“I have $20,000 in credit card debt but I’m not telling him about my finances until after we get married.” This happened almost 30 years ago as Brad was meeting with a bride-to-be. Because of her private comment to Brad (and her fiance being unsure he loved her), Brad chose not to conduct the wedding. In less than a year they were divorced.
Before you marry it’s important to know how your spouse-to-be handles their finances now and what their commitment is regarding finances in your marriage. One of the biggest stresses and sources of conflict in a marriage revolves around money. Having a mutual understanding and plan for your finances prior to getting married will minimize these painful conversations after you tie the knot.
Here are five questions to use as a guideline in learning their perspective and practices when it comes to money.
1. How much debt do they currently have…and what is their perspective on debt?
It’s not wrong or bad to marry someone who has debt. Each of our children either brought debt into their marriage or married a spouse who had debt. The issue is one’s openness about their debt. Proverbs 22:7b warns that, “…the borrower is slave to the lender.” You and your spouse don’t want the chains of debt around your marriage!
Talk about their plan to aggressively eliminate that debt. Are they comfortable with carrying a significant amount of debt? Do they understand how credit card interest can keep you enslaved to debt? Are they committed to being debt free? We would strongly recommend taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University early in your relationship. You can find one near you by going here.
2. Do they tend to be a saver or a spender?
There are extremes on both ends of the spectrum here. Some may be such savers they rarely spend money on the relationship. In fact, they may leave the spending to you. OR some may be such spenders that immediate gratification and delayed consequences of spending reigns supreme. Much of this can be observed over time in your relationship. What you want to see in them (and in yourself) is an ability to have self-control in spending and saving for greater financial stability.
3. Whose money will it be?
Couples have varying perspectives on how they will handle their finances. Some plan to combine all accounts and the money becomes “ours.” Others keep separate accounts and each is responsible for paying certain bills. We know couples who each get an “allowance” to spend as they please.
Personally, we have seen separate accounts create stress, secrecy, and a lack of accountability with finances in marriages. Some may make it work, but it seems to be the exception and not the rule. When you become one on the day of your marriage that oneness should permeate as many areas of your life as possible. Whatever you choose, be sure you have talked it through and have peace and confidence in your mutual decision. We’ve written a couple of previous articles on finances that you may find helpful. You can find them here and here.
4. Do they practice tithing?
We covered this in part 1 of the series. You can also find a full article on tithing here.
5. Will they commit to creating and maintaining a mutual budget with you?
A budget is simply making a plan for your finances. This is a plan you make together and have mutual accountability. There are some very good online apps to use for this. We recommend Ramsey’s Every Dollar for creating your budget and tracking your spending. While you are engaged, make a budget for when you are married. Be sure to include tithing, debt reduction, and savings.
Work through your values and perspectives on finances before you marry. As you do, you will set the stage for greater unity and financial peace in the years to come as you build your marriage.