Ask married couples what they argue about most often, and you’ll likely hear the same answer over and over: money. A 2017 study by Ramsey Solutions found that money is, indeed, the top issue that causes conflict and keeps couples from financial unity. But what specifically brings frustration and stress? Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, has identified financial stressors that can lead to arguments.
The good news, according to Chuck, is that by recognizing what these stressors are and facing them in healthy ways, couples can bring peace and unity back to their relationships. He knows this not just because he’s a financial expert but because he and his wife, Ann, experienced these three stressors in their own marriage.
Living above your means
When Chuck and Ann first married, they struggled with their spending habits. While Ann knew how to stretch a dollar, Chuck liked to spend money as soon as he earned it. This caused them to live above their means.
Arguments arose as they dealt with the stress of trying to figure out how they’d pay their bills. When they couldn’t cover basic living expenses and even had their utilities cut off, Chuck knew it was time to make serious changes.
He’d always fought against keeping a budget, believing it was too restrictive. But, he admits, “I had to realize that Ann was gifted at balancing a budget and turn that [task] over to her.” This decision took them a step closer to finding financial unity.
As Chuck and Ann struggled to pay bills, they didn’t agree about tithing, either. Ann wanted to give 10%, and Chuck felt they couldn’t give more than 2.6%. Chuck says he had to learn to give first, save second and then spend.
Living without financial margin
Chuck and Ann knew they needed to slowly build financial margin into their budget. Savings would give them the opportunity to help people in need and enjoy rewards, such as taking holiday trips with their family.
Their initial goal was to slowly put away $1,000 in emergency savings. After meeting this goal, they worked on saving enough to cover one month of living expenses.
Their final goal was to save enough to cover 15 months of living expenses. With that amount, Chuck said they had enough to endure life’s storms and economic challenges.
Living with the wrong attitude
Sometimes new couples fight about finances because their goals or values are different. Chuck was raised knowing Christians shouldn’t love money, but he still acquired wealth with gusto. To him, wealth spelled success. Ann, on the other hand, valued spending time with family, enjoying simple pleasures and cherishing her husband.
“Often money becomes an identity,” Chuck says. “We write our autobiography by our spending choices, and we want people to know something about us by what we do with our money.”
Chuck began to analyze his faulty attitude toward money and study Scripture on the topic. He started to see biblical principles on finances as “the way God would advise us if we went to Him for financial advice.”
Chuck had been looking at wealth from a temporal viewpoint—thinking
and planning for a comfortable life and eventual retirement. He needed to look at it from an eternal perspective, evaluating whether he was faithful with God’s resources.
In his new role as a steward of his money, he realized that “God was the owner, and it’s not ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ but ‘How much of God’s money should I spend on myself?’ ” Thinking like this changed everything for him and brought financial unity between Chuck and Ann.