Catholic Marriage and Money: Finances in Marriage Prep, PreCana
Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s a recognition of the role of money in marriage. We see an increasing number of Catholic archdioceses, dioceses and parishes including instruction on finances in their marriage prep or Pre-Cana classes. It’s not surprising. After all, money is the number one cause of arguments among couples (more than chores and in-laws); research indicates that those arguments are the best indicator of divorce. Before marriage, good discussion and instruction on money and finances in Catholic marriages can save a lot of fighting, marriage counseling and therapy later.
Marriage preparation classes vary by parish or diocese and, of course, each educator’s style is different. Marriage prep may be a weekend or last a few weeks. There are also online Catholic marriage prep classes such as those offered by CatholicMarriagePrepclass.com, the result of some great work by folks we’ve met at NACFLM, Smart Marriages and NARME: The Marriage Group LLC and Family Ministries Office, Archdiocese of Chicago.
There are a diversity of approaches, but most PreCana classes cover similar topics. Marriage prep classes now include modules on money, finances, financial planning, financial stewardship in addition to traditional topics like spirituality and theology. A large, but incomplete list of Catholic marriage prep topics includes:
Blended Families, Children, Christian Family Values, Christian Stewardship, Cohabitation, sex before marriage, Communication skills, Conditions for a valid marriage, Conflict management, Contraception, abortion, Convalidations, Diversity, Expectations, Extended Family, Family Origins, Families of Origin, Finances, Money, Financial Planning, Forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God’s Plan for Marriage (Genesis), Interfaith, Intimacy, Long-term commitment, Mature Couples, Natural Family Planning, Parenting, Past, Pornography, Potential problems, Prayer, Reproductive technologies, Sacrament of Matrimony, Sexuality, and Spirituality
In addition, as noted by catholicweddinghelp.com, many marriage preparation processes include:
- a pre-marriage relationship inventory such as FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study), PREPARE (Premarital Preparation and Relationship Enhancement), PMI (Pre-Marital Inventory), RELATE, FACET (Foundations Applied Conversation and Education Tool)
- a weekend retreat for engaged couples such as Catholic Engaged Encounter
- marriage preparation sessions with a sponsor couple or marriage mentor couple
- marriage prep sessions with a priest, deacon, or lay minister
Where does money come into play? Generally, we see family life educators leading a basic session that combines habits, attitudes, values, Catholic theology and stewardship and family of origin as they relate to money. (Money touches on so many aspects of life.) In some cases, there is a small degree of financial planning or budgeting that happens too. But, generally, the goal seems to be to introduce engaged couples to financial concepts and how those will affect their marriage.
Just being able to talk about money is a big part of any relationship; people often learn to not talk about money versus learning how to talk about money. Money is a very charged and emotional topic. And even when people come from the same socio-economic and religious backgrounds, their habits, attitudes and values about money can be very different – leading to disagreements or hard feelings. Money questions might include:
- Should we send our kids to private school?
- How much should we spend on the wedding?
- How much will we spend on our house?
For people coming together from more different backgrounds, the differences in financial outlook can be even more different; imagine someone raised middle-class in Austin and someone who grew up in a poor family in Mexico. Talking about how one’s family saw and used money can be a very constructive, eye-opening exercise to get to know a partner with respect to money, but it’s also a great way to learn more about someone and their family. Of course, there are many Biblical lessons that tie in with money.
For example, how do you react to this quotation:
Luke 18:24-25: Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Money Habitudes helps couples talk about money and it’s used by family life offices in a variety of ways. It may be used a teaching tool or game in a class or it may be used by engaged couples on their own at home. It’s also used in marriage counseling, lay counseling and in sessions with marriage mentors or marriage sponsors as a way to generate fun, non-threatening conversations about money. Although parishes use the cards with groups as large as 100, typically it’s used with smaller groups and the format stresses couples working together versus generating more group discussion. Best results come from using one deck per person (so two decks per couple), or the Couple’s Special. Participants may buy their own materials, or the durable cards may be used over and over, thereby decreasing program cost. Note that there are different cards for adults, young adults, Spanish-speaking adults and also for teens.