This has officially become the #1 reason perfectly good couples give me as to why they can't get married.
"We're trying to save up."
"We need good jobs."
"I have to buy her that $X,000.00 engagement ring!"
"We want to buy a house."
Ok, I get it. It takes money to live. No one debates that fact. However, I am very concerned by what my friend Ted Cunningham calls an "unnecessary delay of marriage." In dozens of conversations, I hear the same worn out line about not having the money or the job to support married life. I don't want to come off insensitive or simplistic but here's the bottom line…
You will figure out a way to support what you are most committed to.
We must recognize that marriage is far more important and far more permanent than any job or career. The reality is, no matter what your "plan" is to get established in your job and have a steady income stream, you cannot predict the unknowable in life. You could lose your job. The market could turn and your income evaporate. Tragedy could strike and absorb more than you have to give. This is real life. Here's the cool part; marriage was designed to handle career and income changes. This is why it is vital to consider your marriage as the more important part of your life plan. The jobs will come and go. You will make money, you will lose money but your marriage will (theoretically) be there. So, my advice is, settle the marriage question first - or at least within a reasonable timeframe. If you know you want to get married, do it; you will figure out the details…you will have to!
Answering the objections…I know you have them so here are my responses…
1. Shouldn't a couple, especially the man, have a good and stable job? Well, I'm certainly NOT against this! A good and stable job is an enormous blessing in life. However, just remember that the definition of "good" varies based on who you ask. Are you delaying the better thing, marriage, for an unrealistic job opportunity? Likewise, "stable" is nearly always an illusion. I recommend shifting the focus from "good and stable job" to the question, "do you have a good and stable work ethic?" A person who has a good work ethic tends to always have a job and always earn an income. Trust me, your career stability has more to do with your work ethic than your resume. No reputable person would advise a married couple to get divorced if someone loses their job or if the economy turns. Marriage is made to handle it.
2. What if I/we have debt? This is a huge concern. However, I disagree with those who call debt a sin. Debt is not sinful, but it is a very specific reality. You must pay what you owe. You become a "slave to the lender." In other words, you life choices are more limited based on your debt load. It is not wrong to marry into or with debt. However, it is wise to fully disclose the debt before marriage and establish agreement on the ideal plan to pay it off. Debt is usually its most damaging when it is discovered by surprise. Still, it is not a reason to delay marriage. Again, marriage is designed to handle situations like these in stride, knowing no financial situation is perfect. Love (and a good budget) covers a multitude of bad financial choices!
3. What about the engagement ring? Ok, this is getting out of hand. Dropping 10K on an engagement ring is not the standard you should be aiming for. If you've got it, be my guest. An engagement ring is a convention of modern romance and can probably be traced back to a jeweler somewhere! Sure, throughout history there have been different variations of gifts or dowries that were given at the point of engagement. This practice has somehow morphed into the modern practice of an engagement ring but the rest of the practice is left in history. I don't suppose you also want your parents to approve of your spousal selection do you? Here's my advice on the engagement ring. It is a nice BONUS but not a requirement. The strength of your marriage is not at all related to the carats on her left hand. "Bling" will not buy you a good marriage. The recommendation I've heard for the engagement ring budget is 2-3 months the man's current salary. However, I will add that it is far better to go less expensive or not at all than to buy something you cannot afford and drag further debt into the marriage. Guys, I know that girl wants a fat ring, who wouldn't!? If that's her greatest concern…run. (This applies to all the wedding expenses as well!)
4. Lifestyle. Most of you want to get married and live a lifestyle that took your parents 30 years to achieve. Be reasonable. Start at an affordable level. Many of you could get married tomorrow if you only gave up the delusion that you have to start your lives together in 5000 square feet! You might be pleasantly surprised at what that one-bedroom apartment and ramen noodle budget will do for those early days of married life. Don't make your marriage compete with your lifestyle. Be married, enjoy each other and when those upgrades come, be grateful.
A final thought is the reality that the longer you stay single, the more you carve a groove that is hard to break. Delaying marriage is dangerous for those who truly want to be married. The longer you wait, the more you end up protecting those selfish patterns that only make it hard to consider the high calling of giving yourself fully to someone in marriage. So, if you are throwing around that excuse that you just don't have the money to marry, I hope this post puts a little friendly pressure on you to decide!