Friday, January 28, 2011

Marriage, Money, and Madness

It’s the last week of January. At my house, this means the beginning of tax season. Since I'm married to an accountant, our income taxes usually get filed right away. This is out of necessity more than anything else because soon there will be a stack of files needing my husband’s attention before April 15.

The first year we were married our tax return took us both by surprise. When Jeff finished entering the data, he thought it couldn’t be right. So he recalculated the whole thing. It was correct. Since we had each worked full-time the previous year, and our W-4 forms had been filled out years before as “single,” then our combined federal and state return as “married” people, including several appropriate deductions, ended up being an unexpected blessing.

But what surprised us the most was how quickly this blessing turned into something else.

Immediately, my wheels started turning. Knowing how much my husband disdains doing anything on credit, I could now imagine us remodeling our 50-year-old kitchen without having to take out a small loan for it. Or perhaps a trip to Europe? Oh, the possibilities!

Then Jeff said, “Honey, do you know what we could do with this sum of money?”

I was way ahead of him, “Yeah, I do!”

Jeff continued, “We can put this whole amount towards the principal on our mortgage!”

I almost started laughing. Surely he must be joking. But the excitement in his voice indicated otherwise. Then the reality of our situation hit me. Oh my goodness, he’s serious!

I stared at him in silence for a moment, weighing the scenario and determining my best approach. Okay, I was really compiling a mental list of reasons why it would be a rational and logical course of action to improve the value of our home by upgrading our kitchen. I chose this route since I could already see that Europe was out.

Unfortunately, what should have been a wonderful opportunity to be grateful instead became our first major argument. We could not agree on how to spend the money.

While the particulars of this circumstance may be unique to us, I don’t think it’s uncommon for couples to sometimes struggle over how to manage their finances.

In the beginning of our marriage, I wanted Jeff to see things my way, and he wanted me to see things his way. We were both convinced that our own perspective on spending was the right one. This could have become a long-term problem in our marriage, but thankfully, we figured out a way to navigate our differences of opinion without harboring resentment.

Through much prayer and contemplation – in other words, after I failed to get God on my side – God showed me that Jeff’s way of handling money is conservative, yes, but with Jeff in charge, we are not likely to ever find ourselves in any kind of dire financial straits. Jeff is not one to take risky chances or make foolish errors in judgment. His conservative side provides a pillar of stability and security for our family. And for that, I not only respect his point of view, but I have learned to truly appreciate this part of him.

At the same time, Jeff has stretched and grown in the area of generous giving (and shopping). He tells me that he loves the way I want to care for our children by making sure their material needs are met. And with careful planning, we decide together which fun things we can do with our resources.

With our first tax return, we didn’t go with either of our initial plans. We used part of it to pay off a moderate credit card balance, and we used the rest on some smaller house projects. It was a compromise, and we learned a lot about each other in the process.

God made all of us unique individuals. Some people are savers; some are spenders. I suppose if two spenders are married, then they might have some fun for a while, but eventually, their spending habits might catch up with them. On the other hand, two savers might be well off with their abundant savings account, but they might miss out on opportunities to give and be a blessing to others. If a marriage has one of each, then it is very possible they spend part of their marriage fighting over money.

For me, finding value in my husband’s approach to managing finances is one of the ways I follow the words of Ephesians 5:33 and respect my husband. The blessings that have followed this decision have far outweighed anything else. And so far, Europe is still in the same place it was when we got married. So it’s become something to look forward to, someday.

What are some of the ways that you and your spouse honor God in the way you navigate this road of marriage and finances?



Terry said...

Great post! You made me laugh when you wrote about your reaction to your husband's idea to pay down the mortgage. Great model of how a husband and wife can have different points of view, but still work together as God intended.

Marsha Young said...

It took a few years, but one day (or decade) I suddenly realized that my conservative saver-spouse had never given me bad financial advise.

It has made it possible for us to enjoy a comfortable retirement with the resources to do many things we might not have been able to otherwise. So I am thankful.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

this is so good, D.J. - it is always amusing to me how different spouses are in their thinking. I know that my husband and I are like polar opposites! But somehow it all balances out and where one of us is weak the other is strong.



Great story, DJ!
The bottom line was that you submitted to the authority of your husband who is under the authority of his Jesus!

God's ways always work best!

Choosing JOY in this season,

D.J. Hughes said...

Thanks, Terry. I think laughter is so important. And, yes, it is possible to have different points of view but still "work together as God intended"! Have a blessed day!

Marsha, it's wonderful that your many years of hard work have resulted in a comfortable retirement.

Beth, I think you're right. Spouses with differing views on finances really can balance each other.

Stephanie, you speak with wisdom. I am so thankful for my Godly husband.