Stuff We Wish We Knew Before Getting Married by Mo & Phindi Grootboom is published by NB Publishers and is available now. This extract is published by permission.
Being on the same page financially can save your marriage
We always tell engaged couples that one of the most precious gifts you can give your relationship going into marriage is to consciously engage in the money discussion. That involves asking some very uncomfortable questions. With that in mind, here are some important points to consider:
What is our policy about helping out family?
If your spouse loaned R10 000 to a sibling, would that be a big deal? Do you have limits on how much you can give or loan, or a common understanding about any such expenditures before committing financially? What if one of your spouse’s parents was ill and needed thousands of rands in medical care? Would you consider putting them onto your investments or insurance?
What type of marriage contract should we opt for?
How much love would you have for each other if you didn’t have your material possessions? Are you able to separate love from property? Are any of you looking at going into business in the future? What do each of the marriage contracts mean to you? What properties are registered in your personal names? How are they to be managed in marriage?
What are our career goals?
What debt do you currently have, and how are you servicing it? When are you planning to finish paying it off? What’s your view on loans and buying things on credit? Are you on the credit bureau? If yes, why, and what’s your practical plan out of it? What’s your idea of living within your means? What are your financial dreams? Do you pay your taxes? What’s your attitude towards recreational spending and taking holidays?
How did our parents handle their finances?
While we tend to mimic many of our parents’ behaviours as we grow up, they’re less set in stone than, say, height. Still, those experiences may influence your partner’s beliefs about what is ‘normal’ when it comes to finances. Your father may have been a spendthrift to the extreme, and your spouse’s mother a money saver to the point of obsession. Neither is necessarily healthy. Being aware of those conscious or unconscious influences is a key step as you adjust to being on the same page about your finances, and build your own financial practices as a couple.
What’s our attitude towards giving?
What’s your view on charitable giving as a matter of principle? What about church tithes and offerings? What role do you think stinginess and/or greed plays in financial blessings? When will you feel you have enough to be satisfied and content?
What are our deal breakers?
Almost anything can be worked out if you’re honest about it upfront, and are willing to be flexible. However, some people have stubborn views on how they wish to conduct their lives, especially when they’ve been living that way all their lives. You have to consider what it is you will and won’t take on in terms of how your spouse conducts themselves financially.
When you don’t gently merge your financial lifestyles as a married couple into a single unit, you invite problems. Don’t live separate financial lives, where what’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine.
Financial transparency is love
Full financial disclosure means laying all financial information about your past and present on the table. It isn’t about interrogating each other. But it’s about talking with each other about something that’ll deeply impact your relationship in marriage.
Ongoing financial transparency means that after getting married, each person should know exactly how much is coming into the household and how much is going out. You work together to set a plan for your money and then you track your finances with what we like to think of as a central financial operating system.
Ongoing transparency, furthermore, means talking about money on a regular basis. Some people call it a money date.
Get on and stay on the same team
To win in marriage, you’ve got to be on the same team with your spouse. When it comes to finances, you have to ditch the ‘me-versus-you’ mentality. Drop the ‘his money’ and ‘her money’ phrases and replace them with ‘our money’. If you want to enjoy financial unity, you’ll need to follow a game plan that you come up with together.
Before you start creating any kind of financial plan together, both of you should sit down and discuss your shared value system and common vision for your life. What are your hopes and dreams for your future – as individuals and as a couple?
Change your attitude
A can-do, committed, cheerful attitude will always take you further than a complaining, defeatist attitude. Your attitude toward your spouse plays a huge role, too. If you have a spirit of forgiveness toward your spouse, it is much more likely you’ll have unity in your marriage and finances. When you extend grace to your spouse in times of difficulty or frustration, the unity you experience will propel you forward to continue being wise stewards of your money.
Learn to compromise
The Bible must become the final authority over your lives. As a believing couple, this is a non-negotiable. However, there are plenty of issues on which the Bible is silent. And when it comes to marriage, especially with regard to your finances, compromise is your best friend. You will never agree on everything. And because of that, compromise is absolutely essential.
Are you owners or stewards?
There’s a big difference between the two. Anything you didn’t enter this world with, or wouldn’t take with you to the grave, isn’t yours to own. No matter what we gain materially, it is short-lived. Nothing really belongs to us, not even our very lives. As God- fearing people, we are stewards, not owners. When you believe you own your resources, you don’t only feel entitled to them, but you may be as stingy as you choose about them.
Sometimes we get all bent out of shape trying to keep and defend what we think is ours. People ruin their lives over financial rights, inheritance squabbles, and lawsuits. But God is calling us to think differently, to be stewards, to faithfully manage what He has entrusted unto us.
Your spouse and marriage are much more important than money and material resources. You can’t even compare the two.