The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

On Money: Marriage and Economic Friction

Peace be with you and yours.

Out of pastoral concern and appreciation for financial conerns of those contemplating marriage and those newly wedded we offer the following information:

Sandy and Tom got married last summer in a beautiful garden ceremony that set them back more than $7,000.00.

They paid for the wedding themselves, so they spent considerable time examining and whittling down expenditures. They were proud to report that the wedding went off without a hitch — and on budget.

Things didn't go as smoothly when the couple returned to their jobs, bills, and debts following the honeymoon. Sandy wanted to pay off their loans immediately. Tom as willing to pay more than required minimums, but not so much that it would hamper their lifestyle.

Although generally happy together, they argued about bills, credit balances and continuing spending until they finally sought financial counseling. And Sandy and Tom, who, who asked that their full names not be used, are not unusual.

Few couples talk about money before marriage, says Robin Leonard, author of Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope with Your Debts. Often — even if the couple has been living together — they don't know if the other person has not credit card bills or a huge tax debt. Many people keep all this private until after the wedding.

Partly as a result, economic friction is common among newly weds, experts say. Indeed, past surveys have found that more than half of divorced couples cited money problems as a significant factor in the split.

The good news is that it's never too late to get your economic life together, says Kathleen Steep, a Kansas City based financial planner who heads Citibank Master Card and Visa's Money Matters for Newlyweds educational program.

How do you do it? The keys are communication and compromise, says Stepp and others. Newlyweds need to sit down and open up their checkbooks, tax returns, bill statements and brokerage accounts to discuss what they have and what they want to achieve. Here are a few tips on how to start:


  • Discuss Goals. Many couples find their biggest money troubles come from having conflicting goals. For example, one wants a retirement account while the other wants a boat.

  • Budget. Open up your respective checkbooks and start tallying how much money you have coming in and where it is going out. Then figure out where you can economize. It's likely that your budget is significantly different now from what it was before the wedding, Stepp notes.

(From: San Francisco Chronicle, "Personal Finance," Kathy Kristof.)

Financial Prudence might suggest seeking out the assistance of a reliable financial planner. We would like to add that if there is debt — consider consolidating, if possible, that debt into one account at a lower interest rate. In all cases, at the start of a marriage (if not before), learn now to live within a budget which to some may mean to "grow up financially" and stop living for instant (infantile if not narcissistic) gratification satisfying the "must have now" or "must do now" created fantasies and beliefs about what money is or isn't and how one ought or should spend money or not.

When debt is paid off, adequate savings/retirements accounts established, and spending patterns regularized, then the couple might revise their budget to include other niceties. And then there is the financial discussion surrounding another topic: children. Of course, we suggest the preceding activities only if you wish to minimize (financial) pain and (relational) suffering. Spending patterns, saving patterns are learned conditioned habit patterns of behavior we each have encoded to create we term "life style." Our suggestions is not to create a conservative life style, but a wise life style. The essence of financial wisdom: one ought not spend more than one takes in, given leverage. Or, do not buy/spend more than you can afford at this time.

Further resourses: For Richer, For Poorer - Money Matters For Newlyweds By Karen Redar
Money Matters: How Newlyweds Can Avoid Conflicts about Cash

Peace and Joy!

White Robed Monks of St. Benedict


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