The Money Trap
As the title suggests, this chapter is about money. This is a very important issue in marriage. People have different attitudes about how to handle money when they commit to a marriage.
Some researchers have found that money issues are responsible for up to 70% of marital conflict.
There are many reasons for this:
- Different ideas and training concerning money. For spending, saving, investing, etc.
- Many don't discuss it seriously before marriage. Comes as a nasty surprise after.
- Partners come from very different economic backgrounds.
The "conflict" in a relationship over money usually centers around 2 main factors:
- Earning power – the ability to make money.
- Lifestyle – the style of living that we think, hope and believe that we should have.
The way we use or "misuse" money is based largely on these two factors. If our earning power can supply our lifestyle there is no problem. However, if our earning power cannot supply our lifestyle then this will create problems that will produce pressure within all of our relationships - especially our marriages.
This financial pressure is the result of what I call the Money Trap.
The Money Trap and how it works
Before we have any earning power (trade, vocation, business experience or training) our concepts of lifestyle (how we ought to live) are being formed by external and internal forces.
A. External Forces
- How our parents lived, their attitude towards money and what we were taught about these things.
- Easy credit.
- Most powerful external force today.
- Did not exist 50 years ago (ease of it).
- Exchanging future work for goods now.
- On a consumer level not as widespread as now.
- Abundance and variety of merchandisers and merchandise.
B. Internal Forces (negative)
- Greed - never having enough.
- Jealousy - wanting what others have
- Pride - competing with others
- Laziness - gaining without effort
- Lack of self control - impulse and luxury buying
- Selfishness - interest in one's own needs
C. The Trap
Here's how the trap gets sprung.
- Our society bombards us via media images of the ideal lifestyle. The media creates for us the style it says we deserve, we should have and, if not properly trained in money management, we believe it! The code words appeal to our inward forces by saying - you deserve the best, get it now, it's easy, be the first, be the only, etc. Day after day, after day.
- Goods are made accessible everywhere to provide this ideal lifestyle, and merchandizers make it easy to respond (pick up the phone and dial).
- Easy credit makes all of these things available to everyone - even those who cannot afford it - and these are the ones that are caught in the trap! These are the people who spend more than they earn.
The best examples are the people caught in the housing breakdown in the United States in the last few years. These forces working together create a vicious cycle - we see, we want and easy credit enables us to get it.
The slogan for our society should be "Get it with Credit!"
I'm not against a strong economy, an efficient network of merchandising and distribution as well as a banking system that allows us to use credit as a tool for establishing our homes and businesses. The point I'm trying to make here is that in order to avoid being crushed in this system of ours, we need to realize that our lifestyle should be based on our earning power, not on how our parents lived, how we would like to live, how the TV says we should live, how our friends live - but on our earnings. A very sobering thought indeed.
Society, combined with internal and external forces, creates the image of a lifestyle we think we should have. We believe this ideal and instead of basing our lifestyle on our own earning power - we use easy credit to obtain the lifestyle we think we should have.
So we get into debt and debt causes pressure in relationships.
Financial pressure has many symptoms.
- Fatigue - physical and emotional. The "weight" of debt causes depression.
- Obsession - we think and talk only about money and money problems.
- Arguments - we blame others for spending too much or not making enough.
- Sexual disinterest - it's difficult to be intimate with someone you've lost respect for.
- Financial ruin - eventually you have no more credit, just debts and debts you cannot pay.
- Spiritual discouragement - the feeling that God doesn't love you or is punishing you because of your financial ruin.
Pressure of this kind can easily destroy a relationship.
Solutions for the Money Trap
There are many financial advisors and plans, but you need to be careful not to make matters worse. Not all financial solutions are equal.
A. Bad Solutions (defined as animals)
1. The ostrich solution
- Refuse to admit the problem.
- Ignored problems only grow worse.
2. The chicken solution
- Escape (vacation, buy something new, get a good feeling).
- Only a temporary solution at best, you only feel good for a while.
- Usually creates more debt and is fatalistic.
3. The parakeet solution
- Repeat the same mistake.
- Have lots of little debts? Consolidate into one big debt. Bad use of credit.
- We now have one large debt and begin creating new small debts in addition to the big one.
4. The horse solution
- More debt? Just work like a horse.
- Second job, overtime, wife gets a job too.
5. The spider solution
Like the Black Widow who eats its mate, eliminate the seeming cause of the problem - your partner (divorce). This doesn't eliminate the problem, it merely creates more problems and more debts. There is no such thing as a budget divorce.
Most people who are continually in financial trouble are so because they refuse to base their lifestyle on their salaries and then when they are in the trap, they get deeper into it by using some of the poor solutions I've just mentioned.
B. Good Solutions
There are good problem solving methods for financial difficulties.
1. Establish your style of living based on your current earning power, not your future. In this way you will have a better chance to be free from debt and the financial pressure that comes with it (Proverbs 22:7).
If we could learn this we would be free. "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." This practice is not easy, it requires:
- Honesty - being realistic about what you can afford.
- Self-control - saying NO to yourself, impulses.
- Alertness - be aware of the "trap"
- Advertisers know that women make or influence most of the money decisions and this is why ads are directed at them primarily. Men are greater impulse buyers than women and they buy more expensive things. (Appeal to men's pride - my hero!)
- We should learn to be satisfied with what we have knowing that God has provided it, whatever it is (I Timothy 6:6-10). If we have enough to provide an honorable life, then we have enough - more than this can be risky.
- The art of being content with what we have is the gateway to freedom, peace of mind and true enjoyment of life. Contentment eliminates greed, pride and inner pressures.
For men the trick is to be realistic about what they truly can afford to buy and for women the true challenge of submission is to respect and live within their husband's (or the primary earner's) earning power.
2. Another good problem solving technique for financial stress, aside from living within your earning power, is to establish priorities for the way you will spend the money you do have!
Give the first portion to God.
(Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24; Luke 12:34)
When you give the first portion to God:
- He blesses the entire amount, it becomes holy, as if you gave the entire amount to Him. The giving of the first portion symbolizes the giving of the entire amount.
- He gives you the wisdom to manage the rest.
When you do this you express your trust in Him to provide. Credit limits are not financial protection. God is financial protection! Psalm 37:25
Establish a reasonable budget in order to manage the rest of your income wisely, not forgetting to provide for your family.
If you spend more than you earn, you are in debt and debts cause pressure, especially in marriage relationships. There are positive and negative ways of dealing with this pressure. You can ignore it, try to escape it, try to increase your workload or divorce your partner. All of which will cause more problems. You can exercise honesty, self-control and contentment, and live within your means.
This can be done. You begin by:
- Giving God the first portion in everything.
- Trusting God to help you manage the rest (good management begins with a reasonable budget).
This is good advice for those who don't want to be caught in the Money Trap!