Til debt do us part?
Straight talk on marriage and money before you say “I do”
Are you engaged? Thinking of getting married? Like many couples, you may find yourself at a loss on how to properly manage – and share – your financial resources, both as individuals and future married partners.
Your attitudes toward money (sharing, spending, and saving) can become a cause of relationship friction in your marriage unless you effectively address them before the big day. On top of that, a poor understanding of good financial planning can undermine wise and practical handling of your marital earnings. Executive director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, sums it up well, “Finances can be to marriage what a match is to gasoline – explosive!”
Based on my experience counselling engaged couples on the subject of money stewardship, I recommend the following:
1. Discuss your personal attitudes toward money.
For example, are you savers, spenders, or somewhere in between? What’s your actual practice of spending and saving money? What concerns do you have about your fiancé(e) and his or her management of money? Who will manage the money once you’re married?
2. Gain a biblical perspective on money.
As Christians, what do we believe about the ultimate source of money, its purpose, and proper use? What does Jesus say about money? What’s our responsibility in regard to sharing our money with the church (tithes and offerings)? How are money and worship connected? What danger does Scripture point to when handling money?
3. Conduct an in-depth inventory of your assets and liabilities (debts).
Take stock of the money you have in your chequing and savings accounts; these are your liquid assets. Next, add up your investments in stocks, bonds, and pensions. Lastly, take inventory of your non-liquid assets like real estate holdings, cars, boats, and commercial equipment. On the liabilities side of things, take account of money you owe in loans (student, family, mortgage, car) as well as outstanding balances on charge cards and lines of credit. It’s crucial to put all these financial facts on the table in order to enter marriage with full financial disclosure.
4. Assess your income and create a budget.
Once assets and liabilities have been noted, it’s important to review your income and create a detailed budget. Make sure your budget is realistic and includes putting money into savings. You can find lots of online budget templates to help you. The bottom line with any budget: you can’t spend more than you earn.
5. Establish financial goals.
Talk about your future plans, such as when you want to pay off your student and car loans. How much do you want to set aside each month for a house down payment? When do you want to buy a house, start saving for children, or take that around-the-world vacation? The first step in reaching your dreams is creating a plan. I suggest couples start with a five-year plan divided into six-month benchmarks.
6. Obtain financial advice.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” As you create your financial blueprint, seek the help and advice of parents, friends, colleagues, other couples, professional financial planners, and other resources like MB Stewardship’s “Getting A Grip” manual. Such advice can truly be gold when it comes to good financial stewardship.
7. Commit your finances to prayer.
As Christians, we can access the wisdom and help of One who owns and manages all things in heaven and on earth. Ask the Lord for wisdom when it comes to stewarding the resources he has given you. Seek his counsel on sharing your financial wealth with the church, missionary endeavours, or other help agencies.
According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, conflict over money is not the primary root of most Canadian divorces. However, conflict over money can make your relationship feel like it’s falling apart. Invest time and energy now to put your future marriage on a solid financial foundation. Good stewardship of your money will reap many blessings for you and others.
–Philip A. Gunther is senior pastor of Parliament Community Church, Regina. His experience in counselling engaged couples spans some 20 years.