Researcher offers advice to couples on budgeting for happiness
By Catholic News Agency
Photo by Robert Linn
You’ve selected the dress, booked the church, and finalized the guest list. Now is the perfect time to sit down with your future spouse and address one of the most important—and often overlooked—aspects of marriage preparation: setting a household budget.
With fewer couples making it to “death do us part,” the reasons behind the rising rates of divorce may be increasingly financial in nature.
Jeff Dew, a researcher and professor at the University of Utah who has spent several years studying the connection between happy marriages and couples who share finances, says part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about basic financial issues.
“As far as I know, there aren’t any marital preparation programs out there that teach couples to budget prior to their marriages and that emphasize basic financial skills.”
Skills like how to draw up a basic budget, how to balance a checkbook, and how to check the accuracy of a credit report.
“If you’re not able to manage your money as a couple, you’re going to have difficulties in your marriage. But if couples are able to go into marriage knowing what their financial resources are, to look beyond the short term of the cost of the wedding, then they are able to start planning the financial picture for their family,” Dew said.
In a study that surveyed recently-married couples, Dew found that couples who paid down the consumer debts which they had brought into marriage (credit cards, car loans, student loans) were actually happier over time than those couples who had assumed more consumer debt as a couple.
He explained, “This was particularly true for couples who started with no debt and then assumed debt during their marriage. It’s not necessarily a problem if you do bring debt into your marriage, but if you pay down your consumer debt as a couple, you’ll have a happier marriage.”
Dew is hopeful that marriage preparation courses and programs will catch on.
“Anything that can really teach couples—especially making a budget and understanding credit management—would just be fantastic for couples who are considering getting married. I think people understand budgeting on a certain level, but in terms of credit management, not a whole lot of people understand how to make sure their credit score stays high, and all the benefits that entails.
From getting a job to buying a house, our credit is checked often, a reality which Dew worries many young couples aren’t aware of.
“Knowing how to manage their credit and keep their score high has the power to keep couples out of the kind of debt that could shackle them.”
He is not alone in his concern. Dave Ramsey, a nationally syndicated radio host and bestselling author, has written numerous books and articles on the topic. In his most recent title, “Total Money Makeover,” Ramsey details his own descent into debt and eventual bankruptcy not once but twice during his own young marriage. His message for couples of all ages is simple: don’t buy with credit, and don’t incur debt.
Ramsey’s course, “Financial Peace University,” is offered at churches and community centers around the country, and has helped thousands of families get out of debt and take control of their financial futures.