One of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is NOT discussing their individual financial philosophies before marriage. You would be amazed how quickly financial differences can tank or (at least cause a major drag) on a marriage. One person maybe frugal while the other lacks spending discipline. It can become a very ugly situation quickly. I strongly encourage couples to make sure they are on the same financial page before they say “I DO”.
19 years ago I was about to make one of the most important decisions of my life. I was about to approach my wife to see if she was interested in pursuing a serious relationship. I wasn’t focused on money in marriage at all. It was the last thing on my mind. I figured everything would simply come together. Honestly, my mind was also focused on other benefits that come with marriage 👊🏾. Lol! This lack of financial focus could have been catastrophic if we didn’t share the same financial philosophy. 🎲
As we began to pursue a more serious relationship, I discovered that my soon-to-be wife earned more than twice my annual salary. Where some men have major insecurity issues with their wives earning more money than them and some women “look down” on a man who earns less money than her, we saw it as a win-win. We were both going to get a raise.
My wife had been in her career for almost 10 years and my new career was just getting off of the ground. I knew my income potential and was very confident in my abilities. She was bringing $15,000 in debt into the marriage while I was bringing none. My smaller salary could easily wipe out her debt and we could begin to build from there.
Our perspective was completely different than some of the stories I’ve heard over the years. I’ve seen some men demand that their wives quit their higher paying jobs (or occupations) so he could carry the load alone. These men didn’t do this due to a child being introduced to the family and wanting to provide that time for mother and child to bond. These men demanded that their wives leave their occupations due to his insecurities. They were facing major financial challenges and the husband’s pride would not allow his wife to help stabilize the family income.
I’ve encouraged many men to read Proverbs 31:10-31 (in context) to help take the edge off of their insecurities. The virtuous wife handled her business on MANY levels. She was disciplined, family-focused, mature, well-groomed, entrepreneurial, highly respected and feared the Lord. Her husband appeared to handle his business and to be secure. The children were well-cared for too. There are a lot of lessons in that one passage of scripture .
To be clear, each family has a right to their convictions and how they choose to structure their household. Some families do not believe that the wife should work outside of the home and that is fine (provided that insecurities aren’t the motivating factor). Some of the convictions are religious or cultural. There are also many stories of families that crunched the numbers and realized that childcare would cost more than the husband or the wife’s salary. They decided that someone would stay home instead of sending the money outside of the home. They weighed the benefits for the child(ren) and decided to move to the one-income option. Dealing with kids (even one kid) and maintaining a household all day is a full-time job! I applaud anyone who has embraced that occupation because it can be intense but very rewarding.
The other side of this coin is the financial and physical stress that can come from one person trying to carry the load when two people can make the load lighter and position the family better long term. This can bring more issues into the household especially if it is rooted in insecurities. Financial issues (debt and other bills) that could be paid off in two years with two incomes , could take four to six years (or longer) to pay off with one income. Again, each family has to decide what works for them but there is nothing like watching someone work themselves to the point where they can’t work. That would defeat the purpose. Working 18 hours a day for an extended period of time would run anyone into the ground.
As I stated before, I never suffered from financial insecurities because I saw our incomes as a team effort. We combined our personal money into one account so that we could build together and not have mystery money coming and going. All bills were paid out of one account to ensure we didn’t have deficits. Our business ventures had separate accounts and paid the business bills out of those accounts.
Remember, in the early years of our marriage, my wife earned double my income. Because we worked as a team, I was able to explore different investment and business opportunities. These ventures eventually allowed my income to surpass and nearly triple her income. I can only imagine how different things would be if we wasted time on petty money arguments rooted in my insecurities.
We decided from day one to work as a team and build as a team. I can tell you countless stories about couples that have secret bank accounts and work against each other. Much of this is because of a lack of trust, communication, maturity, understanding how money works and a host of other issues. It also can come from not having a clear family financial vision.
Many educated and high income couples are temporarily moving in with their in-laws to eliminate debt and to save. In many cases , it’s another win-win because the couple is able to save and contribute to the in-law’s financial stability too. They understand how working together can position both families better for the future. Many immigrant families use this practice to establish themselves when they first arrive in the country. They bring their resources together and build.
I have heard countless stories of insecure men or ego stricken women (or vice versa) rejecting this option even with sane and loving in-laws. Their primary concern is, “What would people think?” Instead of looking at the big picture , they are more focused on maintaining a false image of success.
Believe me, I understand that moving in with some in-laws could be very problematic and drama filled. I do not encourage this unless you have mature in-laws who are truly willing to help. If families can find a way to work together, it can be a win-win and change the financial outlook for generations.
No matter which family structure you decide, there are ways to either increase your income or reduce your expenses. I know one couple that is a one-income couple. The husband drives for Uber and the wife is an extreme coupon expert. She handles her business reducing and eliminating some household expenses through couponing while still caring for their children. There are some months where they have eliminated certain household bills completely . They have a brilliant strategy and a system that works for their family structure.
My encouragement is that engaged couples discuss their financial philosophy prior to getting married to avoid any surprises on the back end. I also encourage married couples to work together after marriage and not sabotage their own financial future. Attending a financial class like CommonCent$ for Couples, Financial Peace University or Dfree can pay dividends for many years to come. My personal recommendation is to attend ALL THREE classes. Financial issues have been the death of many marriages. Taking a little time to establish a long term financial plan makes CommonCent$ . I have watched couples invest more time in planning a one-day wedding than into laying a solid foundation for their future. The fireworks that came as a result of not preparing financially popped off rather quickly. Their priorities were clearly off and it led to years of distress. Some couples didn’t survive the financial stress and ended the marriage as a result.
Working as a team can lead to generational financial stability. The rewards are incredible and the stress level goes down. No matter what family structure you choose, you can lay the ground work for a solid financial future working TOGETHER .