The money stages of marriage By Guy Williams
Churches and financial counselors often recommend premarital counseling. I join them and encourage couples to spend some time with a skilled counselor before marriage.
The reason is marriage is one of the most studied institutions in history, so there is a field of real knowledge available to those who are willing to learn. The other reason is strong marriages lead to strong families and communities. It is in all of our best interests to encourage stable marriages.
Over half of divorces are related to financial problems, so let’s look at the stages of marriage and the money issues that go with each stage.
The first stage is the most exciting. True love. Your partner is perfect, you can’t be together enough and all financial issues are irrelevant since being together is better than money. And anyway, when you get married you will have two incomes and half of the expenses.
The next stage is reality setting in. There actually isn’t twice the money and your partner isn’t perfect. Often times credit card debt is used to maintain the desired lifestyle.
The next stage is “I love you, you’re perfect, now change” (title borrowed from an off-Broadway play that closed after 5,003 performances). At this stage arguments ensue. Often one partner will try to control the other and divorce is often an unfortunate occurrence at this point in a marriage.
The next stage is acceptance and compromise. If the finances have been mismanaged, this stage can be tough but ultimately leads to stability.
The last stage is the return of mature romantic love seasoned with acceptance.
While these stages are predictable and common, you can skip the drama with some serious discussion and preplanning. The advice is to talk through what is important and determine what your financial goals are. Are big vacations important? Do you want to rent or own? How many children would you like? Is a stay-at-home spouse important? These discussions with a skilled expert can reveal differences before they become problems. I remember thinking that we would have two dogs before discovering that my wife was a cat person.
I encourage couples to set percentage goals for major categories of spending. The base setting is to save 20 percent, keep fixed expenses like car notes and mortgages below 40 percent and spend 30 percent. We recommend that the last 10 percent be used for charitable giving to your religious group or some other worthwhile groups. Many people question this 10 percent give away, but after forty-five years of banking, I can say definitively, that the folks who give 10 percent away always end up better emotionally and financially than those who give little or nothing away.
Money issues can ruin a marriage. They can lead to stress and unresolved resentment. An open discussion and compromise can right the ship and move the couple to a mature, committed romantic love that lasts. The best time to have these discussions is before you get married, but they are helpful at any time.
Knowing about your money issues can help you rediscover the joy of marriage and lead more quickly to financial and marital harmony.
Guy Williams is president and chief executive officer of Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company. Their Kenner branch office is located at 3410 Williams Boulevard. Marcel Gonzalez, vice-president and branch manager can be contacted at 565-3656. Brian Behlar, vice president and commercial lender, can be contacted at 565-3661. Visit Gulf Coast Bank and Trust’s website at www.gulfbank.com.
Article Posted On: May 28, 2018 - By: Allie Munster