Monday, March 4, 2013

Let's Have a Good Clean Fight.

If you get married you will fight about money at some point in time. Count on it. Fights are OK, if and only if the both of you always fight fair. There are some basic ground rules that specifically apply to money.

1) No Secrets!
2) No my money or your money only our money.
3) Fight before the fact not after the fact.

The rest of the rules of fair fights in marriage are generally applicable to all subjects.

Financial discussions should start during the engagement. You will be forming a partnership, a legal, financial, spiritual partnership. Two will become one, at least in the eyes of God and the law. Do not keep any secrets from your fiancée. If you have debts put them on the table. If you have assets put them on the table. If you have a salary put it on the table. If you or your family has any kind of problem or history with money put it on the table. The more you discuss before the marriage the fewer and less dangerous the arguments that will take place after the marriage.

I guess until the groom says, “With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen,” you can still back out.

After the service decide money questions as a couple. This is where the monthly budget conference, as painful and time consuming as it might be, will save a lot of trouble in the long run. If you think budgeting is an ugly process, consider your wife’s response if you came home with a $12,000 bass boat bought without her foreknowledge or permission.

As a couple, hammer out how much money is coming in and how it is going out in advance. Exhaustive, detailed monthly budgeting forms are available from just about any of the major teachers. They are also available in basic personal finance books. The key here is once both husband and wife agree to the monthly budget they have signed a contract with each other. Anything in the budget can be spent by either party without question. Anything that is not in the budget can not be spent without the signatures of both parties on the proposed amendment to the contract.

Dave Ramsey suggests a “blow” budget category. This is an envelope containing money that can be spent on any purpose without question. It will absorb small mistakes in the estimating process as well as keep husband and wife from engaging in acts of violence over trifles. I would even be willing to go one step further, a separate his and her blow envelope. How much goes into those envelopes remains a part of the formal budgeting process.

Of course there are the obvious considerations when discussing money or any other subject in a relationship that include no physical or emotional abuse. Character attacks with or without profanity are not allowed. Keep on subject. In this case, the money that is coming in is usually pretty well defined. Where it will go is the topic of conversation. Folks, this is a zero sum game. If the wife wants $300 in this month’s clothing allowance, it has to come from somewhere. That might mean, no money spent in restaurants this month.

You are living in the present moment. What happened in the past is not a subject of this month’s budget summit. If you bought that $12,000 bass boat last year, your wife is not allowed to bring it up to fuel her fires in this month’s argument. That includes any sentence that begins with, “You always _____”

One of the biggest differences between marriage and dating is the simple fact that you can no longer go home to your own apartment at night. Believe me, that is a huge difference. You can’t run or hide from your joint money problems. If you need a timeout; well, even the NFL allows each team 3 timeouts in each half. They last a predetermined amount of time. Then the game starts over. If you are getting angry, go ahead call a timeout, but then return to the table at a predetermined time.

Let me add one especially for women. He can’t read your mind. If you think he doesn’t understand something that is obvious and important to you, ask him. Do not assume he should be able to read your mind. He can’t.

The Bible suggests, "Don't sin by letting anger control you." Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry.” At the end of the day remember you are still husband and wife. Remind yourself of all that good stuff you swore in an oath before God and man, including that you will love, honor, and cherish your spouse until death do us part.

Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” is often applied to a Christian marriage. If you work together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit the odds are definitely in your favor. The median net worth of married-couple households in a 2002 Census Bureau wealth study was $101,975; for single men, median wealth was $23,700; for single women, $20,217. I expect these numbers are somewhat skewed by the age of the respondents, but every study I have seen indicates that married couples do better financially than singles.

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