Robert Louis Shepard, PhD
Marriage and Money
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
An email was sent to me from someone seeking mentoring in their marriage:
I understand the idea in marriage that two become as one. I am married but it's hard to have my wife tell me what to do with my money. How am I suppose to do this? Should we open a joint account and close all other separate accounts? Or can we open one joint family account but I keep a separate account for myself? With my separate account my wife would not tell me what I can do and not do with my hard earned money. Also I have a business checking account. How do you recommend that I proceed? How do you handle the finances in your house?
Thanks for your email and reaching out for help. At the end there are some links on the subject of how to handle money in marriage God's way.
Men often find it hard to ask for help of any sort. With money being a major reason for divorce, requesting help with your family finances speaks volumes about your desire for your marriage to work. Hopefully the comments that follow are helpful. Your points or questions have been separated and numbered as they appear in your email so the responses are easy to follow.
1st Point: I understand about the whole becoming as one. I know we are married.
Response: No one can become "ONE" just because they are married. Your understanding God's concept of "two becoming one in marriage" is important. The Christian concept of a godly marriage is found in the Bible in Mark 10:8, King James Version (KJV). So you and your wife are one "ONLY IF YOU HAVE GOD AS THE GLUE THAT KEEPS THE TWO OF YOU TOGETHER."
2nd Point: It's hard to have my wife tell me what to do with my money. I will try this.
Response: Your wife should not try to tell you what to do with "YOUR" money or anything else you consider to be "YOURS." To restate again, a Christian marriage is based on the concept of two becoming one resulting in "OURS" and not "YOURS and MINE."
Money can often be at the center of marital difficulties. However, husbands and wives must understand that finances need to be discussed in a healthy fashion for the family to grow and prosper financially. The financial discussions might feel like each are telling the other what to do. The way to get over this is to pray and ask God to help bring about a change in attitude in this area. This point is important but can be hard and difficult for young couples to understand without mentors whose modeling such characteristics in front of them.
3rd Point: How am I suppose to do this?
Response: The principle of operating as one in a marriage can be difficult for newly weds and couples that have been married for some time. The way to get over this is to through prayer and asking God to help bring about a change in attitude in this area. Since a God-center marriage no longer operate on mines and yours, the new conversation focuses on the couples' plans based on how God is blessing the family financially as a whole.
Also, seek out Christian couples who are willing to serve as mentors in modeling oneness in every aspect of their lives, including their handling of finances. Support from Christian couples can demonstrate what is involved to operate in marriage as a "TEAM."
4th Point: Do we open a joint account?
Response: Yes. Open a JOINT checking account. This account will be used to handle ALL of the family's financial needs on a monthly bases. What constitutes ALL of the family's financial needs? ALL will differ for each family. But here are some monthly financial needs that every family has that a JOINT checking account is used for. Some examples of what would be included are mortgage, utilities, grocery, student loans, car note, food, entertainment, etc. So the JOINT account is for making sure that the household does not go lacking for anything financially.
Couples operating as a team can also start thinking about joint savings (Emergency) account. This account could be for things like the washing machine, hot water heater gives out, or car breaking down and these things MUST be replaced/fixed RIGHT NOW. These emergencies would be paid for with money from the joint savings account.
By remaining focused and operating as a "TEAM" the couple can engage in investment planning for their future. However, your household finances might not be to a point right now where money can be put away that you cannot touch until you are 59 and 1/2 years old. But these are the kind of things you can start thinking about and discussing when a couple is working from a position of "OURS" and not "MINE."
5th Point: Do we close all of our other accounts?
Response: No. Since you and your wife started your marriage from a point of independence, the two of you might consider maintaining individual checking accounts. These accounts would be funded by "EXTRA MONEY." What is the definition of EXTRA MONEY from a family standpoint?
Extra money is defined here as monies left over in the month that is not needed to take care of the family household expenses. Extra money might be needed for a variety of other things. It could consist of financial obligations needed outside the family that one spouse does not want the other spouse to know about. This might include a spouse having a:
Habit (gambling, drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, etc.).
Large debt they owe for something they don't want to bring into the marriage.
A financial responsibility for another family or children they have not told their spouse about.
Christian marriages are founded on openness and trust.
6th Point: I have a business checking account. How do you recommend we do this?
Response: If your for-profit business has a Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approved Employee Identification Number (EIN) or non-profit business has been so deemed by the IRS as a 501(c)3 entity, then definitely keep the business account separate. Business money is handled on a different Schedule than the one for personal income tax. Business men and women should be aware of why business accounts and the funds associated with them are kept separate from family accounts relative to tax consequences.
Businesses that do not have an EIN and are operating under a personal SSN (Social Security Number) should also have a separate bank account from the family accounts. This clean separation of resources will make tax filings cleaner and more business like. When operating businesses under SSN, the monies are file with ones personal income taxes. This aspect of a separate account should be discussed so that it does not bring about division and problems in marriages. But it can in situations where couples are not working together. Also, this is what can sometimes bring about problems individuals have with the IRS when claiming to have a business enterprise but based on the IRS Tax Code the entity is not a business. Now the family finances are involved when this could have been avoided when working as a team, i.e., filing Joint or Separate tax returns.
7th Point: How do you do the finances in your house?
Response: The finances in our household have ALWAYS been under a JOINT checking and JOINT saving accounts. When we got to a point of having enough money to invest we were way into our marriage. We could look and see that God had blessed us to have enough EXTRA money not only for emergencies, but financial resources we could now put away for when we turned old. From the beginning of our marriage we worked as a TEAM.
Change is not easy but our faith can help us embrace something different and new.