Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Making financial decisions can be hard enough for one person; it gets more complex with two people involved. Each has their own definition of needs versus wants and their own spending habits. While two brains mean more ideas, it also means more conflict.
People come from different backgrounds and perspectives on money and finances, and they bring to the table different levels of knowledge on how to manage those finances. Money is not normally something that is discussed at the dinner table while children are growing up, so most adults don’t learn about money as an issue for couples to consider. Parents may have talked about saving for a rainy day, or tried to teach children about the value of the dollar through a part-time job or an allowance. When children grow up to become adults and one half of a couple, it’s often unchartered territory… after all, before you were part of that couple you made your own financial decisions, and right or wrong, they were yours to make.
Like many issues in a marriage, financial problems can arise due to poor communication. It’s estimated that over 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. One of the primary reasons for many of those divorces is because couples do not share with each other their financial goals, among others, and how they expect to achieve those goals. Most couples spend more time planning their vacations than they spend planning their finances! That’s why it’s so important to sit down with your spouse, talk about your goals, share your dreams… and then make financial decisions that are not his decisions or her decisions… but are your decisions.
Paying the bills and establishing a budget doesn’t have to lead to arguments. Couples who want unity in the area of finances need to be willing to rely on each other for accountability and support. Learn how to appreciate each other’s strengths and work around each other’s struggles. For instance, some people are naturally drawn to numbers and will be wizards at creating detailed spreadsheets that they will use to track and monitor income, expenditures and savings. Others are free sprits and may spend seemingly whenever and wherever they like.
Many couples move past these differences and make a pact that no major financial decisions will be made without agreement from the other person. Do you want that new big screen TV for the living room? Does that new patio furniture look appealing? Talk with your spouse about the pros and cons of these expenses, how they impact your current financial situation and long term plans, and what effect they may have on your ability to give charitably. These discussions result in shared decisions, but they aren’t without their own discomfort – especially if you really want to spend on something and your spouse really doesn’t want to – but that short-term pain is better than the alternative of long-term discord and resentment.
Are you afraid to talk about money for fear that your spouse will discover you made an unwise decision, spent money you shouldn’t have, didn’t pay the bill when you were supposed to or have kept other financial secrets? If you make a significant financial decision without talking to your spouse, your actions will almost never be well received. If you’ve been hiding something you did or did not do, the real issue is not about finances, it’s about being dishonest. Couples can avoid dishonesty and feelings of mistrust by using the “pact” approach. In fact, it can bring a couple closer by deepening mutual trust and respect without the distractions of having to worry about keeping any “little financial secrets” from your spouse. Many couples also find that they make fewer bad financial decisions and no major money decisions on impulse.
Sit down with your spouse and ask, “What do we want to accomplish over the next year, five years, ten years or fifteen years?” Once you answer those questions together, you can apply the biblical principles of financial responsibility to your joint plan: acknowledge that God owns it all and you are stewards of the resources He has entrusted to you, spend less than you earn, reduce debt, increase liquidity, save for the long term and increase your generosity. Then as a couple, you will travel down the same path toward unity, happiness and mutual satisfaction at having achieved your goals.
Always remember… God does not give you a spouse to frustrate you – He gives you a spouse to complete you!
Rob West is the Training and Communications Director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to [email protected].