"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Marrying the Money

By Micky Wolf

Choosing to getting married includes a number of potentially volatile issues, not the least of which concern sex, religion, and politics. Many young couples are counseled to be aware of the temptations and challenges inherent in these areas, yet for all our good intentions to be open and honest about these aspects of married life, it seems we do not do a very good job of highlighting the importance of ‘fiscal union and fidelity’. 

Checking your attitude…

Whether you speak it or not, there is one pattern of thought and behavior with regard to how you approach the topic of money that may put a marriage in the red before you barely finish saying I do. It goes like this: because I earned it, it’s mine. Or I inherited it, therefore it’s mine. And because it’s mine, it’s mine to save or spend as I wish. 

Some of the nastiest arguments a couple will ever experience happen around money—what is yours, what is mine, what is ours? Who pays for what and how much? What goes to expenses and what is for fun? These questions are particularly touchy given any or all of the following:

1.       One spouse makes more money than the other
2.      One spouse is a stay-at-home parent or caregiver
3.      One spouse has a history of earning/spending their own paycheck
4.      One spouse has access to significant financial resources (inheritance, etc.)
5.      One spouse has had to struggle for any kind of financial stability
6.      One spouse has inconsistent or sporadic income
7. And last but in no way least, from a Christian perspective—an absence of acknowledgment and understanding that ALL blessings, including financial, flow from God

Personally, my beloved and I have experienced most of these situations during our marriage, although no dowry or estate wealth with this union, for sure! At the same time, all those many years ago—whether out of ignorance or by Divine intervention—it didn’t take us too long to realize that merging our ‘Washingtons’ would make things a whole lot easier. And it has remained so to this day. 

The real stumbling block with this issue is this: if we are stubbornly determined to enter marriage insistent upon maintaining attitudes centered on “what is yours is yours and what is mine is mine” rather than “what is mine is yours, which makes everything ours”, clashing and gnashing of thoughts and feelings—and in some cases physical acting out—are inevitable. 

Keeping accounts is not the problem…

Balancing accounts and organizing finances—these in and of themselves need not be the point of contention. Ideally, you and your spouse (or spouse to be) would establish all your resources under joint designations, but that is not to say you cannot have a ‘joint attitude’ with separately named accounts. Sometimes doing things that way makes good business sense.

On the other hand, it would be hard to understand why a couple who have joined together in covenant marriage would not be fully open, freely sharing information about the contents of said accounts. And in so doing, feel comfortable discussing a variety of related issues: how much money/resources are available; how best to invest them; what needs do we have, short and longer term; how much goes to charity, and so forth. Again, it is the way you and your spouse think, feel, and relate to one another that is paramount to living the fullness of your marital relationship.

Reaping the dividends…

One tried and true choice two people can make in a marriage to help ensure greater peace on all fronts is choosing to be transparent—forthcoming in all manner of thoughts and feelings.
To be transparent is to have the property of transmitting light; to be free from pretense or deceit, to be readily understood. (Merriam Webster Dictionary) What better way could we envision the presence of Love, Truth, and a Christ-centered life or marriage? Together, to be transmitters of light, God’s light? To not have need for pretending or being deceitful? To be understood by one another?

Spend any amount of time with couples who have been joyfully (not the same as simply happy) married, be it be for several or many years, and you will soon understand their sustained commitment to being transparent is, in many ways, the life-blood of the relationship. Open. Honest. Free of pretense and deceit. Clear vessels through which the Love, Light and Truth that is God may flow to the other. And that means when it feels good, and when it hurts. In good times and in bad. Day in, day out, with pennies in the pocket or piles of gold in the vault.

Long-term investing…

Many things are set in motion the day two people stand before God and speak their marriage vows. Emotions are usually running high and it’s a challenge to think or speak coherent thoughts. But when the veil is lifted, lips have lightly touched, the cake is devoured, and the dancing done, the journey together begins in earnest. 

The choices we make to fully commit to covenant relationship—including our decision to merge our financial resources—will make all the difference in developing and growing the love and intimacy we hope to share, with one another, and with God. And that is the currency of real and lasting value, in this world and of the eternity that is to come.

Do I need an attitude check regarding my approach to money and marriage?

How do I feel about joint accounts?

Do I insist on separate accounts? Why?

When it comes to finances, can I be transparent with my spouse? If not, why?

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