debt in our society has become so normalised that few people stop to question it. The Bible paints a different picture about debt. In fact, all the passages on debt could best be described as warning messages about the potential harm that it can do.
How much debt is appropriate? A good goal for Christians is to live a debt free life. However as most of us will have a mortgage at some point, a good rule of thumb is that the mortgage repayments should not exceed 30% of your net income. Any more than this and most people will struggle to save for the long-term, meet other lifestyle needs and most importantly, live the generous lifestyle to which Christians are called.
No.3 – Don’t Hide Money
Want to know the quickest way to lose the trust of your spouse? Hide money from them! This is an all too common occurrence and can cause profound damage to your relationship.
A survey conducted a few years ago in the United States showed that 1 in 3 couples admitted to hiding money from their spouse – what they called ‘financial infidelity’. Unsurprisingly, 76% said that it had impacted their relationship. What was frightening though, was that a full 35% thought it was ok to have some secrets from your spouse.
Before spending any significant sum of money, or doing business deals that will put your family at risk, make sure you seek the counsel of your spouse. Not only is it the right thing to do, in the end, it will probably prevent big financial mistakes. God has blessed you with a spouse to complement you and bring balance to your decisions.
No.4 – Talk Regularly!
It is often the unsaid in a marriage that leads to the biggest problems. An issue grows and grows and nothing is said until it explodes! Too often, this is the case with money. It frequently takes a crisis to face up to the reality of money problems that could probably have been mitigated much earlier had it been discussed.
How often should you talk about money? I believe that once a month, you and your spouse should sit down and go through the family finances. I would suggest going on a ‘money date’, where you set aside an hour and go to a location (could be a coffee shop) exclusively for that purpose.
What should we discuss? There are many areas you can discuss including budgeting, family goals, the vision for your finances, giving, debt, insurance, estate planning, retirement planning and more.
As times goes by, money discussions should become a normal relaxed part of life and part of everyday dialogue lessening the need for a money date! But you might like the date so much you keep doing it!
No.5 – Put yourself in their shoes
As I alluded to at the beginning, when we get married, we are bringing together different upbringings, beliefs & values about money, habits and a different level of spiritual maturity. At first these may not be obvious, but they’ll become more evident in the course of your relationship.
One of the greatest sources of conflict in marriage is the different perspective we have about ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’. These differences need to be discussed calmly and openly, so that we can understand the other spouse’s perspective and to reach a resolution. Sometimes we need to face the reality that our perceived ‘need’ is really more a desired ‘want’, and we need to understand the financial implications of having that ‘want’ met.
Take the time to explore each other’s backgrounds, how your parents handled money and to understand what is truly important to your spouse. The ability to understand where you and your spouse are coming from is a good starting point to build solid foundations when it comes to prayer and planning.
I trust that this material has given you a few ideas to help you prevent money from ruining your marriage.
Alex Cook is the Founder of Wealth with Purpose, a provider of financial education courses based on the wisdom of the Bible, designed to help Churches lead their members to becoming God-honouring stewards. For more information on how www.wealthwithpurpose.com can help your Church, please call Alex on +61 2 8520 3648 or email Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org