Your Most Important Financial Decision: Choosing a Spouse

I disagree with the common assumption that buying a house will be your biggest financial decision. I believe your choice of a marriage partner will be your single biggest financial decision.  Besides, who do you think is going to help you make the house decision? Therefore, make your spouse decision carefully.  The reasons go far, far beyond money, but since this is a financial blog, let’s focus on the financial implications for a moment.

Studies have shown that savers tend to be attracted to spenders.  Experience confirms that savers get annoyed with spenders and spenders get frustrated with savers.  Ahh.  The beauty of the male-female relationship.

Photo by Pixel Drip via Flickr.

When couples are dating they believe love will cover a multitude of spending differences.  Alas, time will likely tell a different story.  Since money is one of the leading causes of divorce you might do well to at least consider if you and your future spouse are financially compatible.

How to know if you and your spouse are financially compatible

  1. Prepare a fictional budget. Decide on an appropriate estimated take home pay for your household.  Each of you need to hide in a corner and spend your money on paper (some people call this making a budget — here’s how to create a budget).  Then sit down together and share your result.  Highlight and discuss any huge differences in your budget categories.  For a guide you can compare your results to these recommended budget percentages by category.  From there you’ll need to discuss some of the nitty gritty elements of financial management — will you combine your finances?
  2. Participate in premarital counseling. Call your local church or community center and ask if someone on staff does premarital counseling.  If they say ‘no’ shake the dust from your feet and call someone else.  Keep making calls until you find someone who will help with premarital counseling.
  3. Don’t get a prenuptial agreement (unless you have adult children you wish to financially protect).   Yes, I know this is an unpopular thing to say, but hey — it’s what I think.  Here’s why — the last thing marriages need is a bright red “Emergency Exit” light.  Prenuptials keep divorce on the table.  My wife and I have completely removed divorce as a solution to our differences.  It forces us to resolve our issues and work together.
  4. Discuss your feelings and attitudes about money. How did your family spend money?  How much money did your family have?  Who paid for your vehicle and school?  What would you do with a $10,000 inheritance?  How much of your salary do you currently give? A lot of things in you’re background impacts how you act with money.  Taking the frugal or cheap test might reveal some interesting differences about you feel about money.
  5. Listen to advice. Look, I know right now you think you know what you are doing.  You might, and you might not.  Be humble enough to listen to the concerns of people you respect.
  6. Pay attention to wedding spending. When one spouse is buying everything in sight, speak now or forever hold your collector’s bills.  Overspending for a wedding is not a sign of a one-time spending spree, but it is a sign that you are about to marry someone who will do their best to spend every penny you both earn. Talk openly about how much should you pay for a wedding?  Remember that typically bad money choices are patterns, not isolated events.  By the way, if your planning a wedding you need to check out some great wedding tips.

What else would you suggest should be done to avoid making a costly spouse decision? Anyone want to suggest a more important financial decision?

About the Author

By , on Jan 12, 2010
Craig Ford
Craig Ford is a fulltime missionary in Papua New Guinea who writes Money Help For Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog. He is the author of Money Wisdom From Proverbs, has a Masters of Divinity degree, and (most importantly) eats homemade pizza with his family every Friday night.

Leave Your Comment (8 Comments)

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you so much for your comments! What a relief!

  2. Carol says:

    I recently got engaged to a man who seems to have a very good head about money and saving. He is presently in debt for a loan on a parcel of land and to build our house, but has no credit card or student loan debt. I however, have never had an easy time with money, and while I do not have credit card debt, I do have a huge pile of student loan debt. I feel very regretful about this, and it saddens/stresses me out to be bringing nothing but debt (in terms of physical and financial resources) into our marriage. I am insecure and about my debt and lack of assets, and wish for nothing more than to do my part to contribute to our life together.

    I do feel like I am in a wonderful transitional period of my life, where I am finally ready to take control of my finances, use my masters degree, and get a good, stable job (as opposed to the low-paying jobs I have had thus far in life). However, I feel strongly that I do not want our marriage to be adversely affected by my poor choices about money and debt, and I would really really like to keep my debt entirely to myself.
    So. Is there any way of legally not transferring your personal debt to your spouse? Is there a way that a prenup could address this, or some sort of way to avoid having my future husband be responsible or affected by my debt??

    ANY advice would be so very appreciated!
    Thank you!

  3. K. Bowen says:

    Although we perhaps do not want to admit it, we know this is good wisdom. Financial decisions and debt can be major factors in a divorce. It is important to choose a spouse as wisely as Cupid will allow.

  4. Craig Ford says:

    @Doctor S
    It is interested how spenders are attracted to savers. You’re right that it is good for each of us to learn from the other. It gives us a great opportunity to learn and grow.

  5. AJ says:

    I totally agree.

  6. Doctor S says:

    Spenders def are attracted to savers… As an avid spender, I found my future wife who is a saver. To make it even better, she is also a looker! I think when two people combine their financial well beings into one family they learn from each other more than anything. This is why so many relationships fail b/c of monetary issues. Maybe my fiancee and I are moving along well b/c I just am open to whatever she wants to do with the money. I have a ton of student loan debt and she has none. She has saved up a ton of cash and I have very little saved. I concentrate on taking care of my loans with every penny I make and she focuses on how we can save every other penny for a house/future. It all works out for the best.

  7. Danielle says:

    Its amazing how many people start and progress through relationships without talking about money and learning the other persons’ strengths and weaknesses. It also appalls me that they would begin the huge financial decisions of planning a wedding without having some semblance of these conversations. This is a GREAT article and I plan on sharing it on my blog and FB!


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