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Ask Chuck: Money or marriage? Counsel for undecided singles

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

My adult children are pursuing careers and putting marriage on hold. With each passing year, I grow increasingly concerned. When did financial security take precedence over God’s plan for families?

Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

iStock/triloks
iStock/triloks

Oh boy, this is a big subject! It is a concern that not only impacts you as a parent but also each of us as human beings the world over. Not only is the age of first marriage being pushed further and further out, but the precipitous drop in the fertility rate or number of children born in a household is a troubling trend as well. We need marriages, children, and strong families to be a fully functioning society. Many developed countries of the world currently have a birth rate below the replacement rate!

The root of the problem

Our young people have been exposed to the good, the bad, and the ugly side of marriage. If they are not abiding in Christ or in community with other believers, they likely see life through a secular worldview shaped by media, which typically portrays love and marriage like nothing resembling God’s design. “Hook-up” culture is replacing the idea of a lifelong covenant with another.

The Gospel Coalition published an article by Keith Simon entitled “Marriage Is Better for You Than You May Think.” He makes an excellent observation: “I’m most intrigued by the way Western culture has convinced multiple generations that life’s highest value is personal autonomy, as measured by financial independence.”

For many, marriage is a financial transaction, and debt has become a major factor. Couples make a promise to marry when the finances work. Some do trial runs to determine if they are compatible. They may justify it as a way of “saving money” when, in reality, they are simply “playing house” — my mother-in-law’s definition of cohabiting. There are some interesting articles about that here and here. Most have no idea marriage is good for you and your financial well-being!

Nine times better off

Go Banking Rates states, “Traditionally, married people tend to be better off financially than those who are single — and thanks to inflation, this is now more true than ever ... In 2010, the median net worth of married couples 25 to 34 years old was four times as much as the median net worth of single households; as of 2019, married couples were worth nine times as much, the Wall Street Journal reported.”

Granted, there are some scary statistics about divorce, but they tend to be exaggerated and rarely touch on the benefits and joy of marriage. Marriage does not mean people won’t experience hardship or heartache. It often guarantees it as a means of sanctification (Ephesians 5:2233).

The benefits of marriage far outweigh all other forms of living arrangements. In fact, studies show that marriage makes people happier, increases their net worth, and helps them save more money. Marriage allows for filing taxes jointly along with the marital tax deduction, social security, IRA, inheritance, and leave benefits. There are health, auto, and home insurance benefits. While increasing the likelihood of affluence, it also decreases mortality risk. Married women, by and large, experience less poverty, and married fathers earn more income than single dads.

A true picture of marriage

The Gospel Coalition states, “Married adults also express higher levels of satisfaction with their relationship and are more likely than those who are cohabiting to express a great deal of trust in their spouse or partner is being faithful to them, will act in their best interest, always tell them the truth, and will handle money responsibly. Additionally, married adults are much more likely than cohabiters to say they feel closer to their spouse or partner than to any other adult” [sic].

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller states, “Married people experience greater physical and mental health. Also, marriage provides a profound “shock absorber’ that helps you navigate disappointments, illnesses, and other difficulties. You recover your equilibrium faster. But the increased earnings probably also come from what scholars call ‘marital social norms.’ Studies show that spouses hold one another to greater levels of personal responsibility and self-discipline than friends or other family members can. Just to give one example, single people can spend money unwisely and self-indulgently without anyone to hold them accountable. But married people make each other practice saving, investment, and delayed gratification. Nothing can mature character like marriage.”

Offer them an alternative

Unfortunately, a high percentage of our population does not know or abide by biblical financial principles. They do not believe or understand that everything in Heaven and Earth is His. Stewardship is the responsibility of managing the resources God provides. It is choosing to live in such a way that sacrifices are made to avoid debt, gain margin, and experience freedom from financial stress.

Share with your children the great joys and financial benefits of living in God’s design for marriage. Then pray He will open their hearts and prepare them to be ready when the right one comes into their lives. I should add that the Bible commends those who are able to live in singleness and devote their undivided attention to serving Christ. So don’t force the issue. Pray, offer your counsel, and see what God has in store.

This book may be of great interest to your children and you: Money Problems - Marriage Solutions by Chuck and Ann Bentley. Crown also has an online financial course for couples to do together called Money Dates.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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