It’s no secret, marriage is hard work. And, no matter how much you love your spouse, merging your life and money can be stressful. Money is the second leading cause of divorce, right behind infidelity. However, couples in the healthiest of marriages, talk about money more than any other subject. So, how do we create that all important balance necessary for financial intimacy? Authors of Slaying The Debt Dragon, Cherie, and Brian Lowe, share key strategies and helpful tips for successfully merging love and finances in anticipation of their new book, Your Money, Your Marriage.
Link2Us: Can you tell us about the new project. How did it come about?
Cherie Lowe: We have been married for 19 years and shared a big part of our story in our first book Slaying the Debt Dragon, where we paid off $127,482.30 of consumer debt between 2008 and 2012. We learned all sorts of lessons about how to communicate when it comes to money and marriage, and how to set goals together – and really just how to live a more abundant life while we were in that process.Our new book, Your Money, Your Marriage arises out of the lessons learned. We really wanted to lend both of our voices to it.
Brian Lowe: I’ve been practicing law and working at law firms for about 20 years. Primarily, I’d say, 70 percent of my time over the course of at least 16 years has been spent doing divorce law. One of the main things folks talk about when they come into my office is finances. Either, how much in the dark they were on finances or how one spouse is committing financial infidelity– and what that does to a marriage. I continually see a correlation between a lack of knowledge and communication in finances, and the people in my office. There are other reasons too, don’t get me wrong, but overwhelmingly this is a common theme.
L2Us: In your book you state that oftentimes, though life evolves in patterns, once you begin to crack the code on what makes you both tick, you have greater odds of future success. Can you elaborate?
CL: We really wanted to draw out the idea that money and sex are connected to each other. We want to encourage couples to really stop and think about their behaviors, and how those behaviors lead to other things. Sometimes, those can be negative things that lead us down the wrong path, but if you’re smart about really identifying both the positive and negative behaviors, you can begin to use those to draw closer to one another. So, rather than just letting life happen to you and wondering what happened, you’re really pausing and reflecting. You can then grow closer to your spouse and make wiser choices when it comes to money and marriage.
L2Us: In the book, you also talked about lacking financial direction when you first got married, which is the case for a lot of couples. So, when do you believe couples should talk about financial planning? How should they approach the matter?
BL: It should happen preferably as part of a premarital discussion. Newly engaged couples should sit down and talk about anything they possibly can about money. And, if you haven’t yet, hope isn’t lost – that’s the main thing to remember. Especially for young married couples, questions like, ‘How do we spend money?’ ‘What tools are we going to use to manage the money?’ and, ‘What are your views on debt?’ are worth exploring in the premarital stage with a mentor, premarital counselor or someone who is wise with finances. We talked about finding mentors a lot in the book. So, it is important to begin that dialogue carefully and intentionally with your future or present spouse.
L2Us: In your book, you talk in great detail about how you paid off $127,482.30 under four years. Can you share how you came up with a plan?
CL: I always tell people, it’s not really that complex. It just wasn’t easy. The process required sacrifice, scaling back our lifestyle, taking on extra jobs and really being intentional and focused on paying off debt. Making it part of our family dream together and including our kids (we have two daughters) in the process, made it a great family adventure. The key to success was shifting our lens on why we were doing what we were doing. In Your Money, Your Marriage, we talk about the necessity for couples to get together and determine what their values, needs, and dreams are as a couple – and, if you have kids, as a family as well. Brian really began the journey and captured my heart by asking questions like, ‘What would we do if we weren’t putting so much of our hard-earned cash every month toward payment?’ ‘How would our world, our community and our family look differently?’ And, because we are people of faith, ‘How would the Kingdom of God look differently if we weren’t so tied up financially, but also emotionally and spiritually, in the process of holding so much debt?’
L2Us: Please explain the concept of financial foreplay and how we can foster it.
BL: Financial foreplay simply means, husbands and wives, investing in smart financial habits and relational capital, to clear the way for spicy sex and meaningful togetherness. This is all about leaving cash conflict far behind by taking care of bank business, so you can get down to business in bed. This creates complete trust, vulnerability, and connection when it comes to both our bodies and our budget. The results of making sacrifices to take care of our finances sends a message to your spouse that says, ‘Look, I am here for you. And, I’m going to do whatever it takes to love you.’ This builds intimacy.
L2Us: What is the number one question you’ve been asked over the years?
BL: Well, that would be, ‘How do I get my spouse on the same page as me, with my money,’ as opposed to just the same page. As a lawyer, I listen to those sorts of things. One of the things we wrote about was the importance of money vows and the idea of making some promises about our money to one another. We suggest people write their own version in the book.
L2Us: You also spoke earlier about the importance of having marital and financial mentors. How important is it to have several financial mentors and is it the same as a financial advisor?
CL: I think it’s a different role because generally, especially when we’re in this area of marriage and money, you can gain all kinds of wisdom from a financial advisor, or you can do that research on your own because we have so many resources available to us via the internet now. When it comes to money mentors in particular, we’re talking about couples who have lived this, and who are still married – and that might not always be the case with somebody who has knowledge of what it means to up an investment account, save for the future or pay off debt. But, we’re talking about people that you can ask questions to, and in the book we provide a whole list of questions that you should ask money mentors.
L2Us: So, you also talk about ‘passionate patience.’ What is it and what does it have to do with finances?
BL: This is a concept that I ran across while reading a book and then delving into the Bible a little deeper. The idea of ‘active waiting’ has been around for centuries, and it’s sort of like waiting for someone to come around. When I first shared the vision for getting out of debt with Cherie, I could have just waited to see if she would come on board, but [while waiting] there were things that I could do. For example, I stopped using the credit cards and that was a big deal for her. So, while making smarter choices on your own, no matter what the other spouse is doing, doesn’t immediately change your need. I think ‘active waiting,’ is crucial in trying to get your spouse on the same page.
L2Us: Cherie, can you explain the calendar challenge?
CL: Sure. Brian and I talk in the book about the need to define your values, your needs, and your dreams as a couple, and if you have kids, as a married family. In the chapter we encourage couples to move from being busy, to being prioritized – and actually pulling out the calendar and writing next to the things they have on their to-do list, either a V for values, an N for need, or D for dreams. If you find that something you’re doing right now doesn’t match up with your values, your dreams or your needs, then that needs to move off of the calendar.
We implemented this because we know that a lot of people use the phrase, “time is money,” so there’s that trade-off for everything we do. In American culture, we wear ‘busy enough’ like a badge. We think that if you’re not as busy, there must be something wrong with you. And, really our ‘busy’ costs us money every day. Whether that means that we’ve signed up for too many teams for our kids and we can’t afford the fees and the travel that goes along with it, or we’re not making space to be able to prepare meals at home. The calendar challenge is something that we designed to encourage couples to begin to really reflect on what they’re doing and why, rather than just being caught up in the frenzy.
L2Us: So finally, can both of you give advice for couples who are struggling financially?
BL: There’s always hope. There’s always hope for your finances. There’s always hope for your marriage and by working together over time, you can see your way to an exponentially better day.
CL: I would add, your spouse is not out to get you. I think we fall into this adversarial sort of role, where we think that they’re trying to control us. Or, maybe they’re just wild with spending, so we think that they’re doing that because they want to hurt us, or we see all of our own purchases as necessary and theirs as rampant. But, that’s probably really far from the truth. You chose your spouse because you were wildly in love with him or her and because you were passionate about the person they were. It’s so important to remember that because we can get weighed down by financial worries or work problems and miss the fact that we chose each other for a reason—and that’s a good thing.
– Monique Akonor