Many couples are facing difficult financial questions during this season of furloughs, salary cuts, and unemployment. Others may be dealing with the loss of the family business or primary source of income. As we work through this financial crisis, there will be tremendous pressure to make quick decisions. But just like at work, major financial decisions cannot be made in isolation—they require the input of a team. If you are married and facing this kind of challenge, you have a teammate and it’s important to tackle financial problems together.
Financial Planning as a Couple
Earlier in my marriage, I asked God for guidance on our family’s financial planning—specifically, the balance between giving generously and paying down debt. As clearly as I’ve ever heard him, I sensed him say, “Sell the house.” However, my wife, Melanie, and I did not want to sell the house. It was our first home! Our boys loved it. We were in a good school district. We could not make sense of it. We were at a crossroads in our faith walk: Do we trust our own logic or do we obey God?
It would have been easy for me to move forward and tell my wife we needed to sell the house. However, I have made many mistakes in the past by not consulting my wife, and I wanted us to be together on this important decision. In order to make sure selling the house was what God wanted us to do, we asked God to reveal this to Melanie as well. After a period of waiting on the Lord with this question, she did not sense God revealing anything particular about selling the house. We continued to wrestle with the decision as a team.
It is sometimes more convenient for one spouse to take charge and make financial decisions independently of the other. Generally, I find that couples designate the financial planning process to one person. It can be due to one being more interested in financial affairs; or to one feeling they don’t have much to offer; or to the fact that it just takes more effort to have both spouses involved. We are inclined to take shortcuts where we can, whether at home or at work, but it does not always lead to the best outcome.
This does not mean that one person cannot take the lead in the work of financial planning. However, I have found that both spouses have unique gifts and have valuable input to the financial planning process. There are long-term benefits that are well worth the effort of tackling financial planning as a team.
The creation story tells us that we are invited to steward the world in partnership with God. Both male and female are created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27), and we differ from each other in complementary ways. If it is true that neither gender alone displays the complete image of God, then it must be important that both spouses are involved in how to steward God’s resources. This process of working together provides for more intimacy and closeness, even when there is a third party involved—a financial advisor can ask questions and draw wisdom out of one of the spouses that the other spouse never would know about.
In order to make good stewardship decisions that will please God, it is better to work together as a couple. We are made differently and can give different inputs that improve the final outcome.
As Melanie and I wrestled with the decision whether to sell the house or not, we got to know each other better and revealed certain habits and rhythms we had inherited from our families. It helped us develop our own way of making decisions and becoming more like “one flesh.” It helped us be better partners, better teammates, and better servants of God.
During this time of wrestling with the decision, we were in a Bible study together. In one session, the focus was on John 14, where Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23a)
I felt that was directed straight at my heart. As my wife and I continued to ponder, gather facts and evidence, and spent time in prayer, we each felt a great sense of peace that we would be okay with whatever decision was made. While Melanie never heard from God as directly as I did regarding the house sale, she did sense God nudging her to trust. She sensed God leading her to trust me and what I had heard.
As a team, we decided to put our home up for sale. We would rather err on the side of obeying God than risk disobeying him. We decided together. I had an incredible sense of peace after making the decision. It was as if I could feel his pleasure.
One of the main benefits of doing financial planning together is that we will have no regrets. When both spouses have invested time and energy in the decision-making process, we can look back at the decision and know we did everything we could to determine the best choice. We were a unified team. One cannot blame or resent the other. Even if it turns out to be a poor decision, we are in it together.
I am still not clear on why God asked us to sell the house. What is clear is that it was an exercise in unity. God drew us closer as we stepped out in faith together. To this day, I am grateful we obeyed God. Together.