Monday, September 12, 2011

Moolah Monday - Working Together

My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans and believe whole-heartedly in his approach to money management.  Though arguably one of the biggest points of his message is that living debt-free is the best (only) way to go if you're going to be financially successful in the long-term, one of the key things I appreciate is his perspective on the importance of money in relationships.  It is so important in what he teaches that it falls in the second week in his 13-week Financial Peace University course, second only to the overview of the program and his financial management system/plan, the "Baby Steps".

If you've ever listened to his radio program, you may know that on Fridays they typically focus (but not exclusively) on the success stories.  People who have paid off all of their debt or all of their debt except their mortgage get to call in and scream "I/We're Debt Free!!!" on the air.  Some people even drive into their studios to be able to do the scream in person. If you need some motivation, listen to the Friday program to get started...I often tear up when I'm able to listen because you can just hear the freedom and joy in their lives because of the accomplishments they've made.

If you listen to the debt-free screams for some time you might also recognize the pattern of questions Mr. Ramsey seems to ask regularly.  One of the questions he asks often is something along the lines of "what was the most important thing that helped you be successful".  The answer that I hear people give the most is "working with my spouse" or "being on the same page with my spouse".

What a great reciprical situation!

Depending on who you ask, financial matters influence a majority of relational (spousal) stress and divorce.  Many people solve the problem by keeping separate bank accounts, dividing up who's responsible to pay which bills, and then keeping financial information and accountability an individual responsibility in a marriage.  Though I understand the desire to remain conflict-free, avoiding the conflict doesn't mean it's not there and furthermore, when you take that route you miss the opportunity to resolve the conflict which helps further unity in marriage.

In other words, when you keep your finances separate, you're choosing to live parrallel lives rather than living together, at least in the financial world.  I'd argue that this has spiritual implications, but even for those who are not spiritual you can picture a world where keeping finances separate and living parrallel lives there can lead toward and even cause disharmony in other areas of marriage as well.  I'm not saying it's a guarantee, but avoiding money conflicts rather than solving them not only places you further at risk for financial disaster but also for marital discord and divorce. 

Lest I sound better-than-thou (or less you do research into my marriage and finances and find me a hypocrit), let me be forthright in saying that in our marriage we are neither debt-free nor do we do a great job at staying on the same page.  We don't have a written budget, budget committtee meetings, or stick to a financial plan.  It's something we're working on.  We do have a shell budget that we both try to stay grounded to for the most part and for the most part we stay within our monthly saving/spending plan as a whole.  It is very difficult for us to find make time to be on the same page, particularly with a written budget and other money management tasks due to our crazy schedules that make us cross-paths more often than we're together.  And so we sometimes pay the price - last week we both spent more than we should have on various things and ended up with a negative balance in our checking account (yikes!).  Thankfully we have a savings account with money that we can transfer (and, honestly some of our spending was planned to use the savings, we just thought we might be able to do it without actually using our savings), but the truth is if we don't watch it we could easily find ourselves in the situation where we don't have any more money to transfer, if you know what I mean.  More importantly, as I mentioned before, just because you can spend doesn't mean you should and not having a plan and actively working together puts us at risk, both financially and in our marriage - we could and should be better stewards.

The good news for us is that at least we're starting from the same foundational point in our financial relationship - we both want to be debt free, we both believe in being generous, and we both know who ultimately owns the money.  So we're on the same page, at least from a broad perspective.  Now it's the details we need to take care of.

Why do I write this? Apparently based on how easy it flowed off my finger tips I believe it might be worthwhile for someone out there to hear where we are and where we want to head. Maybe it will encourage you? Maybe the resources I linked to will be of value to you? Maybe one of you will have a story to share with us that could encourage us on getting better at being on the same page?

Ultimately, I hope being honest with our situation will help us be accountable to ourselves and in our own marriage.  It's not comfortable telling all of you that we strongly believe in something and yet don't do it.  Hypocrit may fit for now, but I'm hoping we don't stay there.

1 comment:

Dana Beam said...

Dont beat yourself up. It's such a learning process. Three years ago we had a financial adviser come into our young married group at church and teach us how to budget. We immediately sat down and made a budget for the year. Now every January we sit down and make our plans for the year. Then twice a month I update our spreadsheet and convey where we are to my hubby. Its a work in progress and always flowing, but it has REALLY helped us to get in a better spending plan. We dont always stick to everything, but overall for the year we are always under budget so that's good enough for me for now. We aim to make it realistic and sustainable which makes it achievable. We also meet with a Christian financial adviser that we respect once a year to help us figure out ways that we can tweek things to make it work better that we haven't thought of already. It's amazing where we've come financially in 3 years of trying even with all the stupid housing market crash which is a whole other issue.