“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, and it gets even more complex when two people are involved. Each person 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 different areas of expertise to the table. Money is not normally something that is discussed at the dinner table while children are growing up, so most adults don’t think to consider talking about money as a couple. 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 a 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 more than 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. One of the primary reasons for these divorces is that couples do not share their financial goals with one another or their plans 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 to talk about your goals, share your dreams and then make financial decisions that are not his decisions or her decisions but 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 and how they will impact your current financial situation and long-term plans.
These discussions result in better 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.” Many couples also find 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, 10 years or 15 years?” Once you answer those questions together, you can apply the biblical principles of financial responsibility to your joint plan. All you have to do is acknowledge that God owns it all and that you are stewards of the resources He has entrusted to you. In addition, you should 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 president and principal of Trust House, Inc., a fee-only financial and investment management firm. He is also a seminar instructor for Larry Burkett’s Crown Financial Ministries and co-hosts “All Things Financial” and “Vocal Point,” weekly interactive radio programs aired on 90.3FM WAFG. He is also the director of training for Kingdom Advisors. For information or to book a speaking engagement, call 954-351-2088. Please send questions and comments to [email protected] The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.