…We need a plan for handling our money
Money. Actually this one could be a deal breaker….it certainly has been one of the top causes of many divorces. And for some reason, talking about money is tabboo in our culture. I think partly it has to do with how the way we use our money actually speaks a lot about where our values lay…and that could look different from how we want to be perceived. Which, in relationships and especially marriages, NEEDS to be revealed and aired out early. I’m not saying to go over each other’s salaries and spending habits with a fine tooth comb before you get engaged, but to be in conversation about how you see wealth, poverty, debt and why. What you would splurge on, what you wouldn’t. What you save, what you give away. I also think, in our culture, money is hugely tied to our personal sense of security and control. To let someone else into that makes us vulnerable…but I believe it’s out of being mutually vulnerable that true trust and intimacy grows in the relationship.
In the book, the first foundational stone in financial planning as a married couple is to agree that it’s no longer “my money” and “your money” but “OUR money”. Along with that, your/my income is OUR income. Your/my debt is OUR debt…and OUR joint responsibility to have a plan to pay it down. And your/my savings is OUR savings. Ultimately at the heart of marriage we want unity…so it needs to start here…with something super near and dear to our hearts, our money. The author writes “If you’re not ready for this kind of unity, you’re not ready for marriage.”
From there we’re recommended to adopt the “10-10-80 Plan” which highlights the percentage of what you’ll Save (10%), Share (10%), and Spend (80%). The author stresses that we need to spend within our means…to not go into debt for things that deppreciate in value before it even makes it home. To not try to amass in three years what took our parents 30 years to build. (I totally recommend reading “Freedom of Simplicity” by Richard J Foster for a sense and challenge of what it means to live simply…and to change our perspective of what “financial freedom” really means.)
For us…yes, finances is a tricky thing to navigate but so far so good. By the time we got engaged, we were on the same page with regards to how we want to save and invest, as well as in always giving away at least 10% of our income to support our church and other charities we have hearts for. We’re on similar pages over dealing with mortgage debt but otherwise, are in total agreement about never carrying credit card balances. We talk about everything we purchase. We have the same financial goal to use everything we’ve been given in a manner that is generous for the people and causes God cares about even if that means a smaller nest egg for ourselves. It’s not easy though as we catch ourselves with consumeristic thoughts and values from this culture. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had that as our next car?” “Let’s try to see how much we can sell this for instead of giving it away.” “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bigger house?” So we have to keep our intentions to live simply in the forefronts of our minds.
Being married now, I think I have a slightly harder time, compared to Skywalker, getting all “my” finances into a state where it’s OUR finances. I think it’s partially due to the lifelong mindset I had of being able to take care of myself completely as an independent woman (plus it’s just annoying to have to go into banks to close/move acounts around). And I’ve heard the horror stories of people getting left with all the debt and no savings at the unfortunate break in their relationship. It’s scary how money turns people…but I cannot live in that fear else I’ve already allowed a wall into my marriage. I am determined to merge everything as OURs….and it’s slowly coming together! We also found a difference in our respective comfort levels with what we know our account balances to be. I know within $1000 what’s in our account but Skywalker knows to within $100. This has made for some heated “discussions” but I think we came out more on the same page and with greater understanding of each other. So it’s good!
The take-away lesson on finances this first year? It’s to UNIFY intentions and decisions and to change the mindset from “my” to OUR. It’s conceptually exactly what we want to do…but for me, much harder in practice.