11 Ways Engaged Couples Should Deal with Finances Now

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11 Ways Engaged Couples Should Deal with Finances Now

By Deepak Reju

So you’re engaged, and now you’re preparing for the big day. There are a thousand things on your mind. Wedding dress. Invitations. A cake. A photographer. The list goes on and on.

What about your finances? If you’re a typical single, you do your best to manage your finances and have a good sense of how much is entering and exiting your bank account. But now you’re getting married. What should change? Marriage gurus name the three big areas of conflict as sex, parenting, and finances. How can you prevent future fights over money?

Here are 11 recommendations.

1. Your money is not just a practical issue, but a spiritual one.

Don’t falsely divide your life into financial management or spiritual issues. As Christians, all of life falls under the sovereignty of God, including our finances. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24).

A follower of Jesus cannot have divided loyalties; the Lord is to be first in all things. And Christian priorities should guide your handling of money. How you steward it is a spiritual issueYour money can be used for kingdom purposes, or it can hinder your relationship with God. Which is it for you?

2. Don’t merge your finances before the big day.

David and Sally were engaged. Things went so poorly they broke up. Problem was, they’d merged their finances and didn’t keep track of who spent what.

You aren’t yet married. So don’t pretend you’re married with all the perks of marriage. It’s a colossal mess to deal with merged finances after a nasty breakup. Tensions are already high enough when things fall apart. Why add to this mess?

3. Merge your bank accounts after you get married.

How you handle your money in marriage says a lot about your trust for one another. Getting married means merging everything. It’s no longer his money, or her money, but our money. Traditional marriage vows often state, “With this ring, I thee wed, and with all my world goods I thee endow.” If you’re not willing to entrust your money and everything you own to your future spouse, why are you getting married?

This is serious business. I won’t marry a couple if they won’t merge their bank accounts after marriage. It signals they don’t trust one another with important things.

4. You need a budget.

In and of itself, money is not anything. It’s a proxy for value. So when we fight over our money, we’re fighting over what we value.

We learn these values from different places (family, church, education, and so on). As Christians, your values will be similar. You treasure God and his kingdom (Matt. 6:19–2133). You desire a generous spirit (Prov. 14:21312 Cor. 9:11). You steward your resources wisely (Prov. 27:23). Nevertheless, even as Christians you’ve learned different financial values due to your differing educations, upbringings, and experiences.

Here’s the rub: Your financial values are primarily intuitive. And these implicit values will be made explicit in marriage. As your differing values come into conflict, they can create tension.

So how do you prevent conflict over money? Establish a common set of values—a shared value system. A husband and wife should operate with a mutually-agreed-upon set of financial values. When you form a budget together, implicit values get discussed as you answer the question, “What do we mutually value?” Your family budget is a primary way to give expression to what is important to both of you.

There will be less conflict in a marriage marked by careful financial planning and explicit shared values. So why not start working toward that goal during engagement by planning your future budget and discussing your common values? A budget turns conversations about money from reactive and constraint-driven to proactive and opportunity-driven.

5. Take the one-income challenge.

If you want to take things one step further with your proposed budget, remove one of your incomes and figure out how to live on just one salary. For some of you, the thought is painful. Here are four reasons I ask couples to consider this practice:

  • Learning to trim unnecessary expenses, like frequent eating out, is a good habit. It takes discipline to live on less.
  • A second income (while it’s available) can be used to eliminate debt or prepare for the future (for example, save for a down payment on a home or create a rainy-day fund). Use that second income to be especially aggressive about paying off debt with high interest rates.
  • If the wife desires to be at home once you have kids, it’s good to figure out now (while you’re engaged) what’s required financially to make that life possible. And no matter what you think you’ll do regarding employment once kids come along, you want to give yourselves flexibility for that new stage of life.
  • A one-income budget prepares you for uncertainty. Jessica and John got pregnant in their first month of marriage. She was sick throughout the pregnancy and was no longer able to work. They didn’t plan for it, so they weren’t prepared.

Even if you don’t end up living on just one income, learning to discipline your budget is a wise thing to do.

6. Establish a habit of communicating about finances.

Don’t leave one another in the dark. I cringe when I hear someone say, “I don’t know anything about our finances. If my spouse died, I don’t know what I’d do.” During engagement, communicate about your finances. Think, plan, and scheme together about your financial future. Establish the habit now, so that it’s normal in marriage to discuss it. Your finances are God-given means of building unity.

7. Figure out a plan for the grunt work.

Establishing a budget is easy. Executing a budget is hard. Too often I’ve met couples who created a viable budget, but never followed through. Don’t let that be you.

8. Get out of debt.

Take advantage of the time when you have no children and two incomes. Establish an aggressive payment schedule for getting out of debt now. You won’t regret it.

9. Don’t let difficult circumstances get in the way of giving.

The churches in Macedonia were suffering great trials and didn’t have much, yet they gave sacrificially (2 Cor. 8:1–2). They were poor, and they still gave. The love of Christ compelled them to live this way. Adopt a gospel-mindset that, no matter what, you’ll give generously to others.

10. Establish a habit of giving sacrificially and cheerfully.

Giving is an act of grace (2 Cor. 8:6). It’s a reflection of the grace we’ve received through Christ who, though rich, impoverished himself for our sake (2 Cor. 8:9). A gospel mindset says because Christ gave up his life for me, I should give up my life for others. A gospel-saturated life, then, results in generosity toward others. Oh that we wouldn’t be stingy Christians, but those who would beg for the privilege of giving more (2 Cor. 8:4).

Additionally, develop the habit of focusing outward and serving others rather than obsessing over the perfect wedding day. Give your money first to the Lord rather than spending it all on wedding vendors.

11. Give to missionaries and parachurch work, but start with your local church.

If your local church is the main hub of your spiritual growth, it should be main source of your generous giving (Gal. 6:6). Give to missions, campus workers, or lots of other solid Christian causes, but start with God’s primary plan for advancing his kingdom—the local church.

Start Now

Because your finances matter to the Lord, they should matter to you and your fiancé. Don’t wait until you’re married to take finances seriously! During engagement you can establish the habits of creating a budget, adjusting your spending, communicating about money, and giving generously to your church. This preparation will position you for a lifetime of wise financial choices.

Stewarding your money in a way that glorifies God is a privilege. A challenging one for sure, but a privilege nonethless.

If you are looking for more premarital help or premarital counseling, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

3 Can’t Miss Financial Tips for Married Couples

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3 Can’t Miss Financial Tips for Married Couples

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is one of the toughest subjects to tackle in marriage. It’s one of the top reasons married couples fight, and it’s a source of constant stress and strain for many couples around the world. But the good news is, you and your spouse can create a healthy attitude around money in your marriage if you know where to start.

It’s important to establish healthy financial practices as early in marriage as possible. Today, we’re sharing three financial habits you can establish to start out on the right foot.

BE RESPECTFUL OF EACH OTHER’S MONEY STYLE

Are you a saver, while your spouse is more of a spender? Savers and spenders have the uncanny ability of finding each other and getting married; it’s rare for both spouses to have the same financial style. And when it comes to spending versus saving, it’s important to have empathy for one another.

First, acknowledge that each of you might be a little more extreme in your stance than you need to be. When you acknowledge your spouse’s voice, it helps to prevent them from becoming more extreme in their money behaviors to protect themselves and their preferences around spending and saving.

The most important thing here is to create a sense of balance and shared ownership in your finances so neither of you acts out the most extreme version of your money tendencies. If you both decide to split bill-paying duties, that will serve as its own form of accountability.

An effective way to generate empathy for one another’s money personality is to go shopping together and reverse roles. If you’re the saver, act like the spender and have your spouse urge you to save. This could completely transform the way you each approach money because it gives you a chance to understand what kind of anxiety you create for each other when you’re digging in your financial heels by either pushing hard to spend or save.

If you’re the spender, maybe you could take over financial responsibilities for a month to see the reality of your expenses. Money will become more tangible when you’re making bank deposits and withdrawals, paying bills, and monitoring the budget. It will also give you empathy for your saver-spouse’s stance.

START A BUDGET TOGETHER

Once you’ve become more familiar with each other’s money style, start a budget. Budgets don’t work unless they’re a shared dream, so carve out some time to put your heads together and create a great starting point for your monthly finances. You’re going to want to do this together; this isn’t a solo act where one person runs the numbers and lays down the law. Look at the numbers together, talk through each issue, and chart a budget you agree on using our handy budgeting sheet (you can download a copy here).

The most important thing to realize when you’re creating a budget is that this is a work in progress; it’s not something you have to set in stone from day one. It’s not finalized; rather, it gives you a healthy starting place to operate from when it comes to spending and saving money.

Once a month, quarterly, or bi-annually, sit down together to take a look at your spending and saving patterns against the budget you established. As you review the numbers, ask yourselves what life has demanded from you in comparison to the budget you created. Talk through what’s negotiable versus what’s not, then adjust your budget to something that’s more realistic for you as a couple. (You can find a deeper dive into getting on the same page financially in this post.)

AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS

One of the best ways to save money every month is to put a system in place that will save for you. Set up automatic withdrawals that funnel a certain amount of money into your savings account as soon as your paychecks hit the bank; this creates a disciplined savings routine so you don’t have the option of changing your mind.

The most important thing is to build savings systems that provide automatic discipline so the hard decisions are already done for you. It’s like anything that requires willpower or sacrifice; you have to remove the temptation to spend the money by moving the money out of reach.

If you have a hard time saving toward a specific goal, set goal markers for yourself and build in gratification along the way as you reach each milestone. Maybe you allow yourselves to purchase something you’d like, or maybe you take a nice vacation. Or perhaps you can plan for small, realistic daily rewards. But be realistic; you can’t deny yourselves everything.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

It can feel a little tricky to navigate financial issues together, but you can absolutely find common ground and a way to deal with money in your marriage that works for both of you. Stay patient, empathic, and kind as you create your unique financial style as a couple. The payoff will be worth the preparation!

 

If you would like help with your relationship or marriage, give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

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Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

You’ve weighed your career decisions, filtered your values and what’s most important to you, and decided on a job that will help you not only bring in a good income, but also balance those values and pursuits in the best possible way for your family–or so you thought. Suddenly, you’re getting outside pressure from your spouse to up your game…and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Money is a hot-button issue in most marriages, but the it tends to really hit a nerve where individual income is concerned. Whether one or both spouses is working, it’s not uncommon for at least one person in a marriage to feel like the other should be bringing in more money. If your spouse wants you to earn a better salary, there are probably multiple reasons for this–and you might need to dig deep to pinpoint some of them.

Today, we’ll explore some of the motivations for one spouse pressuring the other to raise their income, and a few ways you can approach the issue together. Chances are, you and your spouse share more common ground than you realize when it comes to your dreams for the future and your desires for your family’s security.

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

It’s painful to realize that your and your spouse’s life dreams are out of sync. A great place to start exploring your differing viewpoints is to try to understand where your spouse is coming from. Did your spouse come from a family of origin that placed a high value on material possessions, job security, or a certain income level? Does he or she want a higher level of income for more freedom, more opportunities, or the chance to travel and have experiences that require extra money? Is he or she hoping to spend more time at home with the children? Or does your spouse want to pursue a degree that requires him or her to work fewer hours in the meantime?

Understanding your spouse’s motivations will give you empathy as you attempt to approach the situation in a constructive way. Most likely, your spouse isn’t trying to be destructive by asking for more money, but their emotions around the subject might prevent them from seeing your side of the coin. Now that you know where his or her mind is, you can make your case more effectively.

Does your spouse realize what you’d be saying “no” to if you said “yes” to a more demanding job? Maybe you work a job that affords you plenty of time with your spouse or your children, and you don’t want to give that up in favor of overtime or a more demanding position. Or you might have chosen your current job because it’s a means to an end that allows you to pursue your true passion on the side–a job that, if you gave it up, would prevent you from pursuing your dream.

Explain to your spouse what he or she (or your family) stands to lose if you take a higher-paying job. Maybe you currently provide them with quality time you’d be giving up, or you might have responsibilities at home you’ll no longer be able to maintain.

WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS

Work together to identify and weigh the pros and cons of you bringing in a larger income. You can get everything in front of you by dividing a piece of paper into “Pro” and “Con” columns, then making notes on each of your stances. Remember to value your relationships with one another and your children over financial resources, and check in with yourselves to make sure your priorities are in order.

More importantly, don’t assume your spouse has his or her priorities mixed up; he or she might want more money for the family to take adventure trips or have special experiences together that you currently can’t afford. It’s important to remember you might just have different ideas of what you can accomplish together, based on your income.

As you make your list of pros and cons, you’ll probably find that you have many more dreams and desires in common than you realized before, even though this issue feels highly polarized. And your spouse may bring motivations to light that he or she didn’t know how to put into words before. If you can both get to the crux of why raising your income is so important, you’ll stand a better chance of pursuing a constructive solution.

FINDING A MUTUALLY-BENEFICIAL SOLUTION

Once the two of you have hashed out your motivations and dreams for your family’s finances, you can land on a solution that works for you both.

If your spouse is craving a sense of financial security–perhaps because of fears stemming from a financially insecure childhood–work together to create a plan that provides more emotional safety. This might involve finding a way to get extra money into savings, or having a solid fallback plan if your current career is uncertain. Your spouse also needs to be willing to become a part of meeting those security needs in a way that works for your family so all the burden isn’t resting on your shoulders. Taking ownership of that fear of financial crisis will, ultimately, make your spouse feel more confident and peaceful about the family’s finances.

If your spouse’s motivations tend to be more material in nature, consider whether your values line up enough to pursue a higher-paying job–but don’t get into the frenzy of trying to achieve a lifestyle that doesn’t fit what you deeply value. If the idea of a weightier job doesn’t work for you, the two of you might agree instead on a contained amount of overtime that will help you achieve specific financial goals, like taking that vacation you’ve been talking about. And if your spouse simply can’t let go of that higher-income dream, you can offer to commit more time to responsibilities at home to allow him or her to take on earning that extra money.

You both have good reasons for choosing the stances you’ve taken regarding earnings and career pursuits. And it’s always possible that your spouse is making a legitimate case for you to pursue a higher income. As the two of you explore your individual situation, we encourage you to each take an honest, objective evaluation of yourself, your career, and your family’s income and material needs to determine your next steps.

If you would like help with your marriage, relationship, or to have premarital counseling, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or life-coach.