Last week we started looking at how we communicate in our marriage. In today’s post, let’s look again at communication from a very specific and sometimes “sticky” subject – money.
Who handles the money in your relationship?
Does he do it, she do it, or do you and your spouse manage the money together?
It is a question with no real right or wrong answer, whatever works for your relationship is, what works for your relationship.
I am by no means a financial guru, but what I notice about most financial advice columns is that they can sometimes offer cookie cutter advice, with a one size fits all approach. But, with your specific relationship is mind, Is your financial setup the best for the two of you and are you both happy with the results you are getting?
If your answer is “no” to either of those questions than there are some practical, logical and even biblical principles that you can adopt into your relationship that may be helpful.
1. Assess the team. God has this sense of humor when it comes to how he puts couples together. It seem like God likes to put savers with spenders and the budget conscious with the “what’s a budget?” type.
Often, like every other aspect of a relationship, we come into our marriage’s with many of our outlook and habits regarding finances, already set. If you are a meticulous saver it maybe hard to conceive how “different” those who are not savers may be – and vice versa. So spend some time getting to know the financial habits and style of your mate. Rather than criticize – talk about your different styles. Because somewhere in the differences between how you and your spouse deal with money, just might be a source of financial strength. Identify your individual strengths and areas where growth is needed. Then begin to formulate a plan that allows your individual strengths to become a collective benefit to the team.
Another aspect of the team is dealing with gender based traditions. So often couples think that because the man is the head of the household he is in charge of everything, including the money. However, Genesis 2:18 explains that God gave Eve to Adam to be a suitable helper, for a problem that God saw, but Adam was unaware of. So in our marriages as we assess our individual strengths, if the wife is better at dealing with finances and paying bills on time then – let the helper help.
In my opinion – based on Scripture, the man’s role is as a CEO. God places him in charge of seeing the things run smoothly, but that does not mean he actually does everything. The next time you go into your local bank branch, look to see if the CEO is there. Probably not, but if there is a problem at that branch, the CEO needs to have controls or mechanisms in place to see that things are fixed. In much the same way a husband does not have to actually handle the bills, but if there is a problem it becomes his responsibility to get it right.
2. Communicate. The more you and your partner talk about your financial situation, the more you are shining light on the problem. Where there is open and honest communication about what is going on with the finances a lot of concerns have no where to hide.
3. Comfortable settings. How much interaction and information will make the two of you comfortable? In some marriages, one person handles all of the money and the other person is cool with that and does not need to know what is going on – ever. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those relationships where, both people need to know what is going on at all times. And then of course, there is every variation between the two positions and wherever a couple falls on the spectrum is fine. The point is that a couple has to do whatever it takes to make sure they are both comfortable. If you or your spouse need to stay in the loop, then do what it takes. If that means keeping the bills and records where you both can see them and access them or setting up monthly or weekly meetings – do what it takes to make sure you are both comfortable. If you need to meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly – do whatever it takes to keep each other comfortable with what is going on.
4. Personal money. How much money do you give each other for personal spending. By making sure that you both have day-to-day money to do what they need to do, you typically put away the dangers of needing to hide or not be honest about money. On a weekly basis I give myself enough to take care of my two passions – golf and Starbucks. If I have money for those two things, you will have no problems out of me. It is when I can’t afford a round of golf that I catch an attitude.
Again, everyone has different temperaments and levels of acceptance, some couples don’t need to separate money out for personal use, they just take it out of a joint account. But for many couples, having your own money that is yours to do as you wish is therapeutic. If I have to ask my wife every time I want to buy a cup of coffee or play a round of golf, I am not going to be too happy. In the same way, if my wife sees a pair of shoes she likes, she has her own money to go out and do whatever she likes.
5. Account structure. Joint account, personal accounts, no personal accounts. Pay everything from one account, have multiple accounts, split the bills 50/50, based on income, etc… As I said earlier whatever works for the two of you is the right solution. Personally, I am partial to the joint account with personal money and all of the bills being paid from one account. But the idea is that you employ a structure that allows the two of you to pay the bills and feel comfortable.
6. Professional Help. Seeking professional help does not equate to weakness or issues. The personal financial world can sometimes be murky so get help. Find a good professional that know what they are doing, has a proven track record and that you can talk openly to, and let them help.
So EYM, how are finances communicated and handled in your marriage?