If you read the previous post, you learned of the predicament in which I found myself at the age of 20. I was in unwanted consumer debt after a short two months of having a credit card. It wasn’t a huge amount to the average Joe but to me, it really needed to go because I was already craving freedom. So, I focused my energy on paying off the $382.37 balance that stood between me and freedom, and I swore never to touch a credit card in my life again.
Fast forward a couple of years, I graduated college with no student loan debt (thank God!) and moved from CA to PA to join my brand new bride. She and I were having the time of our lives. It truly was pure bliss to be able to work on advanced degrees AND earn decent incomes as freelancers. Still, as far as money was concerned, we were still living separate lives—bills and purchases were not addressed from the same marital pot.
One day, something rocked our financial boat just enough to get our attention. The credit card I had sworn never to use had indeed come back to haunt
me, er, us. Unable to ignore what had happened, we met in our living room and had our first true money talk as a couple. Other than paying bills and acquiring special accessories, we had heretofore never quite discussed financial goals. So, when we sat down to talk in the cramped living room of our tiny grad apartment, I really had no real sense of where to start or where to end up.
But, as I later learned from a dear mentor in grad school, the best way to start is to actually start. I’m grateful we did.
“So, money, do we need it?”, I quipped.
A bit of laughter ensued; the air was cleared.
We talked and talked.
We soon realized there was much for us to discuss:
and so much more . . .
As a result, we saw the need for us to combine our finances and happily did. Yet regrettably, by doing so, my financial ignorance had a bigger opportunity to wreak havoc in our marriage.
See, I grew up with this erroneous idea: learning about money was not important. Many church-going friends had told me money was evil and, naturally, I knew zilch about it. I learned to trust all my needs would be provided by the Creator and indeed I was always fed and clothed. Sadly, I took that to mean I could just use money as it came, spending every dollar I earned accordingly. More income simply meant an increase of expenses and debt without any tangible plan of repayment.
Inserting that background into our marriage was the perfect financial storm producer. After completing both of our Master of Music degrees with no student loans (again, thank God!), we were expecting our first child when financial pressures began to overwhelm us. Perks we had enjoyed as free grad students were gone—health insurance, medical providers, a built-in network for freelance gigs, etc. Meanwhile, we had a growing stack of bills to pay.
For me, a soon-to-be dad, I began having a whole host of questions related to money:
What am I going to do?
How will I support a baby and provide for a whole family?
It was at that point it sank deeper into my mind that a credit card was not going to solve my problems any more. And soon thereafter I had an encounter that revolutionized my relationship with money and set me on a course to freedom.
1) Talking about money with your spouse should occur WAY before you get engaged even. Money troubles add a lot of stress to a marriage and so I recommend having that conversation early on if you know you’re interested in making a lifelong commitment to a potential spouse.
2) I am grateful to know money itself is not evil. As part of the created world, it has the potential to bless and curse. Therefore, it is crucial to learn about it in order to use it responsibly.