The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 7 – Sharing Finances

This week we will be discussing sharing finances.  Financial problems are among the top 3 reasons that couples end their marriage in divorce.  According to 2013 research conducted by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA), the top 3 reasons for divorce in the United States were:

1) Basic Incompatibility - 43%
2) Infidelity - 28%
3) Financial Issues - 22%

To put that into perspective, 1.2 million marriages end in divorce annually in the U.S.  As a percentage of that figure, here are the results:

1) Basic Incompatibility = 516,000 couples
2) Infidelity = 336,000 couples
3) Financial Issues = 264,000 couples

Financial conflict is a big topic and can have numerous areas that a couple can find themselves struggling.  A few months ago, we wrote an article on this topic called Becoming One With Our Money.  That post was telling our personal struggles with finances.  This post will be more generalized helpful tips for avoiding the pitfalls of finances that lead to divorce.

Marriage and money

As we become one, in our marriage, we should become one in our finances. This is the time to come clean as to what each other owes. This may be embarrassing for some who have not managed their finances well.  When you say I do, realize that what your spouse owes, you now owe as well. This is no time for judgment. This is time to put a plan together, commonly known as a budget or, as my youngest daughter calls it, "parameters". Whatever term you deem necessary, this is a good place to start. If you are in a hotel, the fire escape route is clearly defined on how to get out of the building, in the case of a fire.  A budget defines a way to manage your money and a plan to get out of debt. My definition of a budget is, admitting how you spend your money on paper.  It is a confession of how your handle what God gave you. If you are spending it wisely or if there is room for improvement. Be aware, where there is confession expect change to come.

Where to start?

I would recommend you to agree on a budget. Put a list together of the things that you owe examples: electric, water, cable, car payment, mortgage, rent, and etc.... Look at your items on the list, are there items on the list that you do not agree on? Is there a way to cut expenses or to get out of debt faster?  These are hard questions. Tim and I took about three months to agree on a realistic budget. It took that long because we forgot to add gas for the cars to the budget and other items that you do not realize you need to function. Try not to get discouraged, most things in life are difficult until you master the concept or learn the lesson. It is similar to learning to ride a bicycle for the first time. If you were like me, I have several sets of stitches from riding my bike. You fall down, cry a little, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and do it again. You find that as you try, you will start to succeed.

Who implements the budget?

As a married couple, each of you has different strengths and weakness. Embrace the strengths that God has given you. In our relationship, I implement the budget. I absolutely love working with money. I am currently working on a degree in accounting and finance. This is one of my strengths that I add to our marriage. Tim does not have the passion that I do, as far as money is concerned. One of Tim's strengths is that he can make the hard calls in our budgeting process. He has no problem in saying no or deciding between alternatives.  It does not bother him in the least.  He is stronger in that area than I am. Learn to celebrate each other's gifts and not condemn them because they do not understand how to do what you can do or as well as you can do it. Consider yourselves a team, the variation, in different strengths, enables you to win.

Pit falls to avoid

If you love to spend money, as Tim does, maybe considering letting your spouse implement the overall budget but allow the free spender some room to have some options. Tim needs to have pocket money so he can realize when the money runs out, he needs to stop spending.  Some people need this type of control in their life.  It establishes parameters for when the free spender needs to have a conversation with the saver about larger expenditures so that the overall budget can remain intact.

If you are an extreme saver, as I am, realize that there is more to life than hoarding money. Here is an illustration for the extreme savers. My aunt saved all of her life so that one day when she retired, she could do all that she had planned to do.  She built a wood shop, bought a bunch of premium lumber, and set herself up to do what she loved.  Little did she know that she would fall out of bed and crack her vertebrae. She had to have surgery and she can no longer work in her shop. She gave away all the lumber, the equipment, never really got to do what she wanted to do.  Realize that you need to enjoy life but you need to balance saving with fun.

The blame game. Realize that you are one. If your spouse falls, pick them up. Understand that they are not God and they are not perfect. If they forget to pay the electric bill, set a reminder on your phone to help them out. If one week they spend too much money on groceries, adjust your budget. When something happens chose wisely on how to react to your spouse. You can build them up or crush them. Either way, you will live with the choices that you make. Choose wisely.

Don't be a control freak. Try to work toward a common goal. Set realistic expectations. Do not be the budget police. Use it as a guide not as a weapon to beat up your spouse. God may prepare one of you for the storm that is coming and the other spouse may not realize it. I started listening to Dave Ramsey on budgeting and how to change your future. This prepared us for the crisis that happened later that year. I want you to realize that I did not beat Tim up with what I had learned. When we almost went bankrupt, he started listening. God prepared me to help carry Tim through this. Just realize that, through your life, you may need someone to carry you through the storm, let them. God sent you a life ring, hold on so you do not drown.

Pay your tithing. By definition, a tithe is a tenth. If you make 100 dollars, your tithes are 10 dollars. And offerings is on top of your tithes. The scripture said tithes "and" offerings, it does not have an "or" in there. You may be thinking that I can not afford to pay my tithes. That is simply not true. We find that, if we pay our tithes first, money stretches farther than we expected. When going through a financial struggle like Tim and I had in 2004, you don't want to be found having robbed God. When you are faithful with what God gave you, he will take care of you. Please do not get upset, start with tithing.  Take a leap of faith and trust God. Offerings come from either surplus or sacrifice.  Tim and I plan for our offerings throughout the year.  Sometimes we can do more and sometimes we do less or none at all.  It's just a matter of prayer and leadership from God and the Holy Spirit.

Malachi 3; 8-11.  Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithing into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the Windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes and he shall not destroy the fruits or your ground.

Closing Thoughts

Finances and budgeting are as challenging as learning to communicate with each other. Please be patient. Extend to them the grace that God has extended to you. Realize this is a plan in motion and subject to change at any moment, especially if you have children. My budget over the years has resembled a roller coaster ride. I find that if you pray over your budget and pay your tithes, your money will go farther than you expected it to go. When God is in the mist, expect miracles to happen.

Good luck and God bless you on your journey.

Tim & Heather

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