Money and Marriage
One of the most common points of contention in marriage is the issue of money. Crystal Paine, Tom Nelson, and Ron Deal offer some strategies to help keep money from being a source of conflict.
About the Guest
- Crystal Paine's website MoneySavingMom.com. https://moneysavingmom.com/
- Money-saving mom Crystal Paine and 'America's Cheapest Family' Steve and Annette Economides tell how their frugal ways have them saving big at the grocery store, allowing them to give generously to others. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/money-saving-families/
- Pastor and author Tommy Nelson shares five things every man and woman needs to remember about relating to in-laws, and gives couples advice about handling money after marriage. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/in-laws-mates-and-money/
One of the most common points of contention in marriage is the issue of money. Crystal Paine, Tom Nelson, and Ron Deal offer some strategies to help keep money from being a source of conflict.
Bob: How much did your wedding cost? Do you remember?
Crystal: Yes; we had—let me see—I know we did it for less than $5,000, and I think we had close to 400 people.
Bob: Did you get your dress at the thrift store?
Crystal: No, I wore my mom’s dress.
Bob: Okay, that helps.
Dennis: Did you charge people to come to your wedding? [Laughter]
Crystal: No. [Laughter]
Bob: She thought about it; she thought about it!
Dennis: I want to go back to that first year in law school Jesse was going through. You had a goal of getting through law school debt-free—how?
Crystal: Well, my husband—when he was 12 years old, his mom died; and she left him a small amount of money. His dad was really wise, and he invested that money; so by the time we got married, he had money set aside with money that he had saved through having a business, and through doing some other things, and living at home some of his college years, and working all during his college years.
He had money set aside to pay for college; and he went to an instate school, which is a lot cheaper. He got a scholarship, so we had that taken care of; and we couldn’t touch that money that was in the bank. It was just, then, figuring out how to live on $500 or $1,000 or whatever we had that month that came in.
Some people are like, “Well, how on earth did…”; you know, they assume college costs $150,000 or something. When you go in state, it’s not as expensive.
Dennis: Well, and I’m thinking about $17 a week for groceries?
Bob: Was this a whole ramen week for you?
Crystal: I’ve only eaten ramen once in my life; and I didn’t like it, so it was not ramen. [Laughter] We did not eat hardly any beef for two years. We would buy one bag of chicken, and we would make it last for two weeks; and that’s what we did. You know, it was a short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal. It was worth it, but it’s hard. I remember those times when he was in law school; and we didn’t have $2 to spare in our budget, and we couldn’t buy anything.
I remember, when I got pregnant, I couldn’t buy maternity clothes; because I didn’t have any money to even go to the thrift store. We just prayed, and a friend of mine sent a box of maternity clothes. You know, God always provided; but that didn’t mean that there weren’t times when it was really hard and when we had to just get on our faces and cry and say, “God, we have to trust You to provide this for us.”
Dennis: You guys are coming up on your tenth anniversary. Let’s say I’ve seated a young couple across the table from you, who are just starting out their marriage together. What’s the best two or three pieces of advice you could give this young couple as they begin their marriage and family?
Crystal: I think it is so important that you are on the same page. You need to sit down; you need to talk about your goals. You need to talk about where you want to be a year from now, and five years from now, and ten years from now. You need to get on the same page, financially, and with your goals.
Second of all, you need to have a budget. I know a lot of people feel like: “Oh, a budget is so restrictive,” and “That’s just this ball and chains,” and “We can’t do that, because I like to spend money.” The thing that we’ve found is that a budget gives you freedom, because you have these boundaries to work within. I don’t have to worry, when I go to the store with my grocery envelope of cash—I don’t have to worry that I’m not going to be able to pay for the light bill or I’m not going to be able to afford gas. We budget for everything.
Now that we have wiggle room in our budget, we budget for eating out; we budget for—we even have a “blow” category. It’s not like it’s this: “You know, let’s be as tight as we possibly can be”; but it’s: “Let’s choose where we’re going to put our money so we have some left over so that we can invest in things that we’re passionate about and are important to us.”
Michelle: That’s Crystal Paine reminding us how important it is to get on a budget early in your marriage. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
You know, I have a feeling like Crystal and I could be fast friends; because according to her website here—MoneySavingMom.com—she likes drinking a good cup of coffee while she’s reading a great book, and that sounds like fun.
But did you hear what Crystal said?—that they budget for everything—probably even coffee. But if they budget for everything, that means they don’t have the surprises coming through; and they’re talking through everything. Talking or communicating—well, that’s a key to your relationship; because this money thing—it can be a huge issue in marriages.
A while back, FamilyLife Today aired a message from Tom Nelson called “Money in Marriage.” You probably know him as Tommy Nelson. He’s the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church, and he’s well-known for his preaching on the Song of Solomon. Tommy and his wife Teresa have been married for over four decades, and they have two sons. Here’s Tommy.
Tommy: Money is kind of a mine that goes off in marriage. The problems with money are problems that kind of fester down there, and they form a lack of trust; and out of that grow great problems and alienation in marriage.
The number one principle of money is that it is not, with my wife and I: “It’s not my money; it’s our money.” My wife doesn’t make money in the sense of having a job that makes money, but that makes no difference. The two become one flesh. The money that you men make is not your money; it’s y’all’s money. [Laughter] A lot of times, a woman may have a career that out-earns her husband nowadays. Madam, it is not your money; it is y’all’s money.
This statement, whenever I hear it in marriage, problems are on the way—it goes like this: “I pay the bills around here. That’s why I can’t be challenged”—is the assumption—“on how I spend it.” Like I say: “My wife doesn’t make money; but my wife can spend the money however she sees fit on the maintenance and the care of our home, because it’s our money.”
Number two: “Even though it’s our money, you check with your mate before you make a major expenditure.” You don’t want to surprise your mate in the area of money. I had a woman say to me one time—I’ll never forget this—she said, “He will not give me the freedom to buy a $14 dress pattern, but he will come home with $800 in tires; and somehow that’s okay for him to do that, but it’s not okay for me.” So you always check with your mate when you make a major expenditure—guys as well.
Number three: “A woman needs the freedom to run a home.” There’s a certain margin that a woman has to spend independently for the maintenance of that house, and I have to give my wife the freedom to be what Paul calls her—the oiko despodes—the house despot; what a word. [Laughter]
My wife has to have a sense of leeway [the same as] when I take care of the mowers and all the stuff that guys do. I had a woman one time say—this is a fact—she came in, saying: “Whenever I have to buy”—and she mentioned a piece of lingerie—“my husband drops me off at the mall. I go inside and get the exact figure, plus tax, to the penny. I come out and give it to him; he gives me the exact change to the penny. I go inside and pay for it.”
Now, he felt he was being holy. I said to him: “No, you’re what’s called dumb. [Laughter] You’re dumb because, in your seeking to control, you’re treating your wife like a child. Whatever you think you’re gaining, you are losing the affinity of your wife for you. If she’s not that trustworthy, you shouldn’t have married her! You trust her with things.” Well, you have to give your mate that kind of freedom, to do what she/he needs to do.
“A woman”—number four—“can have her money.” Proverbs 31: “She considers a field from her earnings, and she buys it.” As long as it has a consent and is not breeching the husband’s place, it’s good to let a woman do what she would like to do with y’all’s money.
Number five: “Decide who does the books in your family.” It may not be the man; it may not be the wage-earner. If you’re the one who does the books, you have to do them well. Fellows, if you have your wife keep the finances, then you have to be acquiescent and make sure that it’s easy for her. Ladies, if your husband keeps the finances, then you, especially in that area, have to make life easy for him to do it.
Number seven: “First things first.” There are rules, in where your money goes, that you need to understand. Are you all familiar with where the Bible says the first fruits of your income go?— Proverbs: “Honor the Lord with the first of your income, and He will cause your vats to overflow and your barns to be filled.”
A Campus Crusade® guy told me early in my marriage—I’m so glad he did—he said, “Whatever you make, you honor God right off the top.” My wife and I began doing that. If we had $10, we’d honor God with a buck; and God has always taken care of us. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having a sufficiency you will have an abundance for every good deed. He who sows abundantly shall reap abundantly.” God’s always taken care of us; so right off the top, you honor God.
After you do that, you always pay what you owe—you pay your bills. Then right after that, you pay you—the idea of a savings: “Much wine and delight is in the house of the righteous, but the wicked swallows it up.” Wicked people spend quickly anything that they get, quite often. But when you make rules in where your money goes as a priority, the budgeting process takes care of itself. Once you honor God, Caesar, and the future, now you can enjoy today with the money that’s allotted to you. If you won’t go into debt, you can actually make it through life without a lot of financial problems. We honor God, pay our bills, and then we set some aside. Then the rest of it: rocky road, [Laughter] skiing, crunchy peanut butter—see? We enjoy it.
Incidentally, both have to be on board. Whenever I do women’s Q&As, one of the major questions that is asked is: “Tom, my husband doesn’t give to the Lord’s work. What should I do?” My answer always is: “Our church doesn’t need your money, but you need to be obedient. Don’t [make] your husband give. Let God fix him.” God can fix him real quickly. So, fellows—and if the shoe fits on this, you wear it—I hope that your wife is not put in a continual place of not seeing the blessing of God because of the lack of leadership and trust of a materialistic and self-willed husband; you honor God and lead your family. Both have to be on board with this.
Michelle: That was Tommy Nelson with a classic message—some timeless wisdom about finances in your marriage. If you were listening closely enough, you noticed that one and maybe more points of Tom’s message were missing. That’s kind of on purpose; we’re trying to tease you to go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, to hear the entire message. That’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, and it’s some really good stuff; so you don’t want to miss it.
Hey, we’re going to take a break, because you need one; I need one. But when we come back, Ron Deal is going to join me in the studio; and we’re going to talk about this money thing.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week; I’m Michelle Hill. This weekend we’re talking about financial pressures in marriage. We just heard from Crystal and Tommy talking about how this can be a really huge issue in marriages.
But I want to turn now to the blended family and how they deal with these pressures. I’m joined in the studio with my friend and coworker, and also blended family expert, Ron Deal. He heads up FamilyLife Blended®, here at FamilyLife®. He’s an author; he’s a speaker and frequent guest on FamilyLife Today/also, Chris Fabry Live with Moody Radio. He’s been a counselor for—how many years, Ron?
Ron: Too many to count—[Laughter]—about 25 years.
Michelle: Twenty-five years. How many of those years have been working with blended families?
Ron: Pretty much all of those years.
Michelle: Have finances come up in many of those discussions?
Ron: You know, I think it feels more intense because there’s this fragility about the relationship—particularly if both of them or one of them has been divorced before, or been through a difficult relationship, or you know, their former spouse took all the money and ran with it—all of a sudden, money is this hypersensitive topic. It has implication for our us-ness: “Are we good?” “Are we strong?” “Are we stable?” It has implications for wellbeing and provision for children, so it feels like there’s more hanging on this when you talk to blended families about it. It just is more fragile.
Michelle: Let’s say they’ve gotten past that initial conversation, just before they got married or whatever; move on into the marriage: “How can a family do well? How can they do alimony well?” and all of those kinds of finances well? What are some of the pitfalls that they face?
Ron: Yes. You know; okay, so let’s just talk around this. First of all, I would say to blended family couples that are listening—they need to heed the advice that I’m sure you’ve talked about on this broadcast and that others would talk about—they need to have a godly point of view about money: “He owns it all, and we’re just stewards of it. We’re trying to do what we can to use it for kingdom work. We trust in God, not in ourselves.” All of those biblical principles about money still apply to blended family situations.
It’s the daily use of money, and providing for children, and thinking through that—that sometimes gets sticky: “How do we actually manage the money? Do we have your account and my account, because that’s the way we came into this relationship; or do we put it all in one big pot of money? So there are questions related to daily use of money.
There are also questions related to estate planning and the future, and “How are we going to do this?” Think about it:
“What if one partner comes in with more assets, and they want their child to go to private school?” or “That’s where their child has been, but the other parent has children in public school. Well, do we put out money for all the kids to go to private school?”
“What if you have child support coming in that’s praying for private school, but then the other parent in the home can’t do that?”—they just don’t have that option; right? Sometimes that creates a natural division in the home about how money is used.
Or think about adult children in stepfamilies, where their parent has married later in life, and they want to make sure they get all the inheritance.
Think about this dilemma for a minute; you want to talk about a unique situation, imagine this:
If there’s a couple, and one of the parents dies—and let’s say the man—his wife has died, and he now remarries; okay? Then he dies, and his second wife then remarries. Some of this man’s assets can end up in that man’s bank account, not his children’s—
Ron: —if he’s not careful.
The cool thing is—there is a tool out there that estate planners can tell you about—it’s called a Q-tip—that allows you to actually put money in a trust that (A) provides for your spouse if you die—right?—it provides for your wife in that scenario; but then after she dies, the money then gets transferred on to your children. You can make those sorts of arrangements ahead of time; but if you don’t do the planning and you don’t consult somebody who knows how to make that happen for you, then all of a sudden, your children are left with nothing except resentment and bitterness; because you didn’t plan.
That’s the kinds of unique things that blended families face.
You have a name on a house and you marry somebody; do you put their name on the house? What about beneficiaries for insurance?
Michelle: Help us understand about a pre-nup. Is that something that blended families should even look to?
Ron: I think the answer is “Yes.” Now, here’s the thing—when you say, “pre-nup,” what everybody feels is: “Oh, you’re planning for a divorce. I totally don’t want that!” I don’t want to encourage people to have that mindset at all.
But attorneys, and financial planners, and people who understand legal issues, as it relates to children, and “Who takes custody of minor-age children if a biological parent dies?”—they understand that the money has to go where the children go. You have to have legal provision to make sure that happens so that the children are provided for.
Sometimes, that means you need to consider an option/a legal option in order to do that; so we’re changing our understanding of legal options like a pre-nup. Actually, I would much rather use a term called a “shared covenant agreement.” We actually talk about this in my book, The Smart Stepfamily, with Greg Pedis, who co-wrote that section with me, where we talk about a shared covenant agreement.
Here’s the thing—we’re not helping people plan for a divorce; we’re helping them plan for their future. We’re financing togetherness. What a shared covenant agreement simply is—is you and I sitting down and getting very proactive about our assets, our debts, our life together, our future—how we’re going to provide for the next generation—and we put it down on paper.
It’s not a contingency plan if everything blows up. It’s: “Let’s get this on paper and go through the process of discussing it so that you and I have greater confidence in our ‘us-ness.’ We can sleep at night, not having to worry about whether your kid or my kid’s going to be provided for. We actually know the answers.”
When the children ask, “Who gets mom’s dishes if Dad dies?”—mom’s already deceased—“If Dad dies, who gets mom’s dishes?” We know how to answer that question: it’s done; it’s settled, so there’s not animosity; there’s not seeds of bitterness between the generations that creep into relationships.
I think that sort of proactive approach actually serves a blended family very well, and it strengthens the couple’s marriage. Now, that is a good idea. Yes, there’s some legality wrapped around it; and yes, there are some hard questions that have to be asked within a shared covenant agreement; but it’s about financing togetherness, not planning for separateness.
Michelle: Help us calibrate success. What does success look like, realistically, for the blended family?
Ron: Well, I think it comes with this plan—it comes with a shared sense of confidence about what you’re going to do.
Michelle, in a study that David Olson and I did for our book, The Smart Stepfamily Marriage, we found that two thirds of couples forming blended families have never talked about their financial issues.
Michelle: Oh no.
Ron: They haven’t talked about it! They walk into the marriage, assuming. Let me tell you—things can turn south pretty quickly. You know, all of a sudden, it’s about power; it’s about control; it’s about, “Wait a minute; your child’s getting…but my kids are not getting…”—us versus them. You don’t want that to happen, so couples need to be proactive.
Now, somebody’s listening right now, and they’ve been married five years, and they’ve never had these conversations. It’s time; right? It’s okay you didn’t do it on the front end; it’s alright. Now’s the time to start. Sit down with somebody who understands legal issues and long-range estate planning, and they’ll be able to guide you into putting this plan together. That brings success; again, it helps you sleep at night and have confidence in your marriage.
Michelle: Great advice from Ron Deal on financial planning in marriage with blended families. For more information on money management before and after you blend a family, Ron Deal has teamed up with Greg Pedis, and also David Edwards; and they have written the book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning. You can find a link to that book on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, I’m excited for next week’s show! Ron Deal is going to join me again, and he’s going to give insight to single parents. You know, you’re asking the questions: “When should I start dating again?” “Are the kids ready?” or “When should the kids meet this person I’m dating?” or “Should I just choose to wait for dating and marriage until after the kids are out of the house?” Those are great questions, and Ron has great answers to those questions and some great advice. So please, I hope you can join us for that next week.
Thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Marques Holt, who is also producer and editor of the show, along with Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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