“According to Crown Financial Ministries the number one factor in the breakup of most marriages is financial discord. 85% of marriages that fail do so because of financial problems. And this kind of financial turmoil is no less of a problem in many Christian marriages…” (Barry R. Leventhal, Ph.D., Crosswalk.com).
“Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about them once a month, according to a Utah State University study” (Renee Morad, Money Talks News).
“Money issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces, making it the third leading cause, according to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis” (Jennifer Ryan Woods, Forbes).
I will admit straight off the bat that I feel unqualified to write about this very extensive topic!!! Firstly, I haven’t always had the right attitude towards finances and financial planning. I am one of those unfortunate people who underestimated the importance of money in marriage! And secondly, I’ve still got a long way to go to get my ‘ish’ together. Like the saying goes, “old habits die hard”.
This issue of money must be raised from the moment someone is talking about marriage in a relationship. It shouldn’t be postponed until later because it might seem unromantic, or greedy or even unholy. Let’s face it, marriage is of the world… And money is of the world too. The two have relations – a practical relationship! When two people come together, it is not simply their bodies or their hearts that are united, but their finances and assets too.
Five things that must be addressed early on is each person’s:
- Attitude to money. Are they greedy or stingy? Are they frugal or careless? Are they generous or charitable to a fault? Is it easy come easy go, or are they financially shrewd? Do you agree with, like or disrespect the other person’s attitude to money? Do you suspect that your partner may actually love money? Do you love money?
- Spending habits. Do they live within their means? Do they shop to impress others? Do they have debt, and is the debt growing or are they paying off their debts? Do they pay taxes and other fines they may owe or incur? Do they tend to buy assets or consumables or services? Are they penny wise, pound foolish? Are they rich in spirit, living by faith on credit cards and not having godly contentment? Does their spending make you feel safe or anxious?
- Financial goals. Do they have any? Do they believe in having goals of any kind? Are their goals realistic? Do their goals reveal flawed priorities? Maybe they are more careered focused than family focused. Maybe they are more independently minded and not relationship conscious. Do you agree with and believe in their goals?
- Strategy for financial independence and stability. Do they actually have a plan to achieve their goals? Is their plan realistic? Where do you factor in each other’s plans? Does their lifestyle agree with their goals and strategic plan?
- Capital. What do they have materially? Are they honest about their financial status? Are they in debt or indebted? Do they own assets, like a car or home or land or business etc? Are they too poor (too rich?) for you? Are they financially comfortable or needy?
The problem is, when we leave these discussions until after we have invested ourselves emotionally into each other, one or both partners may be bamboozled by ‘love’ to enter a marriage that is financially problematic or doomed. It is like driving under the influence. You really don’t process the information properly. You take short cuts in your thinking. You assume too much, and your judgement is off. You make hasty decisions, and then you find yourself in a mess. But you still have to get over your hang-over, and clean up the mess, before you can actually get back on track.
It is a fact that for a majority of marriages, finance is a huge concern, even if it is not a problem. Finance is always going to be a concern, even if you marry a filthy rich man (or woman), with little or no care in the world. If they worked hard for that money, they will care about your attitude to money and spending habits. If you are not prudent with money, even if there is lots of it, there will be arguments and problems in your marriage because of your attitude or carelessness.
It is very important to have compatibility in this regard. The more agreement you have, the less conflict you will have over finances, and the greater your respect will be for the financial habits and decisions of your partner. However, the less agreement you have, the more arguments you will have about finances, and the lower your respect will be for each other.
“The Utah State University study found individuals who feel their spouse spends money foolishly reported lower levels of marital happiness and gauged their likelihood of divorce at 45 percent” (Renee Morad, Money Talks News).
An environment of disagreement and tension also breeds secrecy and distrust, which we have seen is the enemy of intimacy. So besides the financial problems you are having, your incompatibility has already added a problematic barrier, which you must first break through, to finally resolve your financial issues as a team. It is extremely important to be transparent, and to maintain transparency by openly and frequently talking about your finances, so that such barriers are not allowed to grow and hinder you from tackling your financial challenges together.
Agreement and transparency doesn’t mean that you will be successful financially. Especially if you are both financially foolish! You can both agree never to talk about your finances. You can both agree to spend yourselves to the ground. You can both agree never to invest or save, or plan for your retirement, or even do family planning. You can both agree to live on charity, loans and social services. Yes, you may not argue, since you have agreement. But when you’re both flat broke, the blame and the resentment will be all that will keep you company! But at least you are in it together.
So, apart from agreement and transparency, there is a need to be financially wise! Not greedy. Not worrying. Not striving. But practical, critical, diligent, responsible and generous!
Yes, it is important to also be generous. Jesus tells us that it more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). As Believers, we must recognise money for what it is – a tool! We don’t work for money, as though having financial wealth is our reward. We work for God and use money in achieving the purposes God created us for, including being charitable towards the less fortunate.
We put money to work in industry and also in leisure. So we must be good stewards of money, even as we enjoy the rewards of our diligence. Here is a saying worth remembering; “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy them both” (1 Cor 6:13). When we rightly handle money, we will enjoy it, without glorifying it or serving it. But we must honour God and put our trust in Him, as the One who is our great REWARD (Gen 15:1).
We must never forget that we own nothing of ourselves, and that all that we have belongs to God, and we will one day give account of how we used the resources He has given us. It is important that both partners have the same understanding of this role of money, and God’s sovereignty. If you disagree on this, you will most likely disagree on your attitudes towards money and your spending habits too, and find yourself in a turbulent marriage.
Here are five things you should be doing to ensure sound financial health in your marriage, if you haven’t already begun to do so:
- Talk about your finances, and be open and honest with each other about your attitudes and spending, goals and plans, and current financial circumstances;
- Agree on a budgeting plan for your household going forward. There are many ideas out there. Choose one that will work for you (as a couple);
- Start saving and investing, and thinking critically and planning for unforeseen events, children, retirement and yes, holidays too;
- Get out of debt! Start living within your means, cut down on unnecessary spending; rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle;
- Get financial counsel and help. Yes, it is that important. Finance may not be your strongest point, you may not have much interest in it…but you must address it before it endangers your marriage.
Money matters in marriage. Don’t deny it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t run from it. Don’t lie about it. Deal with it. Honestly. Together. In submission to God.
For more practical advise and counsel on this issue, do read up on these articles, which I found interesting and useful:
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