God Marriage & Money

While talking about money may not be considered a romantic thing to do when you are engaged to be married, not talking about money may lead to divorce, which is definitely not romantic! Joint discussions about the family finances need to happen early and often in order to build and maintain a strong healthy marriage.

Think about how much of your time is occupied by money in your day to day routine.  Every minute is somehow connected to money. You are either earning it, spending it, managing it, or using something on which you spent money. There aren’t very many activities that do not somehow relate to finances. 

When a couple gets married they each bring assumptions and preconceived notions about money into their marriage. He thinks $1,000 in debt is horrible. She thinks $10,000 in debt is normal. He wants to lease a car and get a new one every 2 years.  She assumes they’ll buy a good used car and drive it till the wheels fall off. He thinks they will only use cash and buy what they can afford. She thinks they can use credit cards and buy whatever they want. He wants to fly by the seat of his pants financially. She thinks they need a formal budget.

All of these assumptions, and many more, will come up at some point in a marriage. Maybe right after the honeymoon or ten years down the road, but financial assumptions will come up someday. And unresolved financial differences will cause problems sooner or later.

Communication about anything makes that topic a shared concern between the spouses, and money falls into this category.  Without planning and a sense of direction, discussions about money can lead to arguments and finger pointing–definitely not a good communication method!

This means finances need to be discussed in an honest and open way without playing the blame game. One of the reasons we encourage couples to develop a spending plan is to take away the emotion and help them focus on facts. Instead of saying “you always overspend,” the conversation can be much more non-threatening, such as “Our entertainment budget is over the limit let’s talk about what happened.”

Having a spending plan helps you and your fiancé focus on the overall vision and plan for your money and once you do that, the small day to day discussions take care of themselves. It’s about making a plan, and sticking to it together.

Information gives you power over your finances. Not talking about money, not making a plan and not coordinating as a team makes you a victim of your finances. If you control your finances, they will never control you or your marriage.

We encourage couples to have a clearly defined money management system all the way from who handles the mail to who pays the bills and who balances the bank and credit card accounts. Without a well thought-out operational plan, things fall through the cracks

Open communication with no blame and shame is required through regular money dates. The day to day spending should be reviewed weekly. The budget needs to be reviewed monthly (or more often if you are just starting out.) Long term financial goals such as buying a house, saving for retirement, replacing a vehicle or a large scale home improvement projects should be reviewed every 3-12 months.

A sure way to derail your financial plans is to involve your parents in your finances, either by asking for loans or because mom and dad keep funding your lifestyle.

Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). When you marry, you are to leave your parents in order to become financially and emotionally independent from them.

It is dangerous to a marriage if the couple is financially dependent on mom and dad, because that dependency gives mom and dad every right to judge how, when, where and on what you spend money. A young married couple needs to learn how to work together as a team without the involvement of wither set of parents.

There is a definite correlation between couples’ happiness, and having their financial goals aligned. Many financial experts promote the use of separate fund–yours, mine and ours–but that can be dangerous to a marriage as it builds walls between the spouses. And in order to have financial goals aligned, the money must be considered ‘ours’ or there will be arguments and accusations. Find ways for you both to be equally engaged in all money decisions.

The money in a marriage and all the responsibilities that come with money need to be shared by both spouses–no matter which one works or who makes more money.

So, whether you like or not, how you communicate about money and how you handle money as a couple has a huge impact on your marriage

The God Marriage & Money book from Compass Catholic Ministries will help you discuss these and many more topics related to finances in marriage. The book provides detailed topics for you to share, such as how much debt and savings you have; your credit reports and credit scores; and your attitude about giving, spending and saving. Start your marriage off on the right foot and have the “money talk” now!

Celebrate and Rejoice!

ice-hockey-600267_640Our (previous) hometown team recently won the Stanley Cup (Go Pens!!) The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins displayed a lot of passion, hard work and discipline in the regular season and in their approach to the NHL championship series. The final round was a demanding seven-game series and both teams have a lot of reasons to be proud.

As usual, what happened at the end of the final game when the buzzer sounded and one team was declared the victor? If you were watching the game, you saw the players celebrating like crazy! Grown men acted like kids, jumping up and down, piling on top of each other, and hugging their team mates for joy because they realized the effort they made and the price they paid was worth all the hard work, sacrifice, training, and commitment.

Married couples can learn a lot from watching the way athletes celebrate championships by doing a little celebration of their own when they make progress on their financial journey. Too many times when married couples talk about money they are dealing with a problem. It’s a negative experience that often harms their relationship.

We’ve counseled so many couples who have real challenges in their marriages because of money. Simply having a conversation about finances often results in a fight and hurt feelings with one attacking the other for either spending too much or earning too little. Even worse is the dishonesty when one spouse hides financial issues from the other. These financial differences create an atmosphere of hurt, distrust, and disrespect between them. It damages their relationship and affects every area of their marriage and family life. Ultimately differences in the way spouses handle money and financial challenges can lead to a dysfunctional marriage or even divorce.

We also know many couples who have worked together to face and resolve their financial challenges. They have found a way to reconcile their differences, to discuss them and to define a game plan to eliminate them. They work together to solve their problems, encourage each other and stay on track. This approach strengthens their relationship and improves their marriage. Working together to tackle and resolve financial challenges can produce a stronger marriage, as the problem-solving skills related to money transfers into problem-solving skills in other areas of their relationship.

These couples make progress when they draw together to work hard and by faith, they trust the Lord to provide the necessary resources to pay off their debt and increase their giving and their savings. And just like athletes who are winners, husbands, and wives who make financial progress do it through hard work, sacrifice, training, and commitment.

When couples intentionally work together to create an atmosphere of open and loving communication, even about difficult topics such as finances, it changes everything. We know from personal experience that you can take something that is damaging your marriage and make it something that strengthens your marriage. And you can do it when you celebrate God’s faithfulness in your finances

So when couples make progress with their finances, we encourage them to celebrate, because what we celebrate, we repeat. Celebrating progress is a key step in making more progress. You are much more likely to continue a long hard journey if you take time, celebrate the steps you have accomplished along the way.

The Bible is full of examples of celebrating God’s goodness. They celebrated the Sabbath, the new month, the new year, the harvest, and Passover. The father celebrated the return on the prodigal son. Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of their son, Jesus. Many of the Psalms are songs of joy and rejoicing.

Just as the ancient Jews celebrated, so should we. A benefit of celebrating is to remind ourselves of the Lord’s love and care for us in all circumstances. In John 15:5, Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. He said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Ultimately it is the Lord who can take our struggles and turn them into a reason to celebrate. The Lord is the one who provides the opportunities that enable us to make progress. We can balance our financial challenges by celebrating when positive things happen.

Couples need to intentionally work together to create a culture of celebration and gratitude in their marriage when communicating about money. Once that happens the marriage is so much stronger and able to survive other challenging times and crises.

Celebrating doesn’t have to cost a lot of money; and it is a good thing it doesn’t. When Jon and I were on our financial journey, we celebrated every time we made progress—often with something as simple as a walk and an ice cream cone. It was enough to acknowledge our progress without getting us off track. It helped us stay focused without feeling deprived and it helped to build our resolve to stick to it until we reached another milestone and could celebrate again.

So, please, celebrate your financial victories. Celebrate your unity and hard work. But most of all celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Then the just will be glad; they will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy.” (Psalm 68:4)

Evelyn Bean

One of the best tools to tackle your finances is the 9-week Navigating Your Finances God’s Way Bible Study from Compass Catholic. This study not only provides you with a Biblical way to view finances, it gives you a step by step approach to define where you are and what to tackle next, called the Money Map.

If You’re Getting Married, Talk About Money

wedding-322034_640It’s sad to say but most couples who are engaged to be married spend more time talking about the flavor of their wedding cake than they spend talking about money. The cake cutting ceremony takes about 10 minutes at the reception and money is something they’ll deal with every day for their entire married life.
So which of these is more important to talk about?

If you are getting married, you need to talk about money. Deep, honest, open discussions about all aspects of finances will improve your marriage and build a strong financial future. If you don’t have these discussions before the wedding, you’ll have them after the wedding when different attitudes and expectations become issues and cause problems.

A good place to start is to talk about your family background. Share how well your parents did (or did not) teach you about money. What was the best thing they taught you? What was the hardest lesson you had to learn about finances when you were growing up? Was money an issue in your childhood home? These discussions should open your mind to the ways you and your fiancée are alike and how you are different in your thoughts and attitudes about money. Hopefully you will also discover assumptions each of you have about money in marriage.

Discussing how you as a couple will manage the family finances is an important topic. Do you plan to have joint or separate bank accounts? If you decide to have separate accounts, why? Is there some unspoken barrier between you that you are not willing to share? How much can each of you spend without first discussing it? How will you both stay current with the state of the family finances on a regular basis?

Set aside some free time to brainstorm about what you would do with a million-dollar windfall. I am not suggesting you play the lottery in hopes of winning a million dollars. I m suggesting that daydreaming with no restrictions will often uncover the goals and dreams that are hidden in your heart. This brainstorming can help you set 5, 10 and 15 year goals for your financial future.

Debt is another topic that needs to be discussed in great detail. Share how much debt and what type of debt (credit cards, car loan, student loan, loans from relatives) you each have. Discovering your fiancée’s attitude toward debt can be obvious when you share your credit reports with each other. (Check out Annual CreditReport.com for a copy of each of your credit reports.) This is also the time to share whether or not you have cosigned any loans for someone. If you are getting into debt for the wedding or honeymoon, that is another topic that needs attention.

Unless you both own cars and never plan to replace them, cars is an additional topic for conversation. Will you buy or lease your vehicles and what is the long term cost of that decision? Do you consider a car a mode of transportation or a statement about your status and importance?

Decisions on the type of house you both want and what you have to do to buy it will require lots of consideration. How much will you have to save for a down payment? What is the financial impact on your budget of owning a home? Besides the mortgage payment there is insurance, taxes, furniture, upkeep, lawn care, appliances, and ongoing maintenance requirements that come with home ownership.

Nothing will improve your financial future faster than making plans to pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible. Since interest is charged on the outstanding mortgage balance, the quicker you can lower the mortgage balance, the less interest you’ll have to pay, which frees up money for other important goals such as retirement savings. You can save thousands and thousands of dollars by making plans to aggressively pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible.

Different attitudes about savings can sometimes be an area of contention in a marriage. Share how much you have saved, what you do to save money on a regular basis and what goals you have for the money you have saved. This is also the time to talk about an emergency fund. We recommend starting with $1,000 and building that to 1 month’s income, then 3 month’s income, then 6 month’s income, then 12 month’s income. This will help cushion you against those disasters that come to every marriage at some point.

And although giving is the final topic, it is the most important. If everything we have is a gift from God, then giving is a small way we can return to him some of the blessings he has bestowed on us.

Most couples have areas where they simply do not agree on finances—this may be their attitude toward saving, or giving, or debt, or anything else that deals with money in a marriage. These differences will come up at some point–either when they are tackled head on as a way to prepare for marriage or when they become an issue after the wedding. Talking about money now can save lots of grief later.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Genesis 2:24

For more information about this topic and a detailed list of questions for engaged couples to discuss, check out the Compass Catholic Ministries book God Marriage and Money, which is available in hardcopy and eBook formats.

Financial Infidelity

couplefighting money (1)
In their marriage vows, couples promise to love each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Everybody likes the better, richer and health part of the vows. The worse, poorer and sickness part of the vows can be a real challenge, especially when those challenges come from the couple lying to each other about their finances.

Over the years we’ve run into many of these couples who lied to each other about their finances or who kept their finances totally separate.

There was a husband who invested a significant portion of their savings in an expensive piece of property with his ex-girlfriend and did not tell his wife. A wife was forced to leave her job due to illness, and used credit card cash advances to maintain the family spending level. Another couple maintained separate accounts and had split the family finances so each paid “their fair share” with no accountability to each other. Then the husband’s fair share had a hard hit due to several unexpected household bills and a dental emergency. When we met with them, the wife told him that his dental bills were not her problem. Then it hit her like a ton of bricks – she ran right smack dab into the worse, poorer and sickness part of those vows. His dental bills were her problem precisely because of those marriage vows.

The way a couple deals with money reveals a lot about their relationship and their marriage. If one person controls all the money they are dealing from a position of power, especially if they restrict their spouse’s spending. It is important that each person in a marriage has input into how the money is allocated for the regular expenses. It is equally important that each has some “mad money” that they can use as they wish. And that is not a bad idea. What is a bad idea is lying to your spouse about any type of spending and hiding your finances from them.

Couples need to have open and honest discussions about finances—both before they get married and ever after. Finances can be an ongoing source of conflict in a marriage and one of the best ways to solve the conflict is to develop a process that you both agree to. This is important whether one of you is a stay at home parent or both of you are employed, and no matter who has the higher salary.

Financial secrets can easily ruin a marriage and finding out about “financial infidelity” can often lead to divorce. If you and your spouse are lying to each other about finances, what other lies are in your marriage and how can you ever trust each other about anything?

If the same thing happened in a business it would be called embezzlement!

(The Compass Catholic Navigating Your Finances God’s Way Bible study provides an authentic Catholic approach to finances and 70% of the married couples who took the Bible study together report that their marriages were strengthened by the study.)

Be Romantic – Have a Money Date

How about doing something really romantic with your spouse—are you ready—schedule a weekly money date! Doesn’t sound too romantic does it? But nothing will ruin those romantic feelings faster than financial challenges – and every marriage eventually runs into some sort of financial challenge.

These weekly money dates are vital because they establish the habit of regular financial conversations when there’s no crisis. Many couples don’t begin a conversation about money unless a problem has surfaced and the panic button has already been punched. Tension can reach the boiling point in a hurry when blame and defensiveness take over. That’s when it gets personal and hurtful, with a couple screaming at each other instead of working to resolve the problem.

In order to keep communications open, schedule a regular time to focus on your finances, and do three things during the money date:

  1. pray together,
  2. review your income and spending for the week, and
  3. celebrate the progress the Lord has enabled you to make.

PRAY
Praying together should be the first thing you do on your money date. Jesus makes this remarkable promise in Matthew 18:19-20, “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” When a couple prays together about their finances they invite the God of the universe to be personally involved with their earning and spending. They also learn what is important to their mate.
Establish the habit of praying together. Keep a list of your prayers so that you will be encouraged to see God’s faithfulness in answering them.

REVIEW
The purpose of reviewing your income and spending is to make sure that you both know where you are financially. Do not use this as an opportunity to argue or nag one another! Instead, use it as a time to discover the facts, because couples simply make better decisions when both of them are fully aware of all the financial facts.
When couples think about money or discuss it, often they are dealing with problems. It’s not fun. Someone is spending too much or not earning enough. Frequently it ends in an argument, and the whole experience feels negative. Keeping the lines of communication open when there is no real problem sets the stage for open and honest communication during those times where there are challenges.

CELEBRATE
Celebrating financial progress is important, because you are more likely to continue your progress if you celebrate along the way. The Bible is loaded with examples of celebrating God enabling success. The words celebrate and celebrated are found fifty-two times in the Bible.
This is one example: “You shall celebrate the feast . . .You shall make merry at your feast . . . For seven days you shall celebrate this pilgrim feast in honor of the LORD, your God . . . since the LORD, your God, has blessed you in all your crops and in all your undertakings, you shall do nought but make merry” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). These farmers had worked hard planting and harvesting the crops. Now it was time to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
It’s important for couples to celebrate progress. Celebrate even if it’s something really simple – like taking a walk and getting an ice cream cone. The point is, don’t allow your budget to dictate how meaningful your celebration can be. As you progress financially, you will discover that each step of progress along the way brings more joy and meaning to your marriage. Be creative and have fun!
Married couples will always face financial challenges, but we should balance problem-solving by intentionally creating a culture of encouragement, gratitude, and celebration.

Thanks for reading,

The Beans

‘Til Debt Do Us Part?

content ballProbably one of the biggest misconceptions about finances is that we’ve got it all under control.  We can acknowledge that God is in control of every other aspect of our lives, but when it comes to money, suddenly we become the authority.  Therein often lies the problem going into marriage.

The reality is, God is in control of everything, including our money.  “Everything in heaven and earth is yours, and you are king, supreme ruler over all.  All riches and wealth come from you; you rule everything by your strength and power; and you are able to make anyone great and strong.”  (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).  And too often we do not realize that how we handle money can have eternal impacts.  “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?” (Luke 16:11)

If a couple has differing approaches about spending, saving, giving and debt it can result in arguments and dissention when it comes to finances in married life.  A sad reality plaguing our society today is the staggering divorce rate we witness from year to year.  The Catholic Church recognizes this tragedy and holds the sanctity of marriage in high esteem. Therefore, couples planning to marry in the Catholic Church are required to attend marriage preparation classes. Due to time constraints, many of these marriage preparation programs touch briefly on finances, but do not dive deeply into issues related to marital finances.  But different attitudes about finances can easily break a marriage.  Coming to agreement on how to spend, save, give, and manage money can take years, many arguments and much angst. And all too often financial issues lead to divorce.

The God Marriage & Money book from Compass Catholic Ministries helps couples discover and address their differing attitudes about finances.  The book has a series of short chapters, each related to a different aspect of money in marriage.  Topics cover a range of subjects: God’s part; our role as stewards; debt, spending, seeking counsel, major purchases and eternity are some of the topics.  The principles are all based on the Bible and teachings of the Catholic Church.

At the end of each chapter there are a series of topics for the couple to each answer separately then discuss:

  • What are my financial strengths and weaknesses?
  • How much do we have in debt as a couple?
  • What is our goal for saving?
  • What is the biggest cultural influence in my spending?
  • Do we have a crisis budget?

The book is intended to spark conversations and decisions rather than supplying answers that may or may not work for a particular couple based on their unique situation.

When we bring God into all aspects of our marriage our blessings are multiplied and troubles are easier to handle.  God has a plan for each marriage and handling money his way can free couples from the grip of our secular society and allow them to focus on his plan.

~Prov. 3:5-8  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all things acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”