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Q & A
Common Questions and Answers related to Money and Marriage
Question: My husband loves me and is kindhearted. But sometimes he makes dumb decisions. Do I have to respect him if he’s making a bonehead decision?
Answer: Pray daily for God to give your husband wisdom to make prudent financial decisions. Ask your husband if the two of you can pray together daily, and use these times to seek the Lord and encourage your husband. In a gentle way, discuss decisions you are making as a couple. Then, allow him to make the final decisions for the family. When he senses you respect and trust him, he’s likely to make better decisions.
Question: My husband is a control freak. He gives me an amount of money every week that barely covers expenses. He won’t tell me anything about our finances—how much he earns and how much debt or savings we have. If something happened to him, I’d have no clue what we have or where the records are kept. How can I get him to share with me?
Answer: First, pray for God to give him a willingness to invite you to fully participate in the finances. Then, develop a spending plan for the money you’re allotted for running the household. Ask him to meet weekly to pray together for God’s blessings on the family’s finances and to review your spending and teach you how to wisely manage money. A husband often engages his wife in the finances when he sees she is eager to learn and observes her handling money well. Crown has several solutions for creating your spending plan (budget)—click here for details.
Question: I love my husband. He is a great guy, except that his middle name should be Spender! He simply can’t control his spending, and our credit card debt is off the charts. It’s killing our marriage. What do you recommend?
Answer: If he recognizes the problem, ask him if you can control the spending plan and provide him with a reasonable weekly allotment he is free to spend in any way he likes. Then, meet together weekly to pray, review the week’s income and spending, and celebrate progress. This way he will be fully informed and his spending can be under control. If he doesn’t admit the problem and is unwilling to change, focus on continuing to respect him and praying for the Lord to change his heart. For practical resources that can help reduce your debt, click here.
Question: I have $5,000 in credit card debt that my husband doesn’t know about. I’m reluctant to tell him because I’m afraid he’ll never trust me again. What should I do?
Answer: I appreciate your desire to become honest with your husband. It is a key for you to experience the authentic closeness the Lord intends.
First, pray that the Lord would prepare him to receive this news well. Second, develop a plan to pay off the debt. Third, meet with him and tell him of your desire to be completely honest. Disclose the debt and the plan to pay it off. Seek forgiveness and ask if he would meet with you every week for a “money date” to review your finances so this will never happen again.
Question: My husband doesn’t want to have anything to do with the finances. He gives me his check and he leaves the rest to me. The problem is, he uses the ATM and forgets to tell me so our checkbook register never agrees with the bank statement.
Answer: First, make sure you reconcile your statement every month. If you use a computer and your bank offers online access to your account (as most do), you can check any time for ATM charges, debit card charges, or any checks he may write. Enter them into your register to keep it up to date. Ideally, however, he should recognize the need to keep track of these expenditures and give them to you daily. Also, here is a recommendation for a resource that will help you track these surprise expenses: It’s called Crown Mvelopes—click here to read more about it.
Question: Our budget works out on paper but that’s it. Practically, we spend all that we earn and nothing is going into savings. How can we make it work?
Answer: The first issue is whether your spending plan (budget) is realistic. If you have not tracked every dollar you’ve earned and spent for at least 30 days (including the 30-day share of expenses that get paid on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis), your spending plan cannot be expected to work in real life.
Once you have completed this step so you know your actual expenses, revise your spending plan accordingly, including giving and saving. It may mean reducing some expenses in order to preserve a surplus at the end of the month. Then you just need to apply discipline to stick with the spending plan. One huge benefit is the relief you’ll feel when you don’t have to make an emotional decision over every purchase; either it’s in the spending plan or it’s not. If it’s not, you don’t buy it—unless you adjust something else in the plan to make up the difference.
If you still can’t make it work, spend some time with a Money Map Coach; click here to learn more.
Question: Should we refinance our house and take cash out to pay off our credit cards and our car loans? Interest rates are much better now than they were when we purchased our house.
Answer: It may be a good idea to refinance if you can get a mortgage with a lower interest rate, but there are several factors involved. Do you intend to stay in the house long enough for the monthly savings to recoup the refinancing costs? Know for sure what those costs will total. Also realize that if you’ve had your 30-year mortgage for several years and you refinance into another 30-year mortgage, you may save some money each month and still end up paying more interest over the long term.
In any event, we encourage you not to roll the other debt into your mortgage because you will pay much more interest on your consumer debt if you stretch it out over 15 or 30 years even though the interest rate is lower. Instead, transfer your credit card balances to lower-rate credit cards and refinance your car loan if a lower interest rate is available. To help create a plan like this one, use our free online calculators by clicking here.
Question: Should we withdraw money from our 401(k) to pay credit card debt?
Answer: Although we encourage you to pay off consumer debt, taking money out of your 401(k) may cost you much more than the interest rate you are paying on your debt. You will be liable for a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal, and taxes will be due on the money. These costs could easily wipe out 30 to 40 percent of any money you withdraw. It would be better to adjust your budget, downsize your lifestyle, sell some belongings to pay the debt, and/or look for an additional part-time job to get the extra money to pay your debt. As always, we suggest you get additional counsel from a financial advisor or pension specialist who has the benefit of knowing your specific situation.
Question: How can we improve our credit score so that we can qualify to buy a house?
Answer: Get a copy of your credit reports, pay off all debts, and start building a savings account for your down payment. One way to get complimentary copies of your credit reports is to go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
Question: I’ve heard a lot about interest-only loans and the interest rates are extremely good. Can you tell me the pros and cons of this type of loan?
Answer: Many innovative types of mortgages have been introduced in the last few years. Some of them may be appropriate in rare situations, but many of them encourage and enable people to buy more house than they can afford. When people trust a mortgage broker to determine whether they are taking more risk than is prudent, they are asking for trouble; the mortgage broker’s goals and concerns are not the same as theirs.
Although interest rates may be lower on interest-only loans, and for some people and some situations an interest-only loan could be a good fit, they are dangerous for people who pay only the minimum each month; they are building no equity and have no margin for error.
If they make every payment on time but are not disciplined enough to make extra payments (and most aren’t), at the end of 20 or 30 years they will still owe the original amount of the loan. For this reason, Crown does not encourage people to take interest-only loans.
Question: My husband gets paid cash for some of his jobs and he doesn’t claim the income when he files his taxes. However, we file jointly, which requires my signature. If I refuse to sign the papers, that will cause a problem between me and my husband, but I know this is dishonest. What should I do?
Answer: Seek counsel from a CPA. A part-time job would enable you to file your taxes separately from your husband. This would protect your tax status and protect your marriage by not “blowing the whistle” on your husband. Pray that God will deal with your husband’s heart regarding this dishonesty.
Question: My husband had heart surgery last year, and we have so much debt that we can’t even make the minimum payments. Is bankruptcy an option for us?
Answer: We encourage you to make bankruptcy your last option. When you borrow, you take a vow that you will repay, and this is not to be taken lightly. If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to consider downsizing your home and/or car, canceling cell phones, Internet, cable/satellite, having a garage sale, getting an additional part-time job, etc. Ask for financial help from your extended family and your church. In extreme situations where these steps are inadequate, bankruptcy may be necessary. Don’t look at it as a release from responsibility, however, because we believe you should still pay the debt back afterwards as God provides. One of the books in Crown’s MoneyLife™ Basics Series addresses this topic. Click here to learn more about the book Debt and Bankruptcy.
Question: My husband and I both have been divorced and in previous marriages where there was constant fighting about money. What can we do to avoid this in our marriage?
Answer: Previously married couples often bring the emotional baggage of problems they experienced. Discuss the issue of frequent arguments and focus like crazy on encouraging each other and creating a culture of celebration in your marriage.
Question: I’m 62 and my fiancé is 70, and we’re planning to marry this summer. Both of us were widowed 10 years ago, and we’re so grateful that the Lord has brought us together. Are there exceptions to Crown’s teaching that married couples should put all their money into common bank accounts? What about inheritances?
Answer: Before you marry, you could consider dividing assets among your adult children or putting them in trust for your children/grandchildren.
After you get married, you should work from one account, or you should agree on budgeting independently and mutually helping each other financially if needs arise. For a detailed treatment of this subject, refer to the book Splitting Heirs by author Ron Blue—click here for details.
Question: My husband and I were both married before, and we each have wills that were prepared. Is it important to update these documents? Do we need a lawyer?
Answer: Yes, it is extremely important that each of you re-do your will so your present spouse is properly cared for in the event that you should pre-decease him/her. Yes, you will need a lawyer to update these documents or to create new wills.
It is also extremely important for young couples in their first marriages to have wills. Even if they don’t have property to divide, they need to designate guardians for their children in case the husband and wife should die in a common accident. Also, they need to designate which family members would receive photo albums and sentimental items. Crown offers a complimentary Will Planning Kit that can help you. Click here for more information.
Question: My wife and I have a question about the Crown Money Map. We are working toward Destination 2, specifically, paying off our credit cards. Should I discontinue contributing to my retirement account until we reach Destination 4?
Answer: Continue contributing to your retirement account up to the amount your employer matches because it is free money! But continue contributing only if, and it is a big IF, you can still make steady progress on the Money Map.
For example, if your employer matches up to 3 percent of your income, contribute 3 percent of your income to retirement. However, if you can’t make consistent progress, temporarily stop your retirement contributions until you reach Destination 4.
Question: My husband doesn’t know Jesus Christ as Savior and doesn’t want us to give. I am afraid to disobey the Lord. Should I insist that we tithe—give 10 percent—so that we don’t miss God’s blessing?
Answer: No, if your husband does not want to give, don’t force him; rather, cooperate with him. Second Corinthians 8:12 says, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” In other words, if you desire to give, God is pleased even if your husband doesn’t allow you.
A principle found in 1 Peter 3:16 is that a wife whose gentle and quiet spirit honors her husband’s leadership may draw him closer to the Lord. Another option is to apply Malachi 3:10 in a very practical way. Ask your husband to allow you to give a smaller amount for at least one year. If you are worse off financially as a result of your giving, agree to stop giving. But if you are better off, your husband may agree to allow you to give more.
My suggestion: Ask your husband if you could give a portion of what you could save on the part of the spending plan for which you are responsible. Also to learn other ways to give during this time, check out the book Giving and Generosity from the MoneyLife™ Basics Series.
Question: How can we possibly tithe when we have so much debt?
Answer: Figure your tithe from your gross income and base your spending plan on your Net Spendable Income. Look for ways to balance your spending plan without sacrificing your most practical opportunity to put God first.
Question: My husband wants to buy a new car every three years even though we have to use lots of debt to do it. How can I show him in black and white that we should be buying used cars for cash?
Answer: Most people have car debt all their lives, with monthly payments averaging about $375. Invest that same amount of money from age 21 to 65 earning 10 percent, and it would grow to about $4 million! To learn more about making major purchases like automobiles, check out the book Spending Plan Solutions from the MoneyLife™ Basics Series.
Question: My wife wants me to cosign for her brother, who filed bankruptcy a couple of years ago. He is trying to start a business. I don’t feel good about it. What do you think?
Answer: Don’t cosign! A study found that 50 percent of those who cosigned for bank loans ended up making the payments, and 75 percent of cosigners for finance company loans ended up making the payments! If you cosign, you are likely to pay, and that’s not all. Your credit will be trashed because lenders normally do not contact you when payments are late. By the time they ask you to pay, it is too late to protect your credit.
Question: I cosigned a loan for a family member and now he is not able to make the payments. How can I get my name taken off this loan?
Answer: You may not be able to take your name off this loan. Check with the loan officer. It may be that your only option is to have the family member refinance the loan solely in their name, which will be even more difficult if their financial situation has deteriorated.
Question: My wife is a compulsive spender. She wastes money on clothes and on her gambling addiction. What should I do?
Answer: Because gambling can destroy your finances, you must do three things that I’ll list in order of importance.
- Love her (this includes praying earnestly for her freedom from gambling).
- Encourage her to seek professional help for her gambling problem.
- Take control of the family finances. For her protection and your family’s, the amount of money available to her should be limited. Provide her a reasonable budget for clothing and a modest allotment for personal needs, but control the rest of the finances.
Enrolling in a Crown life group study together would also be very helpful. To find a life group in your local area, click here.
Question: My wife wants her elderly parents to come live with us, but I think they should go to an assisted-living facility. How can we resolve this issue?
Answer: If your home has a suite on ground level already, we encourage you to reconsider your decision. Pray together daily, asking the Lord to show you both what He wants you to do. If you are reluctant to have them in your home because you can’t afford to renovate it or care for them, seek other solutions. For example, if your wife has siblings, ask if they can help.
Question: My husband is so unhappy in his job. All he talks about is how many years it will be before he can retire. I want him to be happy in his work but if he changes careers now, we won’t be able to make ends meet. How can we resolve this issue?
Answer: He could take night classes to retrain for a new career, looking for scholarships and grants to help pay for the education. If you are not working, consider what you might do to help during the transition. And if you’re willing to downsize to a less expensive home, that would also help. Crown offers a comprehensive personal growth assessment called the Career Direct® Complete Guidance System; God has used this assessment to guide thousands of people in finding more than a career but a true calling in life and work. To learn more about Career Direct, click here.
Question: Do we need life insurance? If so, how much is enough?
Answer: If you have dependents, you probably should have life insurance. To obtain a free Life Insurance Needs Worksheet, go to Crown.org and click the tab “Financial and Career Tools.” Also consider getting a copy of Investing and Insurance, a MoneyLife™ Basics Series book, which will give you a basic education from a Christian perspective.
Question: My husband and I are sixty-eight years old, and he destroyed our nest egg last year by gambling. We now have nothing saved for the future, and I must go back to work. He’s asked for forgiveness. What should I do?
Answer: I know this is difficult, but if your mate asks for forgiveness, be gracious and accept the apology without subjecting him to a series of “I told you so’s.” This is God’s pattern for forgiving and being forgiven. That said, he needs to participate in a gambling recovery program to help him avoid this harmful pattern of behavior in the future.
Question: As our debts and arguments exploded, our marriage crumbled. We’re headed for divorce unless we can get counsel, but my husband is unwilling to meet with our pastor. Help!
Answer: Some people are embarrassed to seek advice from their pastor. If you know a wise, godly man your husband respects, ask your husband to meet with him. Or I would locate a professional Christian marriage counselor who has a good reputation.
Question: My fiancé has about $20,000 in student loans, and I am completely debt free. After we marry, should I keep my finances separate until he pays off his debt? Or should we combine our finances, which means I would need to continue working to help him?
Answer: When you marry, the Lord wants the two of you to become one in every area, including your finances. So, combine your resources and work together to pay off the student loans as quickly as possible. For encouragement, watch the inspiring story of Michelle and Trevor Thomas by clicking here.
Question: We don’t have enough income to save both for retirement and for our kids’ college educations. My husband thinks we should put money aside for retirement, but I want to help them through college. What do you recommend?
Answer: Pray together daily for the Lord to confirm His direction to you both. Typically, I suggest saving for retirement as a priority because your children can help pay for their college by working, receiving grants and scholarships, and frugal spending. To help you prioritize your next steps, join the Crown Money Map™ online community by clicking here.
Question: I want to be a stay-at-home mom, but I earn about twice as much as my husband, and we are having trouble making ends meet. What options do we have?
Answer: You will need to cut expenses to the bone and perhaps downsize your home and car. Also, try to find a way you can earn money working from home to help replace your lost income. In the meantime, watch your spending carefully so you can pay down debts and increase savings as much as possible in advance of lowered income. You can get additional help from the book Women Leaving the Workplace by Larry Burkett and the online calculators available at Crown.org for determining how to adjust your expenses to one income.
Question: According to our divorce decree, my former husband is supposed to pay $1,000 a month in child support. However, he has yet to pay anything. What should I do?
Answer: Contact him to determine if there is a legitimate reason for non-payment. If there’s none, and he simply refuses to pay the required child support, contact your attorney or social services office in your area. Unfortunately, some people will not fulfill their commitments unless they are compelled to do so.
Question: My wife is taking me back to court for more child support. I can barely make ends meet now. I don’t know how I will ever afford more child support.
Answer: Bring your spending plan showing all your income and expenses to the court hearing and appeal to the court for a reasonable child support payment.
Question: Legally, can I use child support to make the house payment?
Answer: Providing housing for the children is part of their support. Therefore, you can use child support to make this payment, if necessary.
Question: I keep the home financial records because I have more time than my husband has. But I heard a Christian teacher say that the financial records are the husband's responsibility. What do you think?
Answer: The Bible designates the husband as the head of the home, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to write the checks and balance the checkbook. It means that he makes the final decisions and bears the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of his family. If a wife has the ability to manage home finances, there is nothing unscriptural about the husband delegating those duties to her. Both husband and wife should participate in developing their financial plans, however, so the wife is not required to make all the decisions. If there are financial problems, especially delinquent bills, the husband should take charge and work out arrangements with creditors. As the authority in the home, he should bear the emotional pressures of creditor harassment. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). In the final analysis, if you’re the better bookkeeper, keep the books.