Removing Financial Anxiety in Marriage
You can manage money well in your marriage if you’re not intimidated by it. When Clayton and I got married, it took us a while to buckle down and develop a system which worked for us. Because money is a major tension areas in marriage, I decided to record an Overcoming Monday podcast episode with some friends of ours, James and Michelle Myers, called Managing Your Money in Marriage (listen now). We talked about how to develop systems of communication, budgeting and planning which will help you and your spouse find solid financial footing in your marriage. After the podcast, I asked James and Clayton to collaborate and put all of their amazing advice into writing. So, here are some simple steps you can take to reduce the anxiety surrounding money in your marriage.
Budgeting is the foundation of your finances. It is not only the basic fundamentals, but you also can never outgrow them. The key to managing your finances well is to spend less than you make! In order to do this, you have to know exactly how much you make and exactly how much you spend. It may feel daunting, but it's not rocket science. It’s actually more behavioral and habitual than anything else.
With that being said, there are several resources that will help you and your spouse get on and stay on the same financial page. Budgeting has never been easier than it is today. You no longer have to manage a spreadsheet, download the bank statement, or get out the pen and paper (or a ledger!) I highly recommend you take advantage of one of these two budgeting tools:
Get on a budget before you do anything else. It’s your first step. Prioritize giving and generosity first. Then make sure you pay all your regular bills. After you have accounted for where every dollar is going, it’s time to tackle debt. Not all debt is bad, (for example your house is not depreciating, but appreciating if you didn't overpay.) However, most debt is bad, and regardless of interest rates, debt will hinder your ability to be generous and will place a strain on your marriage and family! We both experienced the effects of bankruptcies as children and it’s something you want to avoid.
Make a list together of every debt you have (mortgage, car loan, credit cards, student loans). Look at the total amount you owe, then look at your monthly payments on that debt. It’s important that you are aware of exactly how much those debts are costing you. It may hurt…and it should. This is a good motivator to create a debt reduction plan. There are several ways you can go about this. Consider attending a Financial Peace University course, listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast while you commute to work, or find a godly older couple that has clearly managed their resources well and ask if they will mentor you.
Once you start to experience some financial freedom from paying down your debts (start with the smallest debt first), don't go wild and start increasing your standard of living just yet! This is the time to be planning ahead for your future. We suggest you save / invest 15% of your take-home pay. Remember, this is after you tackle your debt, build an emergency fund (6 months of living expenses) and after you are tithing 10% to your local church. If you'll honor God with your wealth, then your barns will be filled with plenty (Proverbs 3:9).
There are many vehicles for investing. Always take advantage of any matching programs your work may offer. Then consider an additional Roth IRA, so that you are taxed on the front-end and not the growth. Then look at Health Saving Accounts, 529- College plans for your kids, Simple IRAs and 401-Ks. Financial planners can be a great asset so long as they don’t charge huge amounts up front or work on straight commission. If you choose to use an advisor, make sure you’ve done your homework on where you want your money to go and how you want to handle it in the decades to come. They work for you, not the other way around.
Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed or discouraged if you're not able to take advantage of these investment opportunities just yet. God wants you to manage what he has entrusted you with well, and that means budgeting and paying down debt first. Then you'll slowly but surely grow into investment opportunities.
Teamwork Makes Your Dreams Work
The important thing is that you and your spouse are on the same page and working towards the same goal TOGETHER! No one running on one leg will outrun someone running on both. You and your spouse will achieve your goals faster running together, side-by-side. And, don't forget to celebrate small wins along the way. (*Pro Tip: Nothing reinforces reaching your financial goals like a date night or a weekend getaway as a couple to celebrate meeting that goal. Just make sure you pay cash for it and that you saved up for it on the front end!*)
The Marriage and Money Advice Doesn’t Stop Here!
Overcoming Monday Episode 43: Managing Your Money in Marriage is just a click away! Very often, the way a couple handles money can make or break their marriage. I want your marriage to thrive in all areas, so I invited James and Michelle Myers with She Works His Way into a candid conversation on this podcast to talk about our mistakes, misconceptions, as well as successes we’ve all had in money management. Take a listen today on iTunes, Spotify, or on my website!