If all the key factors in your relationship right now are pointing towards love and marriage, it is time to have a substantial understanding of how your potential future spouse thinks about the topic and issues related to money. Now, before you dismiss this as cold or irrelevant to your decision-making criteria, please read further.
The Money Topic is Important
Let’s look at how important this money issue can become after you have said, “I do.”
In a 2012 government-sponsored academic study, researchers examined data related to what couples argue about—including children, money, in-laws, and spending time together—and then looked at which of those couples were divorced four to five years later. According to an article about the study, financial arguments were the leading area of disagreement to predict divorce for both men and women. “In the study, we controlled for income, debt and net worth,” lead researcher Sonya Britt said. “Results revealed it didn’t matter how much you made or how much you were worth. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels.”
Britt’s research provides even more insights about the toll that constant conflict over money takes on our marriages: a) it takes longer to recover from money arguments than any other kind of argument; b) money arguments are more intense, and c) couples often use harsher language with each other, and the argument lasts longer.
So, let’s take a deep breath and face the financial facts before we get too far along. Money may seem like no big deal now but can become nasty in just a few short years after the honeymoon. Here are three questions to ask at the right time and place.
The Three Questions
Question #1. Do you mind if we exchange Credit Reports? It is important to know the facts about how much they really owe, if they have been faithful in managing their credit and if they are willing to be transparent with you about their financial condition. Check with AnnualCreditScore.com or NerdWallet.com for a free report. An unwillingness to do this is a red flag.
Question #2. Do you mind sharing your financial goals in writing with me? What’s important here is to learn a) if they have any financial goals, b) what those goals indicate about their priorities and c) what they value. For instance, if their goal is to make lots of money and join a country club to play golf every Saturday, that tells you a lot about b) and c) above. Check to see if their financial goals include charitable giving, advancing the gospel or helping others. Seek to learn the most influential source of their financial attitudes and training.
Question # 3. Would you be willing to get some financial training together to help us start our relationship with a united plan? What you are looking for here is a heart attitude related to the subject. If your significant other is willing to get prepared for the potentially most significant area of challenge you will face as a couple, you will be far ahead of the vast majority of couples who tie the knot. Seek financial training from a Christian perspective.
Time and Place
These questions should not be asked until there is a strong level of commitment on both parts but certainly prior to an engagement. It is not necessary to ask them at the same time. Be discerning. The optimum time is when the exploration of interest in marriage is just beginning. The location is also important. Don’t ask when you are out on a romantic date. Ask when you are in a comfortable place with time to pray, talk and share without coming across as threatening. You are making a bold step to get sensitive information that can make or break your future as a couple.
May God use these three questions for your good and the one you love.
Chuck Bentley and wife, Ann, have been married for 38 years. He is the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Together they have authored a new book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions, 7 Keys to Aligning Your Finances and Uniting Your Hearts that helps couples get on the same page relationally and financially.