Monday, January 13, 2014

No Secrets!

“No secrets. If you or your spouse spends more than the cost of a CD or a paperback book on something, decide on that expense together, as a couple. There are exceptions. My wife does not want to know about the power bill, tires on her car, or specialized tools she does not understand. Set your own rules and limits for your own marriage and stick to them.”

A number of years before I started this ministry, I put together a one page list of ten financial rules for young couples based on some emails I had written for a young lady contemplating marriage. “No Secrets” is number 6 from that list. Since then I have learned a lot. Although I have loosened up a little on some things and tightened up on one thing a lot, I still stand by this list.

Financial infidelity is a big problem in marriage. Husbands and wives hide expenses from one another or claim that some money is their money. That is a recipe for divorce. Before you swear those oaths before God and man, your money is your money; your debts are your debts. After the exchange of rings, there is no more my money or my debts. There is only our money and our debts. If you do not believe me, just ask your (2nd person plural) creditors.

It’s your marriage. You set your own rules, but once you have set those rules, live by them. Thirty nine years ago, my wife and I established the CD/paperback book limit with exceptions that were not perceived as an issue by either of us. This led to some interesting negotiations and saved us both from wasting a lot of money.

Husband: We really need a 45 ACP Magnum Masterpiece made by Combat Arms. It only costs $600. What a bargain.

Wife: Yes dear, I agree. You really need a new handgun and we also need an étagère to properly display our collection of sparkly little glass dust catchers. It only costs a mere $400.

Then I really had to ask myself, “Do you want to spend $1,000 on a handgun?” The answer was no. I still don’t have the handgun but my wife does have an étagère. Perhaps that can be corrected in retirement.

I believe this is the best way to start a marriage until husband and wife have proven to one another they are trustworthy money managers. Then I am willing to loosen things up a bit. You will waste some more money, but it will save you from a lot of marital bloodshed and strife. After we had been married more than 25 years my wife came into a small inheritance from a great aunt. She wanted to keep that money for her own use. After protracted and sometime intense negotiations, the pink checkbook was born. The money in the pink checkbook could be used for any foolishness without question. However, certain expenses such as Christmas presents for my wife’s distant relatives would always come from the pink checkbook. I still don’t have a blue checkbook to fund the purchase of my nonexistent handgun collection. Do we see a trend in the data?

If and only if you and your wife are living on some level of a budget, I would suggest his and her blow envelopes. At the beginning of each month, as you plan your expenses place a predetermined amount of money into your equivalent of a pink and blue checkbook. That money can be used at any time without questions, but all other funds remain under your “No Secrets” rule. Then the husband can go to the sports bar with his buddies to watch the big game without guilt or strife and the wife can buy her third pair of green high heels to match her new dress without hearing about it.

Do not hide purchases from your spouse. That is financial infidelity. Do not make major purchases without spousal consent. That is financial infidelity. You will not go wrong if you treat financial infidelity as seriously as you treat sexual infidelity. Money is the number one reason for divorce in this country, not adultery.

Don’t add your marriage to our national statistics of failure.

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