Important Money Decisions for every Marriage

In a marriage, differing opinions about finances can trigger arguments, tension, anger, stress and worry. Money differences can drive a wedge between you. It is important for you to work together and develop a way to manage money in your marriage—not just when bills are due, or when the debt is overwhelming, or when a large purchase needs to be made, but every day. 

If you’ve been married for a long time and the way you handle money in your marriage evolved over time, it’s time to visit those assumptions.

If you are a newlywed, you need to figure how to manage money as a couple. Either way, here are eight important financial decisions to discuss:

Yours, mine or ours?

Many couples keep separate accounts and divide the financial responsibilities so they each have certain bills to pay without ever joining forces. What happens when one of them loses their job? What happens when some of those financial responsibilities are related to the children? What happens when one of the spouses wants to be a stay at home parent? 

In our experience the couples who pool their money and manage all the money as one resource have much stronger marriages because they are working together as a team.

What’s our Money Management Process?

Unless you are as rich as Bill Gates, you only have a certain amount of money to spend each month and it’s important to have a plan for managing that money. Otherwise it seems to slip through your fingers and you find out you have too much month left at the end of the money.

One of you can be the family accountant who is responsible to pay the bills and keep track of the budget. But the other person should know where everything is and how to pay the bills. There are apps, spreadsheets, software, and a bunch of different ways to track income and outgo. The important thing is to define a plan that works for both of you know how much money is coming in each month and where it is going.

How do we make money decisions?

Along with determining how to manage money, the third point is defining your decision process related to money, which makes things a lot easier when you come to a point where you are not on the same page.

The husband and wife need each other to achieve the proper balance for a correct decision. Regardless of your spouse’s business background or financial aptitude, the husband and wife should agree, because they both will experience the consequences of money decisions in marriage.  Even if their choice proves to be disastrous, there are no grounds for an “I told you so” fracture in their relationship.

In these situations praying for wisdom helps. In addition to prayer, create a list that helps document each other’s thoughts and feelings regarding the decision. Get down to facts by having the calculations in front of you showing the financial impact of two different options.

How Big is Our Emergency Fund?

We know there is always something that pops us and ruins our best laid plans, so it’s good to have an emergency fund, and that means deciding how much you feel comfortable having on hand for emergencies.

Obviously more is better and the amount may change as you move through different seasons of life. But if you don’t talk about and plan for it,  that emergency fund will never become a reality, and when there is no emergency fund, you can be sure a budget buster is going to come along.

We recommend building the emergency fund to $1,000, then 3 months income, then 6 months income, then one year of income.

How Much Are We Going to Save?

A savings plan is an important part of your financial future. In addition to an emergency fund, discussions about savings need to include short term goals such as money for Christmas or vacations; mid-term goals such as replacing a car, buying a house or renovations to your existing home and long term goals such as retirement or sending the kids to college.

Each of these savings goals are important and with different time frames, there are different vehicles to use for saving. The critical thing is to be on the same page about your goals, how much you are saving for the goals and what savings vehicle suits your purposes best.

How Much Are We Going to Give?

Hopefully you and your spouse are on the same page spiritually, if you aren’t, giving to the church can be a bone of contention. Start by talking to your spouse about an amount that they are comfortable giving on a regular basis.  It is important for you both to agree—peace in your marriage is much more important than giving a specific amount. Continue to revisit the amount you are giving as you review your budget each year.

How Much Debt is Too Much?

The average household credit card debt equals a little over $16,000. Student loan debt averages about $40,000. Car loans add $15,000, and the average mortgage is 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

Nobody planned to get into that much debt, it just happened gradually over time. We highly suggest you have a discussion about limiting the amount of debt you have. Maybe it means you stop using the credit cards once your unpaid balance reaches a certain amount. Or maybe you decide you will never have two car payments at the same time. Or maybe you set a cap on the mortgage amount, or decide not to buy a house till the student loans are paid off. Having a discussion about debt limits helps keep you out of financial bondage when the debts become overwhelming. 

How Do We Plan to Teach the Kids About Money?

Ideas on how to teach the kids about money usually vary based on how successfully or unsuccessfully your parents taught you, and how your childhood experience helped or hindered you when you became an adult.

There are no right or wrong answers. Will you give your children an allowance? Will you have the children save a portion of any money they earn or get as gifts? How will you teach them to give and be generous?

The important thing is for you two to be on the same page and to be consistent with the children. If one of you is the ‘bad guy’ and the other bails the kids out anytime the need money, you really aren’t teaching them anything.

All of these suggested money decisions are to help you communicate about money so it never becomes an issue in your marriage. Couples who talk about money on a regular basis are happier in their relationships than those who discuss finances less frequently.

Here’s a little Bible math: when it comes to marriage, 1 +1 = 1. Jesus himself tells us this fundamental truth: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6). This unity is designed for every aspect of a couple’s life together: physical, emotional, spiritual, and even financial.

Join us on the Compass Catholic podcast for more about making financial decisions as a couple.

Financial Infidelity

Today’s topic is something we’ve seen a lot as we have worked with different couples, and that’s financial infidelity. Couples at the altar generally don’t promise to be completely honest about all financial information from this day forward.

Maybe they should.

Because not being honest about finances can wreck a marriage.

Signs of financial infidelity may be:

  • A bank or credit card account concealed from you
  • Missing cash in your bank accounts
  • Late payments on bills because money is not available
  • Financial transactions one spouse is hiding from the other
  • Spending $500 or more on a purchase without telling your spouse

The discussion about how much you can spend without talking to your spouse varies by couple. For some couples, it’s $100. For others, it may be $50 or $200. But the real problem isn’t the amount; the real challenge is both spouses being totally open and honest about all financial transactions

If openness about finances is putting your marriage at risk, a good place to start the conversation is by sharing your goals, because a discussion about goals naturally leads to a discussion about finances. (Check out the goals sheet we have at CompassCatholic.org / Resources / Financial Spreadsheets / Financial Goals.

Each of you should separately make a list of ten goals that are truly important to you. What things do you want out of life in the next 5, 10 or 20 years? Don’t worry about what your spouse may be writing, just write down what is most important to you. Then when you each have your list of 10 things, get together and discuss your lists.

Like any couple, you are going to have some shared goals and you’re going to have some personal goals. That’s a good thing—it’s healthy and normal.  What’s not healthy is when you allow your personal goals to overtake your joint goals as a couple. By sharing what is important to each of you, as a couple, you can agree to focus your financial efforts on the items that overlap.

As you work through these goals together, you may each discover things you didn’t know. Maybe your spouse has hidden some financial transactions from you. Let’s be honest. We’re all human. We all do things that we regret, usually because we put a very short-term emotion or desire above a long-term plan or goal. If you do discover secrets in this process, you need to forgive your partner’s mistakes. Jesus tells us we must always forgive. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read: “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’”  Instead of concentrating on past mistakes, concentrate on how to move forward.

If you and your spouse can’t get through financial differences on your own, you may want to consider marital counseling. It’s a structured system where people can talk about the challenges of their relationship in a non-confrontational environment. For some couples, that can be incredibly helpful as they dig through their challenges. If you’re truly struggling with financial infidelity and the trust in your relationship, counseling will help.

Once you get things back on track, keep them on track by having a weekly “money date.” It may not sound romantic but handling money well as a couple affects every area of your marriage. These weekly money dates are vital because they establish the habit of regular financial conversations when there’s no crisis.

Too many couples don’t even begin a conversation about money unless a problem has surfaced and the panic button has already been pushed. 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 in conflict with each other instead of working to resolve the problem.

The weekly money date is something you can do at home by selecting a time to completely focus on your finances.

The first thing to do on a money date is to pray together. 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 how they earn, spend, save and give. They also learn what is important to their spouse.

After praying, review your income and spending 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 they are both fully aware of their financial situation. In addition to looking at the past week, look at what is coming in the future. Is there a big expense on the horizon that needs to be planned? For example, your money dates in July are a perfect time to discuss back to school expenses.

Your money date should end by celebrating success, no matter how small those successes are. Celebrating financial progress is important because you are more likely to continue your progress if you celebrate along the way.

Too many times when couples think about money or discuss it, they are dealing with problems. Someone is spending too much or not earning enough. Frequently these discussions end in an argument, and the whole experience feels negative.

Married couples will always face financial challenges, but we should balance problem-solving by intentionally creating a culture of prayer, encouragement, gratitude, and celebration.

Financial infidelity can be a very challenging matter to overcome in a marriage. It’s often a core symptom of two people who aren’t communicating well and have different visions for their future, which results in a damaged relationship. Financial infidelity can be overcome, of course, but it requires honest effort from both parties.

Accusations won’t solve the problem, nor will anger. It takes time, trust, communication, and calmness. And it takes a lot of prayer. Moving forward isn’t about “winning” or “losing,” it’s about finding a new direction that works for both of you. In Mark 10:8, we hear the verse about how two will become one flesh.

And that mindset is absolutely required in a marriage—even when it comes to finances.

May God bless your journey.

Listen to the Compass Catholic podcast for more on this topic.

How do you and your spouse stay on the same page about finances?

Ways to Save BIG on your Wedding

Weddings have become big business. According to The Knot, which is one the most popular wedding websites, the average wedding costs about $35,000. Cost of Wedding.com has the average price at about $26,000, and neither of those estimates include the cost of a honeymoon.

The challenge of both of these websites is that their budget includes everything you may dream of having, which may be overkill for the type of wedding you really want, or the budget available to you.

We suggest you start planning your wedding by asking yourself some questions:

  • Am I paying more attention to the wedding day or the marriage?
  • What is really important to us on our wedding day?
  • Am I getting caught up in non-essential details?
  • How much money do we really want to spend (or have our parents spend) on our wedding?

The most important part of a Catholic wedding is what is commonly known as the exchange of vows. These words are the heart—the essential element—of the sacrament of marriage; they form the covenant that establishes the couple’s marriage. The Church calls the exchange of vows consent—that is, the act of will by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other, and accept the gift of the other. This is the only thing that is really important at a Catholic wedding.

If you can focus on that one truly important thing you can put the reception, food, flowers and everything else into perspective. Here are some tips to have a lovely wedding without driving yourself to exhaustion, going broke, or having your parents spend their retirement funds on your wedding.

Start your marriage debt free by setting a realistic budget and sticking to it. Be sure your budget includes everything you want and excludes those items you decide not to have. Just because there is an idea on a wedding planning website or app doesn’t mean it’s something you need to have or do.  If there is something important to you and you are willing to splurge on that item, cut back on something else.

Save money by looking at dates and times that may be less expensive than others. WeddingWire’s wedding date calendar shows you the most popular days and dates, based on your location. Those most popular dates are also going to be the ones that are most expensive.

Saturday is generally the most expensive day to get married.  People may expect a wedding and reception to be held in the evening, which is a much more formal affair than in the daytime. But you’ll still be just as married if you do it mid-day, and having a daytime reception can be more cost effective. A brunch reception may save you 30% over an evening reception and you can save even more by not getting married on Saturday.

Keep your guest list limited to the people who mean the most to you. If you haven’t seen someone for 2 years, why invite them to the wedding? And don’t include “plus ones” on your invitations. If you and your fiancée socialize with a couple, invite the couple to the wedding, but if you don’t even know your friend’s “other half” why invite a stranger to your special day?

The average bride spends about $1,500 on a wedding dress. A simple Google search for white prom dresses pulls up hundreds of beautiful white dresses that cost a fraction of that. You may also be able to buy a white dress in the party dress section of any department store. Ask your bridal salon if they offer any discounts for paying the full price of your gown upfront. When budgeting for your dress, take into account the extras such as alteration fees, shoes, jewelry and your veil. You may be able to borrow some of these items from a friend or family member, making it your “something borrowed” and saving you money.

You may want to mail out traditional wedding invitations, but there are a lot of things you can communicate electronically. Instead of “Save the Date” cards, send them electronically and at the same time, ask for mailing addresses, saving you the time and trouble of tracking them down when it comes time to send the invitations.

Bridesmaids and groomsmen are one more thing to coordinate. You can avoid choosing which of your six friends you want as bridesmaids, by eliminating the whole thing. And, you’ll eliminate all the additional costs for flowers, hair, makeup and gifts. Your friends will probably be relieved that they aren’t taking on a financial obligation and can just enjoy the wedding as guests.

Wedding cakes are priced by the slice and can range from $1.50 to $12 a slice. The more complicated the wedding cake, the more you’ll pay. A good cost-cutting option is to have the wedding cake of your dreams made on a small scale for a price you can comfortably afford, and then order sheet cakes of the same flavor to be cut in the kitchen. Serving “half-portions” will also save money as people always leave half-eaten slices on their plates anyway.

Local blooms that are in season at the time of your wedding are going to be much less expensive than exotic imported flowers. Plus, local flowers tend to look fresher because they weren’t in transit for days. Another option is to use a single large flower, such as a hydrangea, which naturally looks fuller and takes up more space with fewer stems. Flowers from the wedding ceremony can also be used as decorations at the reception with some preplanning.

Do it yourself projects can cut costs, especially when it comes to invitations and decorations. Or you may be able to borrow items from friends who have recently gotten married. If you are going the ‘do-it-yourself’ route, be sure to keep it simple and only tackle the projects you can comfortably handle with a minimum of help.

If you are using vendors or caterers, read the contract carefully so you know exactly what is and isn’t included. And keep an eye out for requirements such as a venue requiring you to use a certain caterer. Reviewing contacts in detail will avoid unexpected expenses, including cake-cutting and corkage fees or power for your DJ and photo booth. If a cost seems unreasonable, or you feel that you are paying for something you don’t want, respectfully request to have it removed.

Save money by cutting down on the amount of time your photographer and videographer are present. You’ll likely want them there for the ceremony, and part of the reception, but you might not need them for the ENTIRE reception.

There’s no reason to purchase something if you truly would prefer not to have it. Do you really need wedding favors which will just be thrown away? Things like wedding programs, and menu cards take time to create and the wedding guests probably don’t really notice them. If you don’t want a three-tier cake or a skyscraper-like centerpiece, then skip it! Do you really need a limousine or can a friend with a nice car transport you to the wedding ceremony and reception?

A wedding should be more about what it means to the couple getting married, not what our culture dictates as far as what kind of party to have. After all, the wedding is a point in time and the marriage is the rest of your life.

Bottom line, anybody who is in the wedding business will probably try to upsell you on products and services. Your job is to devote the biggest parts of your budget to the areas that are most important to you and be willing to compromise on the rest. When analyzing what you want or don’t want at your wedding, consider if (and how) it’ll impact you and your spouse years from now. Concentrate on those things that you will fondly remember 10, 15 or 25 years down the road.

Everybody’s different and just because your friend did something at their wedding does not mean you should do it at yours. Don’t say yes to anything just because you feel pressured to, or because that’s what “you’re supposed to do.”

Your wallet, and future marriage, will thank you for it.

Listen to the Compass Catholic podcast for more on this topic.

God Marriage & Money

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 written 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.

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.  

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

Having a date and talking about money may not be considered a romantic thing to do when you are engaged to be married. But, 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.

Financial discussions should take place 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 decisions take care of themselves. It’s about making a plan, and sticking to it together by encouraging each other.

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

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 marriage is to involve your parents in your finances, either by asking for loans or because mom and dad keep funding your lifestyle. 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 either set of parents.

Many financial experts promote the use of separate bank accounts–yours, mine and ours–but that can be dangerous to a marriage as it builds walls between the spouses. 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).  In order to become “one flesh,” the money must be considered ‘ours’ or there will be arguments and accusations.

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. Find ways for you both to be equally engaged in all money decisions.

Whether you like it 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!

Listen to the Compass Catholic Podcast for more on this topic.

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.”