For a long time, I made myself believe that I did not need much help on managing finances. After all, I was pretty good at it – paying all my bills, living within my means (or so I thought) and saving a little here and there.
How wrong I was! I need help as much as everybody else does. It does not matter whether one has an advanced degree in finance or one is totally clueless about financial jargon. We all need that kind of help. Most specially when one is married.
Money is one of the causes of breakdown in many kinds of relationships. And marriage, having children, moving from two incomes to one, or having two incomes and yet not being on the same page when it comes to financial decisions, would all lead to some degree of tension. And if one is not careful, it will slowly steal away the joy in the relationship and one ends up wondering what has gone wrong.
And so every year, Pido and I set up a date to talk about our financial goals and plans. He loves to call it our Financial Conference so we would take it a little more seriously. We usually do it after the weeklong prayer and fasting. We want to make sure that we have individually prayed about our concerns on finances before consulting each other. We want to make sure that we are clearly reminded of some fundamentals before we lay out our financial plans.
During the long train ride from Saitama to Tokyo and then to Chiba prefecture (to see the beautiful newborn of the Gomezes), we did the Tatlonghari kind of FinCon.
We agreed to do the following:
1. To believe that God has been providing all our needs and that He has been faithful and will always be faithful in doing so.
We have so many financial aspirations. We want to have a lot of money. We want to buy so many things. We want to be ready for retirement. And we have a lot of needs. And so before all these crowd our hearts with ideas on how to reach all these financial goals, we wanted to make sure that our hearts are in the right place. We wanted to be in a position of gratitude, not in a position of entitlement. We wanted to remind ourselves that everything we have is from the Lord. Everything we have is a gift. And all the things we do not have are not enough reasons for us to think that God failed to provide. We pointed our hearts back to the great provider.
2. To trust God as our source.
It does not really matter if we have a lot or very little. Trusting God and seeing Him as our source say a lot about our relationship with the Lord. When we trust Him as the source, not our income, not our employers, not our host country that provides employment opportunities, not our spouse, not ourselves, we are putting our finances in the realm where faith works. Trusting Him has allowed me to dream of owning properties we would not be able to have given our single income and burgeoning needs. It has allowed me not to put pressure on my husband to go home and bring as much money as he could because I wanted a lifestyle he could not afford. It has allowed me to have a certain kind of peace that things are going to be provided for anyway and I can do my part in the best way I can and watch God move.
3. To put God first.
I love reading financial books that do not only provide tools to help manage our finances, but also put premium on giving our tithes faithfully and being generous to others as prerequisites to having financial freedom and peace. And so even before we started talking about the things we needed to do this year to meet our financial targets, we reminded ourselves to be accountable to each other when it comes to giving our tithes. We also decided to pray about being generous in our giving, specially in planting seeds in good soil. In the past, we have supported a few missionaries in small ways because we felt that we wanted to be a part of what God was doing in the nations they were trying to reach. We prayed to be blessed so we could bless our extended families and those God wants us to bless.
4. To be good stewards of resources entrusted to us.
It was a big step of faith when we jumped from being a two income family to a single income one, more than three years ago. We were not prepared for it. I often wished we had heeded the advice of living within the income of my husband only and saving my income during the early years of our marriage. We now give that same advice to new couples. The issue is not really about whether the wife/mother wants to work after having kids. The choice to stay home or be a working mom is neither good nor bad. I think the greater issue is whether she has to work because there is no other choice, because the lifestyle that the family has chosen to live and enjoy would require both people working so many hours a week to bring home more bucks. And so as good stewards we learned to embrace how to use certain tools to live within our means. Pido and I talked about changing our mindset about being debt-free; agreed to write down our goals and be very careful with writing and following our budget; planned how to reach our target emergency fund this year; put a deadline to pay all kinds of debt including mortgage in the next two years; talked about investment we could make and the types of insurance we should prioritize; decided to scale down our lifestyle and postpone our dream trip we have been planning to make when we turn 40 next year; emphasized the need to set aside money for celebrations most specially anniversaries because they are important to our marriage; and committed to doing each other’s role with excellence so we could reach our target.
We still need a lot of help and practice in this area. We still need to learn from our mentors who have gone ahead of us and have made wise financial decisions. We still need to read a lot of books and re-visit the way we budget, spend and save. We still need to work hard in order to have the seed money for our dream business and investments. We still have to learn how to communicate better, fight less, and work together as a team so we would make decisions according to what God wants us to do with the resources He entrusted to us. We will still need to keep asking for forgiveness and to give our sincere and immediate “I forgive you” when one of us makes mistakes and a silly financial decision.
Talking about money with one’s spouse does not not only bring both of you on the same page as you manage your resources; it also makes you fall in love with the other person more and more as you listen to his/her faith, fears, dreams, secret prayers, disappointment, frustrations, and regrets. Talking about money gives you a chance to rediscover the other person and makes you see that it is really not just about the money. It is also about remembering two types of very important covenants- the covenant God has with us and the covenant of marriage to this other person God has given us.
God is our provider. We just need to take time to remember. And maybe, talk about it a little more often until we get to a place where we can trust God completely, surrender our fears and doubts; give thanks despite lack and loss; and bask in the promise that He will be there for all our future needs, in His perfect ways and in His time.
Avic Castillo-Tatlonghari is the blessed wife of Pido, a trying hard stay-at-home mom of Adana and a Filipino trying to live to the fullest, discovering all my little great joys, here in Japan. She would loved to hear from you. You can reach her through her e-mail at email@example.com