ReMarriage Money Matters
by Susan G. Mathis
Money can cause more problems in marriage than most of us realize, but in a remarriage, it can get even more complicated. Marcos and Isabel have learned that the pathway to financial freedom is one of discipline and proactive planning. There are steps you can take to change the way you think about—and use—money.
All of us have attitudes about money, and most of us acquired our views of money from our parents. But our culture, the media, and our close friends and extended family can also influence us. And a death or divorce can cause fear, debt, uncertainty, mistrust, or other financial challenges that may affect a second marriage if we don’t deal with those issues up front.
“I learned financial discipline from my parents—to pay for things as I went,” Marcos says. “I’ve lived on a budget as long as I can remember. Before Isabel and I married, I used an online budget program and allocated just so much for each item, and I stuck by my plan. I even used pie charts!”
“My budgeting was not as tight,” Isabel says. “When we married, I had some debt, so we decided to do a ‘yours, mine, and ours’ financial plan. We opened a joint account and paid the joint bills with that. But we kept our other personal stuff—my debt and his child support and other expenses—separate. This way worked best for us.”
“We wanted to be responsible for our own past financial obligations so that we would be fair to each other,” Marcos says. “But we continually work together to tweak our joint budget.”
If you’re in debt, the first step to becoming successful financially is to take a hard look at your financial history and understand how you got into the situation. If mistakes have been made, ask God for forgiveness, strength, courage, and wisdom to help you change your attitudes and behavior. Discuss with your spouse the changes that need to be made to move forward with a healthier perspective.
The Bible says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Money itself isn’t evil, but loving it often causes us to become greedy or financially reckless. There are many other biblical guidelines for managing money. One is to understand that everything belongs to God (Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 50:12). We have to realize we’re just stewards of what really belongs to God.
“We took a premarital class and read several books together,” Isabel says. “During the class, we talked a lot about our financial pasts and present, how we do things, who had debt, that sort of thing. We wanted to be sure our financial lives were both in order.”
It takes work, but once you’ve changed your thinking, how do you become good stewards of what God has given you, and how do you blend both the finances and attitudes toward money that you bring into your second marriage?
Here’s how to start:
1. List all your income, expenses, and debt individually, or, if you’re already married, together. Be honest and accurate because this will show you your true financial status.
2. Create a budget. Using the financial assessments you performed individually, you can now develop a budget for your marriage. This will help you establish spending limits as well as set financial priorities and goals. Be sure to include all your kids’ expenses. Your budget should be the control engine of your money-management plan.
3. Establish realistic goals for getting out of debt. List actions that must be changed in order to correct, or strengthen, your financial situation. Set a time limit to accomplish these goals. Remember, it took you a while to get into debt, and it may take longer to get out of it. Pray for patience and use all the discipline you can muster.
4. To accomplish your financial goals, you need to set priorities. Eliminating credit cards may be your first priority. First, tackle paying off the cards with the highest interest. To stop the misuse of credit cards, distinguish carefully between your wants and your needs, and even your children’s needs and wants. If you explore why you think you need or want something, you may be surprised how many wants can be eliminated.
5. Monitor your progress, especially your spending. You may be shocked to recognize some unhealthy spending habits you may have. Establish strict boundaries to begin new healthy money habits. Track daily expenses, down to cups of coffee or candy purchases—they all add up. Two daily trips to Starbucks can cost you hundreds of dollars a month! This will be very informative when you compare income to expenses.
6. Celebrate (in some reasonable way) when you achieve a financial goal.
Though finances aren’t always easy to discuss, start early and be open and honest as you make your financial life together a successful one. And remember that your attitude about money is what’s important, not the amount of money you have.
Talk through money issues and strategically work together to find wise solutions to the challenges you may encounter. Philippians 4:6 will help you along the way: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”
Money should be a source of comfort, not stress, and it can be if you and your spouse find solutions together. It will strengthen the bond between you and build trust, intimacy, and love.
Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness by Susan & Dale Mathis. Copyright © 2014, all rights reserved.
Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Life of Love and Happiness and Countdown For Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage with her husband, Dale. She is the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and former Editor of 12 Focus on the Family publications. Susan now serves as a writer, editor, and writing coach. Please visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.
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