During the month of February, COMPASS is giving space for thought, questions and conversation related to couples, their money, and their money decisions. As part of this series, we are featuring guest posts from different writers. Today, we welcome Pastor Rebecca and Trip Sullivan to share some of their stories and approach to money decisions and finances.
Someday we’ll concoct a more elaborate and dramatic back story, but for now we’ll go with the truth: we met at church. Rebecca grew up in Wisconsin and had found her way to Baltimore after graduate school to work in the downtown central library. Trip grew up nearby in Delaware, and had moved to Maryland where there were more jobs.
We met at a Lutheran church in a young adults group. We got married soon afterward, and a few years later decided to pack up everything and move to Minnesota so that Rebecca could attend Luther Seminary to become a pastor. I am pleased to report that seminary was a success, and Rebecca began her first pastoral call this past November in Minnesota.
For some reason, talking about finances has never been easy for us. We know we must do it—and we always get through it—but it is about as enjoyable as having your teeth drilled at the dentist. It’s not that we’re particularly bad at finances; we would just rather talk about—or do—other things with the little time that we have together. With two full-time jobs, a two-year-old and another baby on the way in May, we’re just strapped for time, period. But money doesn’t talk by itself—that’s our job. In fact, constant communication really has been the key to having control over our money.
A few years ago, we took a finance class that emphasized holding regular and detailed money and budget meetings. For us, that idea just never worked and we have come to favor short money “pow-wows” versus long drawn-out budget meetings. Unlike a gushing firehose that just drenches everything in its path, our finance conversations are more like a methodical sprinkler, able to cover a lot of ground with a few drops here and there.
We discuss all our big, and medium size purchases (over $50) before making them. We talk about the small purchases too, often at the end of the day, or over dinner. These types of things range from the “needed a few things from the store” to “decided to treat a co-worker for coffee.” We keep talking, we keep sharing. It’s a constant dialogue, so that each partner has an idea of where our money is going.
Meetings with different financial planners have helped too. In addition to helping us navigate financial information we’re not familiar with, it’s helpful to have another person in the room to listen to our challenges and help us come up with plans for aspirational goals like planning for retirement, or college for our children.
When we have argued, it is often over fairly petty issues: too much of the budget was spent on this, or we didn’t set aside enough for that. When we’ve spent time to really dig into our disagreements, we’ve found that the source of the tension is purely anxiety-related. What if we don’t have enough money in checking this month? How are we going to pay for these medical claims? When are we going to pay that loan off?
Sometimes these questions are frightening, but are often not as scary or as intimidating as they seem at first. Once again, we talk it through, we break it down, and we find a solution. Perhaps it’s just a matter of creating a new budget plan and following through, or moving funds from one place to another. Setting up automated saving accounts has been a huge help. They are a big reason why we were able to both quit our jobs and move to Minnesota.
That’s our story, and that’s what works for us when it comes to handling our finances. What’s your story? What works for you?
Rebecca Sullivan is the pastor of Lakeville Lutheran Church (Maplewood, MN). Trip Sullivan is the communications director of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church (Apple Valley, MN). They reside in Saint Paul with their son Jack, dog Sprocket, with a second baby on the way.
This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.