If you’re currently engaged, congratulations! Love is in the air, family is excited, and a wedding is in your future. Although it may be a stressful time, it’s also a very exciting time.
Between planning your wedding, determining where to live, and striving to stay ahead of life’s regular challenges, make sure that you spend a few minutes discussing money with your significant other.
It turns out that at least 35% of marital issues are due to money. And that makes sense – as most people have different ideas of who should work, how much they should earn, how the money should be spent, and what degree of savings is necessary for a comfortable lifestyle.
If the two of you have opposing views of money, and neither one is willing to negotiate, the result can be disastrous!
Therefore, before saying “I do”, sit down with your fiancé and ask a few important money questions. It’s okay if you disagree initially, but it’s important to come to some type of understanding before allowing your relationship to go too far.
1. Are you a spender or a saver?
This is probably the most important question to answer. If both of you are savers, you may have a tendency to never spend money on having fun and building memories together. If both of you are spenders, you may live on the edge of bankruptcy – which is very scary. Meanwhile, if one of you is a spender and the other is a saver, the perpetual battling may result in a growing resentment.
In short, no combination is perfect – the key is to find balance. Knowing what type of spender both of you are naturally, and then finding ways to create a healthy balance, will result in the best financial situation possible.
“The wise man saves for the future, but
the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”
-- Proverbs 21:20 (Living Bible)
2. Do you have any debt?
Does one of you have $100k in student loans? What about credit card, car, or home debt? Getting married also marries your finances – if your spouse plans to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad) with a large amount of debt, will you be able to cover that bill comfortably?
To pay off $20,000 in credit card debt in a year will cost you more than $10/hr of work (if you work full-time). That’s a serious burden!
Just because one (or both) of you have debt doesn’t mean the marriage should be scrapped – but it does mean that you need to have a serious discussion on how to pay off that debt.
“The rich rules over the poor, and
the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”
-- Proverbs 22:7 (New American Standard Bible)
3. What standard of living do you expect? Where do you believe we should spend our money?
Everyone has different ideas of where their money should be spent. Someone may prefer to have a cheap apartment and travel extravagantly on weekends. Someone else may prefer to live in a safer neighborhood over driving a brand new car.
Each of you will likely have some expenses that are crucial, and others that are insignificant. Determining what matters most to each of you will allow you to find the most complimentary ways to spend your money.
Additionally, knowing what’s important to each of you allows you to know what doesn’t matter. If neither of you cares about your car, then don’t spend $35k on a new vehicle every two years.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be
devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and money.”
-- Matthew 6:24 (New American Standard Bible)
4. Are you comfortable with giving to charity? If yes, how much?
Many Christians aim to spend about 10% of their income on others (as discussed in the book of Malachi).
It’s been scientifically proven that giving makes you happier, so it’s definitely a good idea! However, whether you give money or time, and how much you give, is certainly flexible.
The key is to be on the same page – as your spouse will be frustrated if they hear that you’re giving 10% of their paycheck away without them knowing.
“The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives.”
-- Deuteronomy 14:23 (Living Bible)
5. Who will work, and how much will we reasonably earn as a family?
As you discuss your standard of living, giving, and other expenses, it’s also important to determine who will work, when – and how much you can expect to earn.
Will your wife take 5 years off work to raise kids? Will she be a stay-at-home mom? Do you both want to live frugally and retire at 40 (it’s possible)?
Many relationships have struggled because of different ideas around who will work – and how much they will work. Especially once kids are born, resentment can arise quickly around who gets to work (and who stays home).
“Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.”
-- Proverbs 24:27 (New Living Translation)
6. What money decisions do we make together, and what decisions do we make on our own?
Now, you certainly don’t need to discuss every money decision, but you should discuss large purchases. Determine when and how, you will approach different purchases.
For example, do both people have a say in how much to spend on a new car or house? What about planning a vacation?
Creating thresholds around items that can be purchased together (v.s. bought independently) will make every-day spending much less stressful.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
-- Ephesians 5:21 (New International Version 1984)
7. Who will be responsible for managing and tracking our finances?
Once married, chores need to be divided up – and money needs are no exception. From paying bills, to budgeting, to signing up for new credit cards (and setting up automatic payments), this is a very serious set of chores.
Although both of you should have a healthy idea of your financial situation, it’s important to have one person take point on this subject to ensure that everything is tracked and organized appropriately.
If managing money sounds stressful, don’t fret, there are many great free tools (like Mint.com) that can make managing and tracking money easy.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
-- Proverbs 15:22 (New International Version 1984)
8. What large purchases do we both want to save towards?
Saving together is far more exciting when their is an end goal in mind. In addition to saving for retirement (which should start right away), you may also want to start saving for a new home, an epic vacation, or for the purchase of an RV.
If there are activities or items that are very important to one (or, preferably both) of you, planning a savings goal for these purchases can make saving far more exciting.
“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but
whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
-- Proverbs 13:11 (New International Version 1984)
9. Do we each get a private spending fund?
Now, even if big purchases are made together, it’s a good idea for both of you to have a degree of money that you can spend without requiring the attention of your spouse.
This may be money to spend on gifts, going out to dinner with friends/associates, or simply buying clothes.
If your finances are tight, consider setting aside a specific monthly budget for each of you – and move that money out of your checking account to ensure that it can grow over time. If you are in a more stable financial situation, then perhaps just discussing a basic process for how much, and how often, you spend is appropriate.
My wife and I each have a weekly “blow” fund. This is money that both of us get each week that we can blow on anything we want. How fun is that!
“Through wisdom a house if built, and
by understanding it is established, and
by knowledge the rooms shall be filled with
all precious and pleasant riches.”
-- Proverbs 24:3-4 (New International Version)
10. What large expenses may approach us in the future (health conditions, supporting parents/siblings, paying for education, etc)?
Finally, one of the most stressful financial burdens may be those that you wouldn’t anticipate when getting married – family.
First off, how many kids do you want? How much will you assist them with education, a first car, and other expenses?
Next, what will happen when your parents or siblings fall into a financially tight spot (or retire)? Will they live with you? Will you financially support them?
Last, do either of you have family health conditions that may require a large financial burden in the future?
Discussing these items before getting married will prevent either of you from being surprised when you come home to your in laws moving in!
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but
a foolish man devours it.”
-- Proverbs 21:20 (New International Version)
In short, communication is essential to a healthy marriage
Money is no different than any other part of a marriage – communication is crucial. Over communicate as much as possible. Why? Because both of you will have different assumptions about what’s “normal”.
You and your spouse were raised very differently – with different ideas of how things should be done. By continually communicating with each other, you can ensure that you both understand the other and prevent surprises that come from misunderstandings.
Marriage is an exciting commitment – and one that can make your life far better (including financially). The key is to start it off on the right foot.
Keywords:Money Questions, Relationships