This week I decided to address another angle of what became a very hot topic several weeks back, “Marriage and Money.” My initial post discussed the concept of “His Money and Her Money” and boy did you have varied opinions on how to handle that one! Then I dug myself in deeper when I wrote about charitable giving when couples don’t agree. I figure I’m on a roll so this week I’ll see if I can redeem myself a bit by sharing some essentials for marital financial bliss.
When Stacy and I got married I was clueless. Yes, I’m admitting in front of the thousands of people who will read this article that I was clueless about so many things related to marriage and how to be married. It was all new to me and I had to learn. I still learn something new every day and thankfully, Stacy has been gracious enough to learn along with me for all these years. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tricks when it comes to marriage and money that I thought might be of benefit to share. Fortunately, I haven’t made all the mistakes (hey, we’ve only been married for 7.5 years!) but I’ve counseled several couples who just plain didn’t get it and were/are headed for disaster. So what are my five top things husband and wife should agree on when it comes to money?
- Who is in charge of the checkbook and bills? If you and your spouse can settle this issue and the one NOT in charge of the bookkeeping to stop pointing the finger at the one who is, you’re on your way to success in your marital finances.
- What are our priorities with money? To answer this question, you absolutely must be doing a budget. If you aren’t budgeting with your spouse, you’re headed for ruin. Someone must be in charge of actually paying the bills and keeping the checkbook balanced, but that person does not rule the roost. BOTH of you must be involved in the process of prioritizing your spending. By the way, this keeps item #1 from being too big of an issue because any mistakes mean both of you are to blame.
- How will we make any big purchases? I devoted an entire chapter in my book, From Debtor to Better, to address the relational aspect of dealing with money. One of the opening lines in that chapter reads, “If you come home and your wife is mad that you bought a fancy new watch, you have a marriage problem.” There is nothing wrong with driving a fancy car or having a Rolex as long as you agree and make a plan TOGETHER for how these purchases will be made.
- Will we give to charity, our church, etc.? A few weeks ago I gave my thoughts on charitable giving if/when a spouse disagrees and you had lots of opinions. The one thing I did seem to find as a common thread is that you have to find some level of agreement with your spouse or it creates BIG waves in your household. Since I’ve seen this come up so much in my counseling as a point of contention in marriage, I think this is definitely an overlooked (yet critical) item for couples to agree on.
- How will we get our income? This addresses the age-old question of whether or not the wife will stay at home or go to work. As most of you know, Stacy has been a stay-at-home wife/mom for most of our marriage and I love it. I also know that isn’t for everyone and it definitely makes it harder only having one income. I am not a sexist punk who believes the woman’s place is the kitchen and that she has no business being in the workplace. Quite the contrary, some of the best co-workers I’ve ever had have been women. However, this is another critical topic for husband and wife to agree on.
Well there you have it. If I did this list another day or week I might have some different items on there. I actually debated a bit before narrowing to these five. I’d love your input, especially if you’ve been married a while.