Marriage and Money
- Friday, December 05, 2003
Money may not be able to buy happiness, but managing it correctly can certainly make married life less stressful. Too many marriages die an early death at the hand of financial mismanagement and others stay together but live in misery. What makes this even more difficult to stomach is that applying the basic principles I’ll discuss in this article can prevent this tremendous strain on marriage relationships.
Dan and Sherry lived in a two-story house in an expensive area of town. They made payments on the two brand-new cars parked in their driveway. Both worked very hard at their jobs and many of their meals were eaten at restaurants because neither of them had time or energy leftover to prepare supper at the end of the workday.
Both Dan and Sherry often worked late on job-related projects. Many days the couple saw each other only moments before they collapsed into bed. Because of the physical and mental stress placed on each of them by their careers, the two rarely felt like making love.
When Dan informed Sherry he wanted to divorce her, she was devastated. “We already have two separate lives,” he said. “I don’t even know who you are! We work so hard to fund all this stuff that we never get to work on our relationship.”
If she wants to save her marriage, Sherry must implement the first and most basic principle when it comes to managing marriage and money. It may sound basic, but it is essential to mending her marriage. That rule, according to Joe Beam (marriage expert and president of Family Dynamics Institute) is “deciding what is most important.”
Sherry must choose between an expensive lifestyle and keeping her husband.
As you might expect, Sherry chose to save her marriage at any cost. She knew she might have to do without things she enjoys, but decided her marriage was worth it.
They realized that paying off their debt would be more difficult if one of them stopped working but decided to take semi-drastic measures in the plan they developed. The plan was to sell their new cars and large house. The cars sold for what Dan and Sherry owed on them. Fortunately, they were able to sell their home for more than they paid for it and used the extra money to buy two used cars. Because they were able to buy the cars outright, monthly car payments became unnecessary. The couple moved into an apartment and started making rental payments that were less than what they were paying each month on the house loan. At this point, they were financially able for Sherry to quit her job.
They decided credit cards would be for emergency situations only. When they needed something, they would pay with cash or check and if they wanted something but couldn’t afford it, they would save their money until it could be paid for with cash.
Dan and Sherry have completed step two — decreasing debt.
Sherry worked to make their home a place for each of them to rest and relax together. She found she enjoyed the days at home and felt much less stress then when she had a job. In addition to the money saved by selling their new cars and their house, they saved money that would have gone to restaurants because Sherry had time to cook regular meals at home. Dan and Sherry’s relationship improved because they spent more quality time together and had only one schedule to work around. Sherry also found she could comfort Dan with the stress of his job because she was less stressed herself.
But they didn’t stop there. After paying off their credit-card debt, they developed a budget that kept them on track so they could save the extra money at the end of each month. With that money, they contributed regularly to their savings account and the investments recommended by their financial advisor. After a few years, they had a sizable sum of money.
One night after supper, Dan shared some pleasant news with Sherry. “I used to worry about retirement. I’d wonder if we’d ever have enough money set aside to retire or if we’d work for the rest of our lives. But now, not only can I see how we will be able to retire at age sixty-five, but I think we might be able to retire earlier than that!”
Dan and Sherry have now completed step three. After eliminating as much debt as possible in their lives, they can realistically look toward financial independence.
Much happened to Dan and Sherry over the next several years. After having a son, they decided to purchase a house they could comfortably afford and pay off as soon as possible. That way, in time they could eliminate their most expensive monthly payment. They took vacations together and were able to eat out more because of the amount of money they had built. They didn’t have to use credit cards because they had the money to pay for such things all at once.
When Dan and Sherry retired around age fifty, they did so comfortably. In an effort to increase their finances even more, they purchased some commercial property and had storage buildings built. They rented the storage buildings to people and businesses that needed extra space to store infrequently used items. After two or three years of focused work, they hired a small staff to help them run the business so they could spend most of their time doing things they enjoyed. The income from their business was steady and new buildings were built to accommodate more customers.
“I’ll be able to leave our business to our son one day,” Dan told Sherry. “It will be a constant and secure source of income for him when he is ready to start a family of his own.”
Eventually, their son, Jonathan, reaped the benefits of his parent’s hard work and logical planning. Potentially, his grandchildren and later generations could have financial security because of the efforts of Dan and Sherry.
Obviously, this exact plan will not work for every couple. But these basic rules will help anyone plan for the future by getting his or her money under control.
Do you remember the steps?
The first step is deciding what’s more important. Dan and Sherry chose to live a lifestyle they could afford while being able to spend more time together and have a home environment where they could relax and enjoy being together.
The second step is implementing a lifestyle with long term plans. This means making a budget and sticking to it. This will eliminate a great deal of stress and will ensure funds for your retirement savings. Dan and Sherry contributed to a savings account and sought the advice of a professional to help them invest their money. You’d do well to do the same.
The third step is to seek financial independence. Dan and Sherry did not want to live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of their lives. They worked to retire early and used their money to extend their earning capacity by starting a business. Because of their desire to be financially independent, their son, if he chooses, can build on what his parents started and provide his family with financial security.
For further reading and detailed instruction on the subject of debt removal, finances, and financial independence, I recommend “No Debt, No Sweat!: Catching Up, Getting Ahead, and Enjoying Life” by Steve Diggs.
© 2003 Family Dynamics Institute
Lee Wilson is a ministry consultant at Family Dynamics Institute, a marriage and family ministry that works with churches and concerned Christians to build strong, healthy marriages. You can visit their Web site at www.familydynamics.net or call them at 1-800-650-9995. If you are interested in working with married couples at your church, ask for Lee.
To learn how God can help you make your marriage all it should be and all you want it to be, click here to purchase "Becoming One: Emotionally, Spiritually, Sexually," written by Joe Beam, the president of Family Dynamics Institute.
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