FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Getting Started on the Right Foot

with Howard Dayton | September 16, 2009
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How do you start your marriage on a solid foundation? Today Christian financial expert Howard Dayton coaches couples on building a financially sound marriage right from the start.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • How do you start your marriage on a solid foundation? Today Christian financial expert Howard Dayton coaches couples on building a financially sound marriage right from the start.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How do you start your marriage on a solid foundation?

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Getting Started on the Right Foot

With Howard Dayton
September 16, 2009
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Bob:   When it comes to conflict couples are experiencing in marriage, financial expert Howard Dayton says most of the problems can be traced back to one foundational issue.

Howard Dayton:  I think what’s really important, again I know it doesn’t sound romantic going into the marriage, but it is to come to grips with, what are our basic values, I mean how much do you like to give, who should do the checkbook, how often should we meet to discuss our finances?  How do we meld our finances together where it’s not your money and my money, it’s our money.  It is so helpful, so constructive to be able to talk these issues through.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 16th.   Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  So how do couples get on the same page when it comes to the issue of finances?   We’ll talk with Howard Dayton about that today. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us.  You sit down with anybody who works with couples and you ask them for the list of things that put a marriage off the tracks, somewhere on that list, one, two, three, four, five, I don’t know depends on who the person you are talking to.

Dennis:  It doesn’t have to go that far down the list.


Bob:  Somewhere on that list is the issue of money and finances and how we handle that in our marriage.

Dennis:  And if you ask them to create a list of those who are helpful from a biblical perspective about how they can handle their money.

Bob:  One, two, three, four


Dennis:  You don’t have to go that far down the list either will be Crown Ministries and we have the co-founder of Crown Ministries with us, Howard Dayton.  Howard, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Howard:  Great to be with you, both of you, just thoroughly appreciate what you all are all about.

Dennis:  Howard helped start this ministry in 1985, he and his wife have been married for 38 years, have two children and he is, he’s just full of pride, Bob, about his new grandchild.  He just walked in you could just tell...


Bob:  Is it unbiblical pride that he’s full of?

Dennis:  I think it’s alright, but he has written a book, in fact I’ve got a question for you Howard, right off the bat about your book.  Somehow I ended up with Bob’s book.

Bob:  What do you mean ended up with my book?

Dennis:  Bob’s book and here is the book that Howard has written, it’s called Money and Marriage God’s Way, and Iopened it up and it says “To Bob Lepine,your fingerprints are all over this book, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”  Four of them, I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody say thank you that many times, “for your time, your insight and your counsel, the one-another’s changed my life.  God bless you, bro.  Love in Jesus.”  And then you sign it.

Now what were you saying there to Bob?

Bob:  And how did you get my copy of the book, because what I want to know.


Dennis:  That’s for me to know and you to find out.  Here, you can have it back.

Bob:  Thank you.

Dennis:  I’ll take this one.

Howard:  Well when Moody Publishers asked us to consider writing a book on money and marriage, I said well after 35 years of studying what the word of God says about money, I have a pretty good handle on that, but other than being married to my incredible wife for 38 years, I didn’t have the strong biblical background when it came to marriage.  I mean I knew a little bit about it, but not enough to write a book. 

And so they were gracious enough to put together a focus group of folks who were marriage experts, and fortunately Bob Lepine from FamilyLife was one of those.  We spent a day together, twenty-four hours, and his wisdom and counsel was, just blew me away.  It helped so much and the one-another’s as Bob said, there is about I don’t know, about two dozen one-another’s in the New Testament that don’t specifically address marriage, but they do apply to marriage. 

So I went through the one-another’s did a little word study and you know, those examples live in harmony with one another and I just substituted my wife’s name, Bev, for the one-another’s.  Live in harmony with Bev.  Carry Bev’s burdens.  When you meditate on those for a week, one at a time in the area that you need most, it radically improved our marriage and this is after 38 years of having a pretty good marriage.

But I just want to publically thank you for that, Bob.  I’ve used that a hundred times in our seminars and just talking to people about the importance of really getting in the word and finding out what those one-another’s relationally really are.

Dennis:  I want to ask you a very big picture idea and I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked this question before, but when it comes to marriage and money, what do you think God was up to.

Howard:  Well, this is what I think He’s up to.   The big picture is this that couples should use money, even challenges with money, even crises with money to come closer together as a couple, not to have money be a wedge that divides.  You know the two are to become one; we are to be unified in absolutely every area of our life, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially.  So I think that’s the big picture.  God wants us to use money to bring the two of us closer together.

Dennis:  I like that answer.  Psalm 127:1 which is the most repeated verse on this broadcast says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”  And to build a house you have to have money.

Howard:  That’s right.  That’s true.

Dennis:   There will be money issues in your marriage.  In preparation for these broadcasts, I just reflected back over Barbara and I.  We were married in 1972, so we’ve had a little water under the bridge and a few dollars and arguments and discussions and stimulating conversations around money.  It’s just regular.  It just keeps coming at you and I like the scope with which you talked about it, Howard, because you talked about not just its use, but crises around money and maybe a shortage of money.  Or in some cases some people have a little more than they’ve ever had before.

Howard:  That’s right.

Dennis:  And those are opportunities as well.

Howard:  That’s right, and in the big picture when you just drill down on money is that there are 2,350 verses in the Bible that deal with how to handle money and possessions.  Fifteen percent of everything that Jesus said had to do with it.  And when my business partner challenged me to go through a study of the Bible to find out what it said about money, we discovered these 2,350 verses. 

The thing that really struck me was that I thought the only thing the Bible was going to talk about was the area of giving.  How you handle ten percent.  Now that’s a crucial area of the Christian life, but what God gives us is how to handle 100 percent.  How to earn money, spend it, save it, invest it, get out of debt, teach our children.  As my son, Matthew says, Dad, it’s the whole enchilada.  Everything you need to know about handling money is found in God’s word and the challenge is that many of us have just learned how to handle ten percent. 

The other ninety percent has not been addressed.  We’ve learned it from our culture’s perspective rather than from God’s perspective so in a marriage you have the husband saying I think we ought to handle it this way, you know, his opinion and that was certainly me in our newly married state thirty-eight years ago.  Bev said, no, this is my opinion.  You have a whole lot of arguments when you base your financial decisions on opinions rather than on this is the truth of God’s word; this is the way we ought to handle our resources.

Bob:  At the core you’re really saying there was a clash, not of money, but a clash of values, because that’s what money represents ultimately.

Howard:  That’s right, exactly right.

Dennis:  And your wife grew up in a log home, is that right?

Howard:  That’s right, a log cabin, cost $300 to build.  Now she was one of the.

Dennis:  Hold it, hold it, hold it.

Howard:  Yes?  They built it themselves.

Dennis:  For $300?

Howard:  For $300, they were one of the few families in the neighborhood that had indoor plumbing, but $300.  So a little bit different environment than I grew up in.

Bob:  So she was somewhat frugal growing up?

Howard:  I think you could safely say that.


Dennis:  And you grew up in what kind of home?

Howard:  Well, upper middle class home, my folks were business people and so there was definitely a difference in background.

Dennis:  I read about that and I thought, you know, Barbara and I really came from very similar backgrounds in that regard.  Both of us grew up in the Midwest, both of us in very middle class families who didn’t want for a lot, but didn’t have a lot.  Probably had more than we deserved, honestly, but when we started out our marriage, we both had a call into ministry.  A part of that call into ministry was well, admit that we were going to get by on less, because our first year of marriage we were making as a couple $560 a month. 

Now that wasn’t a lot of money then.  I mean it’s really not any money now.  But that forced us as a couple to really get down to the nub about what we valued and I think having counted the cost of going into ministry probably saved us as a couple hundreds of arguments and fights because we were committed to a lifestyle that at that point was sacrificial.  And that I think kept us from those arguments.

Bob:  You’re saying that foundation in the early years really set a pattern that you’ve lived with, it wasn’t like we’ll sacrifice here and than a few years from now then we can live with extravagance.

Dennis:  No, there was never any thought there would ever be any more than we had.  That was all a part of counting the cost of going into full-time Christian work as missionaries and I have no regret on that. 

In fact, part of what I wanted to do with you, Howard, was just see the young couple across the table from you who are starting out their marriage.  Where would you start with them?   Because I think of where we started, had we not started with that call, and that commitment, I think we would have been set up like anybody else to have argued.  But there were no Crown Ministries back then.

Howard:  Right, that’s right.

Dennis:  There weren’t any books, where would you coach a couple today as they start their marriage to begin, though?

Howard:  Well, even I’ll tell you even one step further.  Even pre-marriage, before they get married.  I think the number one thing to do is to make sure there’s honesty.  There’s full disclosure.  You know what I encourage young couples to do is even go so far as trade their credit report with one another, making sure that their financial statements are traded with one another.

Dennis:  Now, hold it, hold it.

Howard:  Yes, I know this sounds kind of wacky, not very romantic.


Dennis:  No, it really doesn’t.  That’s the problem with it.  You’re saying that they really should show one another their actual credit report.  Not just have one person report to the other.

Howard:   Exactly right.  I mean I’ve seen too many cases, Dennis, and I know you all have too as well where somebody hides a $20,000 school loan or credit card debt and that doesn’t come out until it’s two months after they’ve tied the knot.  Which erodes the trust relationship between the newly married couple and that can take years to recover from.

Bob:  What about the opposite side, what about the person who’s coming from a high net worth background, I mean they‘re really in really good shape.  They’re a little afraid to show their whole balance sheet for fear somebody’s going to go; I like you even more now.


Howard:  That’s right.  Well you’ve certainly got to have the trust relationship before you disclose it, you know, making sure that you’ve done as much as you can and make sure it’s an authentic genuine love for one another.

Dennis:  Now was that the reason why Bev got out of a log cabin?

Howard:  No, she had moved down to Florida years before the log cabin.

Bob:  But I think your point is an excellent point and that is if a marriage is going to be built on a foundation of trust then in the pre-marriage stage there should be some demonstration of that. Again I know how this sounds to folks but along with that credit report and with that budget if you said how about if we exchange last month’s visa bill just so you can say wow you spent a lot on shoes last month.  Was that because

Dennis:  That was a random illustration.


Bob:  Your soles were worn out or man,


Dennis:  Your soles were worn out, Barbara has worn out some shoes, but not that many.

Bob:  Or maybe the young lady, she’s going to look and she’s going to say you sure eat out a lot.

Dennis:  It just means he can’t cook.

Bob:  Well, if that’s the case we’d better learn these things about one another, right? 

Howard:  I think what’s really important other than the disclosure really is to come to grips with what are our basic values.  What percentage do you like to give and who should do the checkbook?  How often should we meet to discuss our finances?  How do we meld our finances together where it’s not your money and my money it’s our money. 

You know what are the things that are important to you?  If you get pregnant, do you want to be a stay-at-home mom, if so, that’s going to have a huge impact on our lifestyle.  There’s just a whole host of issues that the couple would benefit, again, I know it doesn’t sound romantic going into the marriage, but it is so helpful, so constructive to be able to talk these issues through.

Dennis:  To also put a little context and perspective about different values, that’s really why you’re marrying one another, if you marry a clone of yourself, first of all, it’s not going to happen.  You’re just not going to find someone who is exactly like you. Even though Barbara and I had very similar backgrounds, we had plenty of differences to stimulate discussion. 

But the difference is, I think are those things which God uses in two peoples lives to cause them to depend upon one another, to appreciate a broader spectrum of life, whether it be frugality, or whether it be how to spend a little more and have a little fun and not be afraid of wasting a little money at points.

Bob:  Ok, but what about the couple that says, well I wish we’d talked about this, but we didn’t but you know what, there were no big surprises.  In fact I did know a little bit when we got married about student loans and some credit card debt, we were ok with that we got started as the average couple does, both of us brought some debt into the marriage.  Now we’re here what’s the most important thing we do at the beginning of our marriage to make sure that money doesn’t come back and bite us?

Howard:  I think the number one thing, Bob, is to make sure they learn and apply what God says about handling money, it’s that simple.  Because it’s so dramatically different from the way most people handle their resources.  God does encourage us to be generous and He does encourage us to save regularly.  I mean, Proverbs 21:20, “the wise man saves for the future, the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”  That the Lord encourages us to get out of debt, He wants us to be free people.  

That’s what blew me away the first time I learned what God said about money, these 2,350 verses it’s so practical and it has such deep spiritual impact, I mean money is the primary competitor with Christ for the Lordship of our life. 

Matthew 6:24, “no one can serve two masters.  He is going to love one and hate the other; you can’t serve God and money.”  So money is just really crucial, not only in the marriage relationship, but also individually as they are growing more deeply in their walk with Christ.

Dennis:  You have two children, right?

Howard:  I do.

Dennis:  They’re both married?

Howard:  Yes.

Dennis:  Ok, so this can’t be used practically with your children, but we can give you a theoretical illustration here.  Let’s say you had a daughter who said, “Daddy, I really like this guy.”  And so you say I’d like to meet him and he ultimately asked you at some point in the future, I’d like your daughters hand in marriage and as I did some time back I gave my advice to a father who was about to have this conversation with a young man.  I posted my advice on facebook, which consisted of six conversations I would have with the young man, and interestingly money is one of the issues you have to talk about to the young man.  Now let’s say you found out that the young man has got a ton of debt.  Would you forbid them from getting married?

Howard:  Well, it depends how he’s doing, I mean is he being very systematic in eradicating that debt.   Has he made significant progress since he got that debt?   If not, I’d ask him to postpone their marriage until he was first, educated on what the Bible said about it and secondly, he makes some progress.  He makes change and is just a wise money manager.

You know at Crown we’ve trained literally tens of thousands of coaches, folks who draw alongside of people, they’re volunteers, they don’t take a penny to help folks actually get on a budget, stay on a budget.  They encourage them, love them, hold their little fuzzy feet to the fire.  You know, that’s what I would do for his benefit as well as the benefit of the marriage.

Dennis:  And watch how he’s accountable at that point.

Howard:  Exactly right and here’s something we did with our daughter.  When she graduated from high school we had the wedding conversation with her.  Which was, “Honey, you know the average wedding cost is going to sound incredible, $28,000.  We committed to fund a whole lot less than the $28,000.  We said that’s going to be it.  Now if you bring in your wedding costs at less than that what we’re going to do is we’re going to take whatever you save and apply towards your home, your first home.” 

And this was the wisest thing that we could have done, because they came in at 35 percent of budget.  The two of them worked together, this was really the first budgeting that they did together.  But they were so wise, so careful, and so we had a lot of confidence going into that marriage that they were going to be able to handle their money well. 

Within five years they paid off their home.  They ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but they had the common vision, the common lifestyle goal of having a small home, starter home that they fixed up, paid for and it just has made a huge difference in them.

Dennis:  We’ve talked a lot about really a good offense that means getting ahead of the game and not beginning to talk about money after you get married.

Howard:  Yes.

Dennis:  But talk about money, budgets, values and how we approach it all before we get married.  Bob, I think this book would make an outstanding addition to a young couple who are getting married to give it to them as a wedding gift and to those who know someone who is about to get married.  FamilyLife has produced a resource for both the young man and the young lady to sit down and complete a guide called Preparing for Marriage.  

This book has sold over 100,000 copies.  And frankly, all I remember is my daughter Rebecca and her husband to be, Jake, they literally spent hours going through some of these sessions, talking about values represented in the workbook section of this that forced them to talk in advance, so they knew a whole lot about one another.  Now that didn’t mean they didn’t still have their differences and their disagreements.  But I would encourage, in fact I would encourage any couple who are getting married, you must go through some kind of marriage preparation with a mentor.

Bob:  Yes, and one of the subjects that needs to be addressed as part of that is the subject of money and marriage that’s one of the chapters in the Preparing for Marriage Workbook, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center for our listeners who are interested in getting that material.  They can go online at 

But wherever you are, pre-married, post-married, wherever you are in your marriage relationship it would be a good idea for a husband and wife to spend some time together focusing on your finances and your approach to money and the issues that come up between you.   Howard Dayton’s book, Money and Marriage God’s Way, is a great resource for that.  I know some folks are experiencing financial challenges as a couple.  This would be a good book for them.  

Other folks are doing fine, but you are thinking about the future and you’re going, how do we know that we’re really ready for the future when it comes to our money.  This is a good book for you to read through together.  Again the title of the book is, Money and Marriage God’s Way, by Howard Dayton.  You’ll find it at our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.

You can go online at for more information. or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and someone can answer any questions you have about Howard’s book or about the Preparing for Marriage workbooks.  Again it’s that’s the website and the phone number is 1-800-FLTODAY.  That’s 1-800-358-6329.  When you call we can answer any questions you have about these resources or arrange to have them sent to you. 

You know this issue of money and marriage is just one area where it’s important for us as husbands and wives to be working off the same page, to be of one mind.  And when couples come together at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences what we try to focus on is pointing them back to the scriptures as the place where you find essential unity on the important issues that you’re going to face in your marriage relationships. 

And not long ago at one of our conferences, we recorded a message from Dr. Crawford Loritts on God’s plan for marriage.  Part of God’s plan is that you receive your mate as God’s perfect gift for you.  This month, we want to make a copy of that message available to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. 

Your financial support is important for keeping FamilyLife Today on this local station and on our network of stations all across the country.  You help underwrite the costs associated with production and syndication of this daily radio program and we do appreciate that support. 

If you make a donation this month and you’d like to receive the CD with the message from the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, all you have to do is type the word “gift” in the key code box on the online donation form when you make a donation at, a donation of any amount. 

Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and just mention that you’d like the CD that we were talking about on the radio our team would be happy to send that out to you and we so much appreciate your partnership with us and your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today

And speaking of money, tomorrow Howard Dayton is going to be back with us.  We’re going to talk more about money and marriage and I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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