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Most of our grandparents survived on one income per household. There was one mortgage, one car, one checking account, and one savings account. Easy peezy.
Not so much anymore.
In fact, only 19 percent of married-couple families rely solely on the husband’s income, while nearly 50 percent are supported by both the husband and wife (The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
With so many dual-income families, the question then becomes how to handle the paychecks. Where does the money go and how are bills paid?
For couples just getting married, it can be tempting to keep separate accounts and split the bill-paying responsibilities. I even have friends who have separate assets (cars and rental properties) because it’s more beneficial for tax purposes. While I can appreciate their unique situation, I think it’s the exception to the rule.
But why do I take issue with keeping finances separate? Here are a few reasons:
- It creates a “mine vs. yours” mentality: “I can buy what I want with my money.” These couples may never discuss “family goals,” much less determine how to pay for them.
- With separate checking accounts, there’s no transparency. This makes it easier to hide expenses, such as the cost of his new phone or the designer bag stuffed in the back of the closet.
- If one person makes significantly more than the other, separate accounts can add to the disparity. The person who makes more can buy more and have a better lifestyle than the one who doesn’t, even though they live under the same roof.
Having separate accounts can make it harder to be flexible if the wife wants to stay home with the baby or the husband wants to quit his job and start a new business. That’s because the question becomes, “Can you afford to do that?” instead of “Can we afford to do that?”
- When a couple experiences struggles (and we all do), having separate accounts and assets makes it just a little bit easier to separate from one another. Not good!
So what does the Bible have to say about all this? It might surprise you, but there are references to married women working and bringing in income (especially the famous Proverbs 31 woman). However, the Jewish people lived in a patriarchal society. While the women would have been responsible for buying food and household items, and may have had an income of their own, it was ultimately the husband’s responsibility to care for the family’s well-being. That being said, there are no prescriptions in the Bible regarding separate checking accounts and assets. But the Bible does talk about related topics, such as:
- Avoiding the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10-11);
- Sharing what you have with others (Acts 2:44-45); and
- Focusing on God instead of money (Luke 12:33-34).
Before Robby and I got married, we agreed to be partners in all things, good and bad. And that included our finances. When I worked in the business world, I brought home a nice paycheck. When I left that job to work from home and pursue my passion for writing, we were able to adjust to the drop in income. When our son Gordon was born last year, we tightened our family belt even more, and we made it work. I’m pleased to say we’re still doing okay.
Pleased and thankful, that is. Because we wouldn’t be doing alright if it weren’t for God’s guidance and provision.
There’s one other thing that’s helped us through these big transitions and fluctuations in our income: a team mindset.
With this in mind, I suggest a team approach to your family’s income. Here are some practical steps:
- Talk to one another. Every month or quarter, sit down and discuss your financial situation. What are your family goals? Are you spending money to meet those goals or wasting it on less fruitful things? Do you have big expenses coming up, or do you want to set aside a bit for yourself? Talk it out.
- Get out of the “mine vs. yours” mentality. Combine those checking and savings accounts and make all income “family money.” That doesn’t mean you can’t buy something for yourself, just that extravagant purchases need to be offset by extravagant savings if you’re to meet those family goals.
- Make a family budget. If it doesn’t work, revise it together. Robby and I use GoodBudget to track our spending and goals online and with a mobile app, and we’ve found it very helpful. Plus it increases transparency, which is really nice.
- Ensure each of you has access to statements, even if one person is responsible for paying the bills. Online accounts have made this easier than ever. As an added bonus, you can act as a back-up if your spouse gets sick or goes out of town and forgets to pay the mortgage.
- If you have separate assets, consider adding the other person to the title or deed. You may want to talk to a tax professional about this first, though.
- Pray together about your finances. Ask God for direction on what jobs you should take, how to spend your money, and how to tithe it. Because in the end, it’s all about God’s will (and it’s really His money, anyway).
If you’re planning to get married, I encourage you to talk about finances with your partner now. It’s so much easier to start off on the right foot than change it later.
That being said, if you’re already married, and you’re dividing the income and responsibilities, you can still adopt a team mentality using the steps above. Talk with your spouse this week. Make a plan and tackle it together. Your wallet will thank you, your future self will thank you, and your marriage will be better for it.
I’d love to hear from you! What methods do you use to encourage faith-focused finances in your house? Leave a comment below to encourage our readers.