If the husband and wife aren’t honest with each other about their entire financial situation, it can lead to big problems in a marriage. Most marriage vows include the “for richer and poorer” part of the vows, but the vows don’t include a promise to be completely open and honest about all their financial information from this day forward.
Maybe they should.
Differences about money can put a divide between husband and wife. When spouses don’t share financial information with each other it can often lead to divorce.
A secret bank or credit card account; spending $500 or more on a purchase without telling their spouse; missing cash in the bank accounts and hiding expensive purchases all break down the trust required for a strong marriage.
Our culture pushes us toward thinking that money is the most important aspect of our life and will ultimately make us happy and fulfilled. This leads us to think finances are an individual matter and it is OK for a married couple to keep their finances separate.
External pressure comes from advertisers who manipulate us with their consistent messages about what we have to buy in order to happy and successful. Their focus isn’t about the product meeting our needs. Rather the focus is on sex, wealth, power, and prestige. The ads encourage us to buy what we deserve, rather than what we need or can afford.
Many marriages face crippling debt. Over half of the U.S. adult population has at least two credit cards and 14% have more than 10 credit cards. The average consumer has 13 debt obligations on record at the credit bureau (credit cards, mortgage, student loans, car loans, lines of credit, etc.)
Even though they seem to be doing well, you never know the hidden financial problems in many marriages. The average household credit card debt equals a little over $16,000. But it’s not unusual for families to have $40,000 in credit card debt. We’ve met several couple who had close to $100,000 in credit card debt alone!
Student loan debt and be anywhere from the average of $40,000 to as much as $200,000. Car loans add another $15,000 to $70,000 to the debt total. Most families have a mortgage to round out their debt portfolio—in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $200,000.
When it’s all added together, it’s easy to see how a couple could have $300,000—or way more—in debt.
It’s also easy to see why they don’t want to talk about it.
Lack of communication in marriages can be troublesome, especially if the topic is about money (or lack of money). Money is a taboo subject in many families as it makes people uncomfortable. Many couples don’t want to talk about money because they are afraid of the conflict that might develop. It is easier to keep spending and ignore the looming problem.
A lot of times these couples simply don’t know HOW to talk about money or what to do to dig out of their financial mess. But not talking about money in an open positive manner will definitely create conflict!
Surveys show that talking about money and working together on finances improves marriages. Sharing dreams, goals, and plans in any area of a marriage makes the couple much stronger and builds bonds between husband and wife. An astonishing 94% of those who say they have a “great” marriage discuss their financial goals and dreams with their spouse.
But beyond dreams, couples who talk about money on a regular basis are happier in their relationships than those who discuss finances less frequently. The couples who said they talk about money at least once per week, described their relationship as “extremely happy.” Those who talk about money less than once a month say their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis.”
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego recently said: “The Church must always be enmeshed in the real lives and sufferings and challenges and joys of the people of God and the whole of humanity.”
The Church can go a long way in helping couples build a stronger marriage by giving them easy ways to talk about money.
Here are some practical ways that money matters could be introduced in a parish:
- Have a support program for young married couples both during pre-Cana and after marriage as an ongoing support and include finances in the program.
- Make talking about finances a way to accompany people on their walk rather than just a program such as fundraising.
- Offer very practical programs that help people on a day to day basis.
- Offer a high school program at the school or youth group to help teens see the integration between faith and finances.
- Teach stewardship as a way of life not a way to raise money.
- Have the finance committee take on financial education as a part of their ministry.
- Offer envelopes for children so they learn about time, talent and treasure at an early age.
For most Catholics, the only time they hear about money in church is when there is a need for fundraising, such as enhanced offertory, capital campaigns, Bishop’s appeal or missions.
Even the marriage preparation programs cover finances at a high level with almost no tactical detail. They do mention the importance of using a budget or avoiding debt. But do they talk about sharing credit reports and credit scores or how much each spouse can spend without a conversation, or life style limits (how much is enough)?
Many priests don’t talk about personal money matters because they don’t think about it, don’t think it’s their role or they lack skills to do it. They don’t see the correlation between faith and finances. But aren’t we supposed to live our faith in every area of our life?
Unfortunately, most married couples learn about finances through Trial & Terror, which mean years of conflict and pain and arguing about money.
As a church, we need to teach people that their faith and their finances go hand in hand towards having a stronger marriage.
Compass Catholic has the resources to help couples talk about money wrapped in the word of God:
Faith & Money Matters is a 6-week small group Bible study about financial basics; Set Your House in Order is a 5-week small group study to help people create, update and organize important information, and God Marriage & Money is a resource to help couples who are engaged to be married have the money talk before money becomes a problem.
Check out the Compass Catholic podcast for more on this topic.