I have meant to write about this topic for some time now, so today I’ll finally bite the bullet and get ‘er done.
This is a word of advice to any of you who find yourself in a serious relationship or married, primarily. I know everyone has their own way of approaching finances, and I’ll just open by saying that this is my opinion, and nothing more. Like anything written on this blog, you are free to take what you like and leave the rest! So without further ado…
Trust is a vital cornerstone of any relationship. Trust is something that is earned and built over time, not overnight. Every small action every day in a relationship either builds or erodes away at the trust between two individuals. In finances, this is no different and is maybe even amplified. So how is financial trust built?
Transparency – Like I said, I know people get it done in different ways, but we have found that complete and total transparency is absolutely critical in being able to build healthy financial trust. Our primary checking account is through a bank called Simple. With Simple, we each have our own personal account, and then we share a joint checking account in between. Sort of think of it like a Venn diagram. We each have a very small amount of money in each of our personal accounts, but the lion’s share of our money at any given time is in that shared checking account. When I got to BestBuy to purchase a gadget, I slide my debit card for that shared account, and both Jos and I get a notification on our phones instantly with the business and total amount spent from the account. If that makes you sweat, you should probably have an inward look at why that might be!
This transparency has become as normal and easy as breathing for us. The point is not to be the police for one another, but rather it is to keep each other in check. If I saw Jos swiping for a coffee a few days in a row, I might ask her about it. When I buy something technology-related, say for $50, she is going to kindly ask me what I bought. Both of us know where our money is going. “Our” money – this will lead me to my next point.
Togetherness – The Bible tells us that we are not to keep track of a record of wrongs with our spouse. This is basically scorekeeping, right? Keeping a scorecard of the way that our partner has hurt us or messed up. So why would we do that with finances? I am a firm believer that the bulk of a couple’s money should be in a joint account, with both names on it. When you get married, the two become one flesh, and the bank accounts should too. When Jos was in graduate school and unable to work, I didn’t lord it over her that I was making money and she wasn’t (or at least I didn’t try to – sorry honey, for when I did!). The money that landed in our account from my payday was always OUR money, not my money. When she needed to go out and buy some new clothes for a placement or internship, I didn’t tell her to go use her own money. It’s our money.
The main reason I would encourage this mode of operation is that it is so easy to get into the mindset of owing this or that to one another. This way of thinking clouds the fact that in a relationship, both sides bring specific talents and abilities to the table. Currently, my salary is a bit higher than Jos’. Ask me to decorate or make the house feel “more like home” and I am basically useless. Our house would look like the inside of a prison if the interior design was left to me. Jos loves to cook and is an incredible hostess! If I was in charge of that, it would be Little Caesar’s pizza every time. When I get dressed, I can barely get anything to match or look decent. If it wasn’t for her, I’d go out on the town on a Friday night looking like trash. One of the biggest ways that we’ve been able to cut down our spending the last few years have been with meal preps on Sundays. Once again, ring up a bunch of points for her for all the ways she contributes to our financial well-being. There is way more to a relationship than simple dollar amounts. We each pull our own weight in unique and completely valuable ways.
My last point I’ll make about togetherness is that the victories and defeats are shared when all the money is a collective “ours”. Early on in Forest Grove, we had to replace the wheel bearings in the front of our 2008 Prius. It was $600 and we had very little money to spare. Instead of this turning into a fight about who was going to pay for it, or who’s car it was and who’s the responsibility it was to maintain it, we both were able to discuss it and spend the money from our joint account. On the flip side, when we finish paying off a loan, it is a chance for us to both rejoice equally in that win together. She didn’t pay it off, I didn’t pay it off. WE paid it off. So let’s go celebrate!
Teamwork – Life is more bearable, and more fun, when you have someone on your team. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says that “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” There are days when I do not make good choices financially. I want to go out to eat when we’ve already been out recently, or I want a new gadget to add to my tech collection. There are days when I just want to say screw it! and give up on our journey towards being debt-free. And Jos is always right there to help remind me what we are doing and why we are doing it.
When I have a strong paycheck or bonus, I don’t feel the need to pocket it or put it in my personal account, because I look at all the ways Jos lifts me up along the way, and my heart’s inclination because of that is that I want to help put us both into a better financial position. We both contribute, we both make loan and debt payments, we both keep one another on course for the goals that lie ahead. Because of the trust we have, we are able to spur each other on.
Trust takes time and it takes intentional steps. But the reward is worth it. You will find that financial trust spills over into other areas of your life and relationship, and can bring you much closer than you would be otherwise. Trust builds intimacy, intimacy grows love, and the cycle can continue to feed itself.
If all of this sounds like too much or too scary of an ordeal, start with a simple conversation. Try to be honest and open with your significant other about where you are at, what your expectations are, and how you would like to help one another toward achieving your goals (financial and otherwise) together. You’ve got this!