‘Don’t fight about money because after you have said mean things to each other, the amount of money in the bank will be the same.’ ~ Anonymous
Financial disagreements are among the leading cause of fights in marriages today. Many couples argue largely on the use of money. It is no wonder many pre-marital classes encourage couples to have candid discussions on the topic prior to getting married. Hopefully, one can gain insights on their partner’s money mindset. Our backgrounds play a key role on how we view money and it is important to understand this. For example, if one grew up in a family with money issues, such issues may crop up during courtship or marriage.
I have been asked to touch on whether it is okay to disclose earnings to either your spouse or future spouse. This is a pertinent question. There are varied views on the matter, which bear legitimate arguments.
Let us start with those in favor of disclosure.
One of our mentors introduced us to the ‘common pot’ concept, where a couple bring together all their earnings and agree jointly on how to use the monies. This can certainly be done through pulling the money together in a joint account or guided by a budget. I shared this view in my article Till Money Do Us Part?. Proponents of the common pot principle see value in declaring their assets and investments for the benefit of the family. This is driven by a level of trust between the spouses and a belief that everyone is working in the best interest of the other.
There is also the view that disclosure helps reduce unnecessary fights down the road if one discovers ‘undisclosed financial resources’ later. Granted, some financial discussions are not easy. In most of our communities, talking about money can be quite uncomfortable. However, if one is secretive about their finances, this can lead to mistrust and resentment.
There are those who argue that if you can give your body wholly to your spouse, why wouldn’t you share your pocket with your spouse and give your finances wholly as well?
Sharing the financial information can give one a good picture of where they stand on their budget, income and expenses. It helps the couple build on a life together. But such disclosure can only work if done by both parties.
Why do others choose not to disclose their finances?
The reasons abound. Once you disclose your earnings, one’s success and independence gets easily judged. There are also cases where spouses attain an entitlement mentality to their spouse’s income because they know how much they earn. They will find a way of dictating or finding ways on how the funds should be used. Any money declared will find use.
Where one of the spouses is bringing in the dough, there may be an inclination to control how the finances are used without disclosing just how much that partner is earning. Other couples do not want to go through the trouble of having to agree on each and every spending. Joint finances would force one to be held accountable to the other on use and where the monies should be kept.
In certain cases, disclosure may be difficult because of the nature of the relationship, especially where there is abuse. This could arise from a spouse learning that their spouse, especially female, earns more or has spent money in ways that were not aligned with their spouse. There could also be cases of financial infidelity, where spouses with combined finances lie to each other about money. One may have gotten into huge debts or spends excessively. Once such issues are unearthed, the other spouse may choose to withhold any further information regarding their finances because of lack of trust.
How to address concerns raised
It is important to have an agreement on which approach works for the couple. Therefore, communicate. In addition, it is important to discuss whether the husband’s money is for all and the wife’s is hers only. Is the husband okay with not knowing what the wife earns? What happens in the event that either spouse loses their job? Shouldn’t you also know all the property owned by your spouse, bank accounts and critical documents like titles to property or insurances?
In a world where more women are working, it is important for the woman to not only contribute to the family’s finances, but show financial interest on any financial decisions that need to be made. We are aware of many women who have no idea of their financial standing because they left all decisions to the husband. If he is no longer in the picture, it can be stressful for the woman. It is important for a couple to be on the same page regarding their financial goals. Your partner’s money situation will definitely affect you.
For dating couples, it is advisable that as you take time to learn each other, get to talk about money earlier on in the relationship when it is starting to get serious. Besides talking, observe the other’s spending habits. Where there are disagreements on the approaches towards money, take the chance to discuss and not brush over the matter. Talk about whether you prefer separate or joint accounts, debt situations (if any), financial dreams (e.g. a home, education) or even tithing and giving. Is there anything you consider a deal-breaker?
We are called to be good stewards of the financial resources God has given us.
- God gives us the ability to produce wealth – Deuteronomy 8.18. Allow God to be at the centre of your financial attitudes and decisions. Don’t let money take center stage.
- And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:19. Remember this especially where your spouse hides their resources. God will provide.
Regularly check whether you are on track to being good stewards of what God has given you, whether as a couple or an individual. Avoid keeping financial secrets as well as they will erode the trust in the relationship. Do not commit financial infidelity. Where this has already taken place, seek to resolve it, even with the help of a counsellor.
Let’s get talking.