These little four words in the vow have huge consequences. Unless you were raised in poverty, you don’t go into marriage expecting to be poorer (or, at least much poorer than your current standard of living). If anything, you have visions of a nice house or perhaps a luxury apartment, well-dressed children, and even well-groomed pets.
I, (name), take you (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
If you are like many, you predict great prosperity in your marriage – especially if you factor in two incomes. SUVs are everywhere and many people have nice clothes and nice homes; so, most of us reason that when we get married and gather some time under our belts, we’ll have all of those things too. It’s just the American way, right?
It is the American dream to be able to work in a field that you are passionate about while pursuing happiness. A friend of mine from Columbia, South America told me before she moved to America she thought money was scattered on the ground here in the States. If we’re not careful, we can assume that we are entitled to all the nice things we want – regardless of our income or work ethic.
Most people don’t assume their fiancé/fiancée is going to be a lazy slob. People go into marriage expecting the other to work hard (or at least, put up their end of “the bargain”). Some men expect their future wives to work hard on a job and supply extra income; whereas, some men expect their wives to work hard in the home. Yet, seldom do you find a man who is seeking out a lazy woman to spoil (unless he is independently wealthy and has his priorities out of order – and, in that case, I have a charity to which he can give!).
Women usually expect to their future husbands to be good providers. There are some ladies who say they don’t want to depend on a man; but, even in that population, you can still find an overwhelming number of women who want the security that comes from being married to a hard working man. There are a precious few women in the world who want to work feverishly so that their man can sit in front of the television and play video games for hours and hours.
But, not all poorer situations are due to laziness. What happens if your husband is laid off from a good paying job and has a hard time finding another? What if your wife becomes ill and has to be out of work for six months? What if your short-term disability is denied by the insurance company? What if you are unexpectedly blessed with triplets?
Regardless of our best laid plans, unexpected financial problems come. Dave Ramsey says that most people go through a major financial situation at least once every ten years. This is why he is so adamant that people have a fully-funded emergency fund of three to six months of expenses (after paying off all debt, excluding your primary mortgage if you have one).
So, what are you vowing to do when you say, “for richer, for poorer?” Many of us may find it quite obvious: we are vowing to stay with, and love, this person regardless of how much money/provisions we have – or don’t have – at any given time.
Before stating this vow before God, family, and friends, I would consider a number of things:
- Are you about to marry someone with a strong work ethic?
- Can he or she be trusted to work hard at a job, or in the home, depending on which lifestyle you are both pursuing?
- Are you prepared to leave your father’s house? In other words, are you ready to leave the established lifestyle of your parents (many of them have worked twenty or thirty years to attain the lifestyle they have now)
- Are you prepared to live on a budget until you and your spouse are financially able to buy the comforts you are used to having every day?
- Are you comfortable with the amount of money you and your future spouse will have saved when starting your marriage?
- Do you think you should wait until you have more money saved? If so, how will you know when enough is enough?
Take some time and show each other your current budgets (if you do not have one, now is a great time to make one). After the shock wears off from that process, create a budget together on a fixed income of $40,000 (the average income of an American family) to see what choices you two would make together.
Hollywood makes all wedding vows sound romantic – vowing to love someone forever, regardless of what mountain needs climbing or ocean needs swimming. When we feel the intoxication that comes with new love, we can repeat these words with little thought.
But, reality is never far from the altar (in fact, our first money issue together came before we even left for our honeymoon!). When you vow to be with someone for richer or for poorer, it is no joke. This person could be rendered unable to work less than a month after your marriage in an unfortunate accident. Your vow says that you will not leave.
Lord willing, you and your future spouse will be healthy for years and have many wonderful memories together; but, are you truly willing to stay, love, and cherish this person, even if he or she cannot contribute a penny to the household? It is a lot to consider.
Have you given much thought to this aspect of your future marriage? Are you prepared to live poorer if your circumstances require it or if you are called to missions? What are some fears you have regarding money as you enter into marriage?