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Honesty, openness keys to a financially successful marriage

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My husband and I have been married for 28 years, and my son is getting married in September.

My financial advice for him is to be honest about all of his expenses and debt. The No. 1 reason for couples arguing is money. I have always been in charge of the finances, but we have had disagreements over purchases. I will say that as a couple, I am the saver and he is the spender.

Opposites attract. During the first year of marriage, you will have to learn each other’s views on money.

If you have debt, just lay it on the table. You have to remember that it’s not just your debt. Now it will be your shared responsibility.

Some people have trust issues when it comes to their money. Money isn’t just a dollar figure to many people. It is tied to emotions: power, guilt, comfort, fear, love. Learning to communicate with each other without involving emotion or starting a fight can be a struggle, but trying will make every day easier.

Here are some money life lessons that I have learned.

Pay bills together. In most situations, one person pays the bills, and the other is not involved and is more carefree about spending. One spouse’s free-spending habits aren’t fair to the other spouse if he or she doesn’t know what bills need to be paid. Remember, both of you are legally responsible for your debt. This also means that you should know what you are saving or investing for retirement.

Have a joint account to pay expenses, and contribute to it in equal percentages. Everyone has their own views on individual accounts and joint accounts. During the first year, start an account together, with both of you depositing money in that account to cover your expenses. This is a great way not to have one person feel at a disadvantage of not making as much as the other person.

Don’t keep financial secrets. Credit card bills and debt are easy to hide, but it will come back to haunt you. Just be honest with your partner about your bills. A supportive partner can help you rein in your debt in a positive environment, taking away any source of shame. Make a plan together on how you’re going to fix it. Sometimes you won’t like that someone is watching your spending, but remember: It’s not just you anymore.

Don’t make major purchases without consulting your partner. I am not saying you have to ask permission to go to dinner with friends, but agree on an amount — maybe $100 or more — that you will consult each other for.

The person who earns the most money doesn’t have more power in the relationship. Money equals power in business, but in relationships, that doesn’t work as well. Your relationship is an equal partnership.


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Deborah Morris’ every-other-week column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get more for less. Go to her website, Fru-gal-friends.com.