Listen to President Tim Russell and Pastor Drew Gysi explore this topic here.
Marital money issues can be very intense as couples work through them to get them into a healthy place. Often, money issues stem directly from other deep-seeded issues like communication, expectations, and even their individual upbringing views on money and possessions that they may have never talked about. Our goal for this article is to get you to think to process what you and your spouse (or future spouse) are thinking about in terms of money. Hopefully, we can help you think more biblically about your marriage money matters.
4 MARRIAGE STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLES
1. We are stewards
To start a discussion about marriage money mindfulness it is best for the believer in Christ to come to grips with who is the real owner of all things! A good verse to be reminded about is this one…
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1, NIV84)
How often this happens for those in the church where they shift their thinking from God owning everything to them being the owner! It is easy for the American believer in Christ to have the same mindset as the world does. But there needs to be a renewing of heart and mind, away from conforming to this world, and being transformed in Christ. This is a fine line because just like many of you listening today, I understand that the items and assets around us are in our care, but we often take an “owner mentality” and not a “steward mentality”. But, we are just the care-takers, the stewards of what God owns! Now, this truth is not just for those that are married, as you know. This is for all believers. But, there could be tension and even arguments or disagreements when one spouse has this mindset and the other does not. There is a real difference between owner and caretaker/steward! This specifically will take place when discussing personal spending and generosity. One spouse most likely will gravitate toward spending more on themselves, where the other may want to be more minimalistic for the sake of savings and generosity to the Lord’s work. Getting both spouses on the same page of being stewards and not owners is a key part of minimizing and even eliminating some of the bigger money matter issues that happen in a marriage!
Application: Make a choice in your marriage to not go down the path of weighing your family finances down with consumer debt! Make a choice in your marriage to not go down the path of weighing your family finances down with consumer debt! If you cannot afford something now, either save and wait to purchase it, or consider doing without it. Choosing to live with consumer debt will always make your standard of living less today, and especially in the future!
Application: Seek financial help. A Steward recognizes their need for help. There are many stages of marriage, and with each stage there are financial challenges and issues that should or need to be addressed. If you are not knowledgeable of debt elimination, budgeting, saving for college or a new car and also knowledge of retirement strategies, ask a professional to help! Choosing to “fly your own plane” when you don’t know how could be disastrous! Yes, it may cost you something to get professional help, but know that it will HELP you move in the RIGHT direction.
2. We will pursue contentment
Philippians 4:12 says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” For those listening in the USA, it is clear that we are wealthy and we have so much available to us! How much is enough, and how much is too much? When a couple comes to the realization that they have much, that God has blessed them abundantly (compared to those in the rest of the world), it becomes a game-changer for them! It is so easy here in the United States to compare our assets, income and possessions with others close by and with those we associate with. It may be good to step back and see what is in your care, what are your current needs, what in the near-term needs an investment (and what amount), and what long-term planning needs to take place. After a good assessment of what is in your care, and the needs both short and long term, it would be good to step back and process what is “enough” and what would constitute “too much” for you. We should strive to be content. When this is done, consider taking that “extra” and spend it for the Lord’s Kingdom, or invest it for future investing into the Lord’s work!
Application: Stop keeping up with the Joneses’. This is a tough one for many couples! Do not let your neighbors, friends or family dictate on what, and how much you spend on things and people! Just because a family member lavishes another with fancy Christmas presents year after year, it does not mean that you need to do the same. Live within your means and be content with what you have and give!
3. We will live within our means
Usually in a marriage, you marry an “opposite”. When it comes to money matters, an opposite can be either a blessing or a curse! If you are a saver, and you marry a saver, you are good moving forward! If you are a saver and you marry a spender, there will be tension if there are not clear guidelines in place on your expenses. This goes both ways in case you are the spender and your spouse is a saver! If you are a spender, and your spouse is a spender, there could be very clear and almost disastrous financial issues without a clear and determined spending/saving plan. A good passage to look at is Luke 12:15, which says:
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15, NIV84)
This speaks well of this Money Matter of “staying within our earnings”. No matter where you and your spouse fall on the continuum of being a spender or saver, a commitment to each other of financially staying within your earnings could almost eliminate money madness! For some, this will be a challenge and it will be a LEARNED BEHAVIOR. Let the “numbers” within your budget (and you should have one) dictate spending and saving, not your emotions or desires! This is an objective source driving what your spending habits will be. This is a good thing if you are willing to consistently look at the numbers and allow them to help shape your new behaviors. This is a KEY Marriage Money Matter! Adjust your budget numbers as needed. But the overall expenses should be equal to, or less than your income, which is your commitment to staying within your earnings!
Application: Have a budget! Budgeting is a way to KEEP you both on the same financial page. This does not mean that you will not have some disagreements, challenges, and issues. But what it does mean is you will have a baseline that was agreed by the both of you to keep you moving in the direction of financial independence and not debt!
Application: Communicate about your budget regularly. Talking about money on a regular basis is very important! Many couples wait till there are issues and problems and then argue about money matters. Talking about money should be at least a monthly, if not more often discussed, especially in your early years of marriage.
Application: Plan for emergencies. This is important! One emergency or issue could devastate a couple’s finances. Choosing to build into your budget, and tuck away at a safe location money for an emergency or two is a huge step in keeping your financial arguments at a minimum.
Application: Pay off your credit card balance monthly. It is common sense to make sure you are living within your budget, which includes paying for all that you purchase this month on your credit card. There should never be a balance from one month to the next. Never put a purchase on your credit card if you do not have at least 80% of the money in hand and you also know where the remaining 20% of money to pay that bill will come from!
4. We’re in this together
I love what Genesis 2:24 states:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, NIV84)
When you get married, it is no longer about you, but it is now about WE! Genesis 2:24 speaks to the oneness that mysteriously happens before God when either the commitment or the consummation of the marriage takes place, and at that point the two literally become ONE! Your oneness in marriage should bring about a commitment to your spouse that you are going to link arms with them, specifically with the money matters, the earning and spending that will and does take place between the two of you. If this Marriage Money Matter of “we’re in this together” is a commitment that the two of you have made, then the likelihood of financial tension and arguments will be at a very low percentage in your marriage! Remember that this money matter “we’re in this together” is an outworking of your commitment to walk in step with one another, realizing that if one brings harm (financial harm) to the marriage, they are bringing it to their spouse also! Committing to be linked together in your personal money matters clearly will eliminate the number two area of conflict and divorce: financial conflict/disagreement.
Application: Lean into difficult money conversations. You are to talk also when there are financial issues! The easy thing to do is to bury your head and hope that the issues go away, but the wise thing to do is to face it head on. In a gracious and loving way, do not avoid conflict. Talk about whatever the financial issue is, get it out in the open, and work toward a resolution.
Application: Joint financial accounts. It is not the best idea to have separate bank accounts. Having a joint, unified bank account will help you both know where you are financially at all times. There are exceptions to this, like if there is a business involved and/or a travel account for one spouse for work, but in order to keep you both on the same page, and know what is happening financially, a joint account is very, very helpful!
Application: Any and all large purchases (and you pick the number) should be mutually agreed upon. If one of the spouses has reservations on the purchase, slow down, talk it through, pray it through, and when there is agreement, move in one direction or the other.
Application: Have financial goals. Work on your goals as a couple. If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit nothing! Choose to set certain financial goals and then set a plan! Talk together on this and come up with an action plan that will move you in the right direction! In this step, you may want to bring in the counsel and/or hire a financial advisor if you are desiring certain retirement goals.
Application: Communicate regularly with your spouse regarding your Financial situation. Some are financial “phobics” and would love it if they never have to think about or talk about money. We need to find consistent ways of keeping the financial phobics informed on the financial status of the family as well as seeking their wisdom and insight on important financial decisions.
As we wrap up, I want to remind you that:
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1, NIV84)
We are just the stewards of what the Lord owns. One day, we will have to give account on how we stewarded all that the Lord has put into our care! The way that you steward His assets, directly impacts the accountability of your spouses stewardship before the Lord! This is another reason why you need to be as a couple unified, like minded with what you do with your income, possessions, savings and investments! Commit to making your spouse’s stewardship accountability before the Lord one day. For this is a day that they will be looking forward to!
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