Christmas and Valentine’s Day are popular days for marriage proposals. If you recently got engaged, congratulations!
It’s time to start talking about a lot of things—the location of the wedding, the reception, the guests, the food, the flowers, and the all-important topic of money in your marriage.
It may not sound very romantic to talk about money when you still have stars in your eyes. But not talking about money before you get married is a sure recipe for disaster.
There are so many assumptions when couples go into marriage, and that is especially true about finances. Unless you have had significant discussions with your fiancé about your individual finances, you really don’t have any idea about how you’ll manage your joint finances.
Here are some examples of financial assumptions: He thinks $1,000 in debt is horrible. She thinks $10,000 in debt is normal. He wants to lease and get a new car every 2 years. She assumes they’ll buy a good used car and keep it forever. He thinks they will only use cash and buy what they can afford. She thinks that they can use credit cards and carry a balance from month to month. She thinks they need a formal budget. He would rather fly by the seat of his financial pants. She wants to keep their finances separate. He wants joint finances
It’s easy to understand how these things will come up sooner or later in a marriage, so it is best to have the money discussions when you are preparing for marriage.
The Compass Catholic book God Marriage & Money will help you with topics to discuss. There are 17 short chapters and each chapter contains a different topic related to money in marriage.
Sample discussion points include the following:
- Sharing credit reports and credit scores.
- How much money can each of us spend without discussing it together?
- How much debt do we have as a couple?
- How much interest are we paying on debt each month?
- How much do we have in savings?
- What are our saving goals?
- How much will we give?
- Who will we go to when we need to seek Godly counsel?
It is important to find ways for you both to be equally engaged in all money decisions or money can become a control mechanism and a divisive factor in your marriage.
As a couple, define your decision making process around finances by creating “what if” scenarios. What if I lose my job? What happens when we have a baby on the way? What if we have to move to a different city?
We strongly believe that all the finances in a marriage should be joint. If you aren’t sharing your finances, what else are you holding back from your spouse? If there is a specific situation where the money cannot be co-mingled, decide together what is mine, yours and what is ours.
Most couples have their own hybrid system for what works best. Find the one that is best for both of you. Have a clearly defined money management system all the way from who handles the incoming mail to who handles the outgoing payments. Without a well thought-out operational plan, things fall through the cracks. One person “doing the accounting” is probably the best way to keep the books straight. But it is necessary for both of you to be involved and informed.
When things get tough, address problems immediately (no secrets allowed). Avoiding the issue only makes it more toxic and drives a wedge into your relationship. It may not sound romantic, but schedule regular money dates to make sure you are staying on track with your budget, savings, and financial goals.
Talk, talk and talk some more. The most important thing is to have open communication with no blame and shame. We all have hang-ups around money. Treat your partner with compassion. And it’s not just about communication. It’s about making a plan, and sticking to it together.
Information gives you power over your finances. Not talking about your finances, 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.
A lot of couples keep their parents involved in their finances, either by asking for loans or because mom and dad have been paying for some items and keep paying for them after the marriage.
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 for your spouse in order to become financially and emotionally independent from your parents.
Part of the reason to leave is because it forces you to become more mature and more dependent on each other. That’s what marriage is all about – growing that bond between husband and wife
How you communicate about money and how you handle money as a couple has a huge impact on your marriage. Money can be one of the leading causes of divorce, so we encourage you to have the money talk when you are engaged and to find ways to work together on your joint finances.