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Money & Marriage: Knowing Where You’re Going

How in-synch are you and your spouse when it comes to money? On a scale of 1-10, with 1 meaning you’re living on separate financial planets and 10 meaning you complete each other’s financial sentences, where on the scale would you put your marriage?

Now do quick reality-check by asking your spouse the same question.

I’ve been reminded lately about just how out of synch many couples are. As I prepare to lead a three-part series of money & marriage workshops at our church, I’ve been reviewing past and current research on the topic. If you and your spouse aren’t quite on the same page, you’re not alone. One of the funniest bits of research I came across is that 41% of wives said it’s less painful to go to the dentist than talk with their husbands about money!

Or maybe it isn’t so funny.

What’s your destination?

Here’s a really simple but helpful exercise. Each of you take a sheet of paper and write down some financial goals. It’s important to do this separately. Write down some short-term financial goals—things you want to buy or accomplish within the next 2-5 years. And write down some longer-term goals. Take about five minutes and write down what comes to mind.

Then talk about what you each wrote down. Were either of you surprised by what the other wrote down? Don’t make the other person wrong for what they wrote down; don’t make them feel bad about it. Just listen and find out why they wrote down what they did.

If you came up with fairly different goals, there’s no magical key for choosing which ones to pursue first. Just think about what each other wrote down for a few days and pray for wisdom.

The right tool for the job

No matter where you’re going financially, a budget—or, as I prefer, a cash flow plan—is tool that’ll get you there. It’s simply the most powerful tool you can use for effective day-to-day money management, and for the accomplishment of your financial goals. Yeah, I kind of believe in this thing.

Getting your overall financial priorities in the right order—give some, save some, invest some, and then set lifestyle spending on what remains—is a big step in the right direction. Keeping your housing costs to no more than 25% of monthly gross income (See How Much Should I Spend on a House), and preferably no more than 20%, is another. As is not financing vehicles, or having any other debt (See To Get Out of Debt Faster, Fix Your Payments). And all of this is much easier with a cash flow plan.

Not as bad as you may think

Let’s face it, budgets have an image problem. People think of a budget as something you go on like a diet, as in, “We can’t ask Joe and Lucy to go out to dinner this weekend, they’re on a budget.”

In truth, using a cash flow plan actually leads to great financial freedom. Research has even shown that couples that use one, especially a detailed plan, are less likely to have financial disagreements.

An important key to finding the motivation to use a cash flow plan is having goals in mind that you’re excited about pursuing.

On my web site is a free download on how to set up and use a cash flow plan. You’ll also find recommended cash flow guidelines for various size households that earn various amounts of income.  If you don’t currently use a budget, give it a try. I am confident you will quickly experience this powerful truth: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).

I’d love to hear what you found out when you talked with your spouse about the financial goals you both have in mind. Were there any surprises? And what do both of you think about using a cash flow plan? What help do you need to get started?

Interested in more ideas for getting on the same financial page with your spouse? Read, Money & Marriage: Knowing Where You’re Coming From.

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4 Responses to Money & Marriage: Knowing Where You’re Going

  1. Lisa V. September 25, 2018 at 5:42 PM #

    I’m so excited to dig into the cash flow plan. Thank you for making this available for free. Also the suggestion to write down financial goals with my spouse will be interesting. I really don’t know if we are on the same page sadly. Keep the great articles coming!

    • Matt Bell September 25, 2018 at 8:33 PM #

      Lisa – So glad to hear you’re excited about the cash flow plan. Honestly, “excited” isn’t a word I usually hear associated with budgeting! Let me know how it goes.

  2. Aaron September 25, 2018 at 2:16 PM #

    This is an excellent exercise to do with the spouse. Have done it with mine – and it helped us to see that we weren’t all that far off. Sometimes these smaller arguments regarding money have some very deep emotional roots / but can be resolved, if exposed.

    Guess, it often backs to communication and hearing one another out.

    • Matt Bell September 25, 2018 at 8:31 PM #

      So true, Aaron — the communication piece. It isn’t rocket science. But what I’ve found is the busier we get, with three young kids involved in multiple activities, it has become more difficult to find the time to talk about more than just logistical things. In that situation, it’s easy to start operating from different assumptions and priorities. So, we’ve been trying to be a lot more intentional about carving out dedicated time to talk.

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