By Bev and Phil Haas
I’m starting to think that my spouse and I should avoid talking about money because it only leads to fights. However, we keep hearing that our marriage will improve if we can agree on money issues. So we decided to make getting out of debt our New Year’s resolution. Do you have any suggestions on how we can be successful?
Hear us: now is the best time to get on the same page about money. It will make your marriage stronger and your family’s future more secure. Plus you’ll be putting a stop to money fights before they start!
Men and Women Are Different
The familiar saying, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” may especially hold true when it comes to how couples view money. Bev and I are good examples of this. When it comes to money, I (Phil) tend to be what Dave Ramsey refers to as “the nerd.” I like working numbers and saving for emergencies. To say Bev doesn’t like working numbers is an understatement. She also doesn’t worry about saving for emergencies. Ramsey calls this person “the free spirit.”
A bit of insight into our backgrounds may help. Growing up, Bev’s grandmother worked at a bank in Columbia, Kentucky. “Mama” set up and managed a checking account for Bev up until the time we were married. If Bev wrote a check with insufficient funds, Mama would add the necessary funds to her account. Mama had good intentions, of course, but the outcome was that Bev’s perspective on money was a bit skewed. I, on the other hand, grew up where money was an extremely limited resource and a source of all kinds of conflict. Whereas Bev’s tendency is to give little or no thought to money, mine is to be overly concerned about money.
What is true of us is true of most couples, since opposites tend to attract. Chances are that in your marriage one of you is the nerd and the other is the free spirit. The fact that you are different isn’t the real problem. The problem, according to Ramsey, is “when the nerd neglects the input of the free spirit or when the free spirit avoids participating in the financial dealings altogether.” So starting off this new year, instead of trying to make the other person more like you, acknowledge and accept your differences. Then commit to working together to fulfill your resolution.
to Becoming Debt Free
Working together begins with transparency about your differences and your debt. Lay out honestly and openly exactly how much debt you owe. Bring an attitude that says, “We’re in this together!” Once we made a commitment to pay off our debt, Bev and I followed Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps, which he has taught to millions via books, Financial Peace University, live events, and online. Very simply, his steps include: (1) setting aside $1,000 in an emergency fund, (2) paying off all debt starting with the smallest, (3) putting three to six months of expenses in savings, (4) investing 15 percent of income in Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans, (5) funding college for your kids, (6) paying off your home early, and (7) building wealth and being generous. To read more, go to www.daveramsey.com/new/baby-steps.
Schedule an evening where you turn off the television, put the kids to bed early, and eliminate every possible distraction. Then discuss your family priorities together. Focus first on setting aside $1,000 cash as an emergency fund. Then begin aggressively getting rid of all your debt (except the house). List your debts in order with the smallest payoff or balance first. The point is simply this: You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt. Paying off debt is not always about math. It’s about motivation. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to continue.
Congratulations on your decision to make 2014 the year you take control of your family finances instead of letting money control you. And may you experience Romans 13:8 which says, “Let love be your only debt!” (Contemporary English
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.