When savers and spenders marry

May 25, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 11
Sherri Grosz |

But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10: 6-9).

When I was engaged and focused on planning a wonderful wedding day, my mother reminded me that weddings don’t make a marriage. As exciting as the wedding day may be, it’s the days and years that follow that should really be the focus of our plans.

Would you be surprised to learn that many engaged folks don’t actually talk about money or finances before the big day? And if they do, it’s likely to be a conversation limited to the wedding budget. Pastors and parents may be uncomfortable talking about money, so couples are often left on their own to sort it out . . . or fight it out. Yet money is often listed as one of the leading reasons for separation and divorce, and it’s a common area of fights and disagreements.

We tend to have either “saver” or “spender” characteristics. Both have positive traits and, when combined, create a healthy, balanced view of money. Savers are anxious about money; they tend to hesitate and look for the cheapest option when they must spend money. Spenders, on the other hand, are carefree and optimistic about money; they believe it will all work out somehow and like to have fun.

Savers need spenders to help them have some fun and enjoy indulgences. Spenders need savers to help stretch budgets and consider the future. When they work together, there is balance and health. Spending and saving decisions are filtered through the needs and wants of both parties and measured against the overall goals of the couple. Trust is built and the marriage is much more likely to weather challenges.

When spenders and savers collide, however, the fireworks start. Spenders can resent savers for being miserly and denying their desires. Savers can resent spenders for endangering their financial health and future. Savers may squirrel away money as protection against an uncertain future. Spenders may keep purchases secret in order to prevent fights. It’s a no-win situation where trust is lost and both parties feel they have been wronged and misunderstood.

One young man told me that when he and his wife were engaged, they were invited to share a meal with an older couple in their congregation. After the meal, the older couple shared their process for making financial decisions, and how they determined priorities, including charitable giving. This young man said he was amazed at how transparent and helpful the conversation had been.

As the church, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that marriages are built on the best foundation. That includes open and honest conversations about debt, saving, charitable giving and how to make financial decisions as a couple. How does your church help engaged and married couples begin money conversations?

Sheri Grosz is a stewardship consultant at the Kitchener, Ont., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.

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Of course, problems can occur when both spouses are savers, or both are spenders. The first either never has any fun, or ends up with "false economies"; the second may end up with bounced cheques or no retirement savings.
The solution is the same as in your article, though - meaningful conversations with mentors or teachers.

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