I want to share with you some tips on how married couples can manage money together. After all, the most commonly stated reason for divorce is financial problems, so we need to know how to manage our finances as a couple.
In many western countries, the divorce rate in many western countries is nearly 50%! Is it unfair to say we have an epidemic on our hands?
Money shouldn’t tear us apart, in fact it should be an opportunity to bring us closer together.
In my experience as a financial planner, most couples don’t have “real” money problems, such as lack of income or assets. They just have money management problems.
The bible says that when a man and woman marry, the ‘two become one flesh’. The world tells us that we need to be ‘independent’ but the bible says we need to become ‘interdependent’. It is not ‘his or hers’, it is ‘God’s money’.
We need to help each other, not compete with each other, and encourage each other to be great stewards with God’s resources.
Usually, whether for practical reasons, administration ability or general interest, one partner will be responsible for paying the bills. But, both partners remain jointly responsible.
Our decision-making should be shared. It is both foolish and potentially dangerous for one partner to be responsible for the majority of financial decisions. Both partners must ‘own’ and ‘take responsibility’ for the household financial decisions. Men & women complement each other and God has put us together to balance each other out.
Together, you should work out a common vision for the money that God has blessed you with. What are the eternal purposes for the money? What will you do with the money in addition to meeting your own needs?
So here are some tips to get your finances working together:
- First let me state what may seem obvious, it is critical that you talk about money regularly.
I don’t mean “in passing” or just from time to time. I suggest that you deliberately sit down together and go through your finances and pray together that God will lead you. I’d recommend doing this at least once per month.
Your prayers could include the family finances and requests for protection and provision from God. As they say ‘the family that prays together stays together’.
- The second thing is to discuss your money values. These are the values that have a significant impact on your financial decisions and drive many forms of behaviour with money.
For example, some people value security; for others it might be freedom, thriftiness, status, identity, generosity and many more. These values may not necessarily be Godly or good values. However, the idea is to identify them so that you can understand why your spouse makes the decisions they do about money. You can then work out if these values need addressing.
- Thirdly, give careful thought and prayer before taking money from your in-laws. Whilst some will have your best interests at heart, it might come with strings attached and have a divisive effect on a marriage. I am not saying don’t accept help from in-laws, I am simply saying exercise caution before you do.
- Fourthly, be transparent.
Husbands and wives should have joint accounts, and be open and honest about spending behaviour. The surest way to destroy trust is to hide money or spending decisions from your partner.
A good solution for many couples is to set an agreed spending amount which triggers further discussion, prior to the money being spent. For example, if the agreed amount is $200, then intended spending over this level needs to be discussed. The decision point will vary widely from couple to couple, based on your financial situation.
- Lastly, do a household budget together, identify what’s important to each other and help each other to live within your means. Use your budget to address important questions, such as: Does our spending reflect good stewardship? Are we honouring God with what he has provided for us?
For couples, where one or both partners are spenders, it can be worth considering setting up individual accounts. A small allowance is paid into it each month (or when you receive your income) from your joint account. This amount represents your ‘play money’, i.e. money that the other spouse has no say over. It is important that, you agree on the amount of ‘play money’ each is allowed to spend.
So there you go, a few tips to get your finances in better shape and to help you to build a stronger marriage.