Some married people don’t join their finances… I couldn’t believe it either. If they are willing to share a last name, a house, and even a bed, why not a bank account? What makes money different? What happened to, “for richer or for poorer?”
I think it’s some kind of new millennial trend or something, kinda like yoyo’s, or sagging your pants were in the 2000’s. At age 26, I know I am not out of date, but I might be considered “old-fashioned,” on this topic. I believe that a marriage should include unity in all things. This belief is a view of marriage that stems from the Bible. Before continuing to read this post, it’s important that you understand that we read, believe, and attempt to live according to the Bible.
The divorce rate among Christians is said to be the same as non-Christians, so are the Biblical principles surrounding marriage even working? *sarcasm* That should make you cringe. That should motivate you to fight for a faith that is above reproach. A faith that doesn’t bend a knee “in the name of 2016.” A faith that doesn’t compromise on God’s word.
“So, what does this have to do with money, Jer?”
“Becoming one” includes your finances.
The Bible describes marriage as “becoming one.” But how can we “become one” if we keep this very fundamental part of our marriage (how we spend, give, and save our money) separate? I realize that not everyone shares this belief, obviously… but if we are going to agree that the Bible is truth, the living word of God, and that we should obey its teachings, then we can agree on this: “Becoming one” requires giving all of yourself to another, and vice-versa. The Bible goes so far as to say that not even our bodies are not our own anymore, let alone our money… “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” 1 Corinthians 7v4
“A couple cannot be one if they separate their lives by separating their finances…. No viable marriage can survive a “his or her” relationship for long, because it is totally contrary to God’s plan.” -Anonymous
But, if we can’t agree on what the Bible says about unity, including finances within marriage, I think we can agree on the dangers that individual bank accounts may present within a marriage. Money equals power, and the power that money offers, provides a sense of “freedom.” But I would argue, this kind of power induced freedom actually binds us up. A friend once told me, “true freedom doesn’t come from satisfying all of our cravings, it comes from being able to go without the things we crave, and being okay with it!” Surrendering your finances to one another is actually more freeing, than striving to maintain your own financial control… but it takes effort.
Money is a major player in our lives and our marriages. But does it have more power than it should?
Combining your bank accounts with your spouse lessens the power grip we hold on money and it matures and promotes a lot more healthy conversation.
If we are going to live according to God’s word, and walk in obedience and faith to His teachings, then we need to trust that becoming one in our finances is “for our good.” (Romans 8v28) We should believe wholeheartedly that God’s design is the best design for our lives. Under the umbrella of God’s design, there are plenty of different ways for married couples to structure their finances and budget for spending, saving, and giving. (Proverbs 16v9) This article is aimed at debunking three common millennial excuses for separate bank accounts in marriage. But before we dive into the lies, let’s seek the truth.
If we are looking at marriage as a contract or agreement for personal fulfillment and happiness, then I could see this whole millennial trend having some validity…. However, if we are coming at this from a Biblical point of view, marriage is a sacred union that is designed to highlight the beauty of the gospel and bring glory to God.
The Meaning Of Marriage
Marriage is a covenant. A covenant is a sacred promise. It is a 100% commitment to someone, no matter the circumstances. Covenants are devoted, committed, indispensable, and unconditional vows. If we believe the Bible, and are committed to living by it, then we know that the marriage covenant is designed and set up by God between a husband and a wife, and that it is for our good (Matthew 19v4-6; Ephesians 5v22-23; 1 Corinthians 7; Mark 10v6-9; Genesis 2v22-24) God even said (Genesis 2v18), “It was not good for man to be alone.”
Marriage is also a journey. A journey to what? A journey to complete oneness. A journey in understanding God more, and becoming more like Christ.
“Its got to be the going not the getting there that’s good” – Harry Chapin
Marriage is designed for something greater than fulfilling our needs and making us happy. As Gary Chapman puts it, “What if marriage was designed to make us holy, not happy?” However, culture has sought to reinvent marriage. Nowadays, it’s acceptable to believe that the sole purpose of marriage is to make us feel happy and in love. It’s also acceptable to give up, rather than change ourselves. When those feelings fade, well… break up and remarry. Or, completely abandon marriage altogether. In either case, we are left to ignorantly believe that marriage is the problem, and not us.
Marriage is not a consumer relationship, it’s a covenant relationship. Viewing your marriage as a covenant will make you more focused on what you have to give to the relationship, rather than what you can get from it. This is evidence of a thriving marriage; two givers, giving of their time, their lifestyle, their bodies, their love, and… their finances to one another.
I recently read an article in the New York Post that listed out some reasons for having separate bank accounts. Among these reasons include; unsure about the future of the relationship, can’t agree on joint financial goals, suspicious about financial infidelity, or incompatible financial habits (i.e. shopaholic married to a spendthrift). As I was reading this list, I couldn’t help but notice that all of these reasons are rooted in lies, lack of trust, or a resistance to oneness. Perhaps these reasons suggest that the issue is greater than bank accounts… Shouldn’t we be confident in the future of our relationship? Shouldn’t we learn to communicate in a way that achieves our financial goals? Shouldn’t we trust that our spouse wouldn’t make a financial decision that is not good for the team? And shouldn’t marriage require us to change the financial habits we had when we were single?
*Before I go any further, I want to say something – OF COURSE there are exceptions to combining finances. This article is primarily speaking to people who are seeking to live in faith and obedience to God’s word, who are in their first marriage, or who are engaged and soon to be married (if this is not you, some of my points may not apply).
4 excuses that prevent us from joining our finances in marriage:
A reluctance to combining bank accounts is often rooted in fear. It can be rooted in the fear of growing up, or the fear of losing your ideal financial utopia. I have found this to be true after many conversations with friends and couples who do and don’t share their finances. Separate bank accounts are commonly rooted in a desire to have full financial control and freedom.
However, nothing reveals priorities like actions. And if oneness is your priority, then your finances should follow.
Scripture also tells us that, “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1Tim 6v10). Money can control our thoughts and motives without us even knowing it. We think we have control of it, but then we just-can’t-seem-to-let-it-go completely. We allow our ways take precedence over God’s ways. We allow our fear trump our faith.
2. The marriage might fail, what then?
Well, with that attitude it already has. I’m half kidding… but seriously. We can’t go into marriage already expecting failure. Nothing says there is no plan-b like actually living like there is no plan-b.
As you read this, if you are validating financial separation by thinking, “but what if my marriage doesn’t work out…?” then you have already prioritized money over your marriage. You are more concerned about your money failing than your marriage failing. This lie is also rooted in fear. But if our marriage is rooted and grounded in love, “Perfect love drives out all fear.” 1John4v18. Treating your marriage as a covenant will inevitably replace these fears with, peace, comfort, joy, hope, security, and “perfect love.”
3. Joint-checking causes fighting
You’ve probably heard it before in Christian circles… money is among the top three areas of conflict within marriage (sex, finances and family). The thing is, structuring your finances separately will not eliminate financial conflict. Whether you have joint-checking or individual accounts, there will still be bills and savings, expenses and investments, gifts to purchase, sudden emergencies, goals to achieve, dreams to chase, funds to raise, kids to help etc. Separate bank accounts will not reduce financial arguments, and from what I have observed, it may actually increase the potential of fighting about money. Fighting for what’s yours is different than fighting about what’s ours. Fighting for what’s yours can expose bitterness, stubbornness, selflessness, and secrecy. These things usually lead to more fighting… Fighting about what is “ours” (as a married couple) usually prompts a conversation that leads to resolve. Fights that seek a solution are worth “fighting for.”
4. My husband/wife has tons of premarital debt
It is important to know if your spouse has debt, prior to the wedding day. Obviously, this is not so that you can call off the marriage because of a college loan…. this is so that you can financially plan for your marriage, not just your wedding.
Debt owed is not something to shy away from. However, it demands a discussion. As an engaged couple, you should discuss any debt incurred, your spending habits, and your outlook on money. For Audrey and I, it was helpful to discuss our parents’ outlook on money and their spending, saving, and giving habits. This also helped us to understand where we were each coming from, and helped us develop our own financial structure. We actually joined our bank accounts prior to our wedding day, (because we were excited to) and we highly recommend it! It’s just one less thing to worry about on the post-wedding to-do-list. Amidst wedding expenses, our honeymoon, filing our marriage with the state, changing Audrey’s last name and SS, paying our first/last months rent, buying a car, ect., we were thankful for joint-checking.
Premarital financial circumstances are no excuse to keep your finances separate. Remember, you are one now (Mark 10v8). It’s that whole “what’s mine is yours” thing. Except I would change that saying to, “What’s mine is ours.”
If your spouse is really your priority, then act like it. Team up with them and crush the debt together. Chances are you’ll feel like the Timbers winning the MLS championship last year! Instead of a fan cheering them on (while actually having very little to do with the success).
Marriage is designed to strengthen the bond of intimacy, faithfulness, and love between two people. Validating selfish advantages, like refusing to take on your spouses debt, will prevent the goodness of oneness from flourishing.
Married couples that have financial independence, prefer not to be accountable to anyone, or to be told “no”… to anything. Money is a very difficult asset to manage, and let’s be honest… few of us do it well on our own.
We can’t keep our bank accounts the way they were when we were single, just like we can’t keep our bedroom the way it was when we were single. Of course, it’s easier to separate your finances than it is to face your bad spending habits, poor budgeting, or financial accountability… But when did marriage stop affecting the way we lived when we were single?
Let’s just say you are amazing with money, and your spouse struggles, so that’s why you want to keep your finances separate. I would argue, that you are valuing money over unity. But that’s backwards. We need to be valuing our unity over our money, even if it ruins our credit.
Recently, I had a conversation with some friends of ours who are married and are financially independent. They were discussing their rent situation, and they mentioned that she literally has to borrow money from him, to pay her half of the rent… The division created through these circumstances is inevitable. I bit my tongue in astonishment… Their circumstances certainly did not resemble a team, demonstrate sacrifice, or embody, “to death do us part.” The oneness of marriage is something that the world screams against, but if we have a Christ-centered perspective on marriage, it is supposed to look different than the world.
Again, marriage is an “all-in” lifelong commitment.
So, why are so many people dismissing finances from that commitment?
Financial independence makes it easier to justify selfish actions, such as buying what you want, “It’s my money, I can do what I want with it.” What if you said that about your sex life, your house, or your children? Right… you probably wouldn’t…This independent mindset is not dedicated to benefiting the team, your marriage. Marriage is a covenant, and if a covenant is ever going to work, it needs to be fully and completely treated like one.
I’m certainly not a marriage counselor or financial expert, but I believe that oneness in marriage includes your finances. Financial oneness is supposed to promote transparency and accountability, not secrecy and autonomy.
Here are a few reasons we have collected that advocate for joint checking:
– Cultivates a spirit yielded to oneness
– Promotes trust in your relationship
– Simplifies paying bills and expenses
– Gives your family a clear financial picture
– Encourages communication regarding spending habits
– Forces accountability
– Is helpful in a crisis or emergency
– Makes you feel like you are on the same team
– Get’s you excited about reaching your financial goals together
Our aim (in life and with this blog) is to revive marriages that are driven by unity, oneness, and love. We want to encounter more people that are committed “till death do us part.” With a vow like that, no mountain is too high, no valley too low, no trial to hard, to resist change for the sake of oneness.
Communicate early, and frequently about your financial habits and decisions. Start talking to your fiancé or spouse about how you are handling your money today. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did!
We would encourage you to ask yourself: Is how we handle our finances promoting oneness, or inhibiting it?
– Jeremy Roloff