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
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.