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www.lhj.com/relationships/
Why Money Is Such an Emotional Topic
By Karin Price Mueller

The common wisdom: It all goes back to our childhoods.


Money Talk

Your money attitude today is
probably most influenced by
your upbringing, experts say.
Whether your parents were
wealthy or lived from paycheck
to paycheck, your experiences
growing up had an impact on
the way you think about money
now.
Family patterns, such as which
parent handled the family's
money in your youth or
whether your parents fought
about money, may have
created patterns that you adopt
for your own adult life. Or, if
you're aware of things you'd like to change, you might invent your own
money management techniques.
You need to remember that your partner was influenced by his childhood,
too, and it may be a struggle to reconcile your experiences so you can
come up with a strategy you both can live with. If your partner doesn't
want to talk about it, there's probably a reason. Perhaps he's
embarrassed about his debt or his ignorance of money matters in
general, or maybe he feels that men should be in control of money. None
of those are reasons not to marry, but they're topics you need to address
before you tie the knot, experts advise.
Because of the built-in sensitivity many people have on money matters,
try to be delicate, even overly sensitive, if your partner's attitudes,
actions, or concerns cause you concern.
"Unfounded fears of running out of money can plague even
multimillionaires," says Debra Morrison, a certified financial planner with
RegentAtlantic Capital in Chatham, New Jersey.




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How to Talk About Money


The most important thing when talking about money is honesty and
understanding.
Linda Homsey, a certified financial planner with Freya Financial Group in
Winchester, Massachusetts, says people place different values on
money. To some, the power to earn money and manage it properly is a
reflection of an individual's worth as a person. That's why talking about
money can be so tough.
"Many people take great pride in how they manage their money and may
take offense to someone telling them that they are wrong or that they
need to do it differently," Homsey says.
To open the lines of communication about money with your partner,
Homsey suggests you start with discussions on less emotionally charged
topics such as goals or children, in essence backing into the subject of
money.
If your fiance or special someone still doesn't want to talk about money,
you may need a third party, such as a counselor or a financial planner, to
help overcome the obstacle. A third party could help to ease the tension
and guide the conversation. If your partner still clams up, that could be a
red flag.
"It could be an indication of their rigidity and could possibly increase over
time," Homsey says.
Morrison offers a checklist of topics to discuss:

How much is each of us earning, and how much is each of us
spending?

Upon marriage, how would our spending differ -- as individuals
and as a couple?

Would either of us be changing jobs, or would one of us stay at
home in a certain number of years to raise a child?

How would we handle a reduction in joint income?

How much debt does each of us have, and what was the debt
incurred for? If the debt is such that minimum payments would
not absolve the debt for several years, then the pattern of
overspending needs to be addressed and conquered.

How do we each prioritize fixed or essential expenses from
extraneous items? If there is a substantial difference in what each
of us considers necessary and extraneous, how will this be
resolved?
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Y
ou Don't Always Have to Agree

When you do start talking, know that you're each going to have to make
compromises.
You should start by tackling each financial goal you have and talk about
how you can accomplish that goal together. Morrison says couples with
varying opinions or money habits can still coexist happily, but first they
have to set some ground rules. For example, if one partner is a
spendthrift, you can agree upon a particular dollar amount that that
person can spend each week -- on anything he or she chooses. Then the
other partner can manage the finances for bill-paying and long-term
savings.
If you don't come up with a plan you can both agree on, you're going to
be working against each other's goals. That will make it hard to share
your wishes and dreams together. That's why a written plan may be the
answer. Once a year, you can sit together and develop a list of what
you're trying to accomplish and how you're progressing toward your joint
and individual goals. You can revise your plans as you go, but you both
should be involved in the process.
Dr. Shoshanna, author of Zen and the Art of Falling in Love (Simon &
Schuster, 2003), says you have to remember that it is nearly impossible
to change someone's habits if they're not interested in making the
change. If you can't accept the way your partner manages money and
you think you're going to change him after you're married, think again.
"Money habits take a long time to develop and can become quite
ingrained," Shoshanna says. "If you cannot accept the person's money
habits as they are now and live with them, it is best that you think twice
about the relationship."




If You're Not Sure
Some people may not be able to solve their money differences, but that
doesn't mean a relationship is doomed. You can marry but keep your
finances separate, or you could live together and divide finances,
maintaining entirely separate accounts, dividing all expenses, and
keeping a small kitty for shared bills.
There are some protections you need if you're not able to join your
money matters. If you live together without marriage and you buy a home
together, for example, you need to be very specific in your paperwork as
to which partner owns what percentage of the property, Homsey says.
Consult a lawyer, in that case. In the event of a breakup, unmarried
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© Copyright 2005 Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.



couples don't have the same laws protecting them and their assets, so
written agreements spelling out all the details are a smart idea.
In addition, if you don't marry, Morrison says you need to remember that
neither Social Security nor most pension benefits would be payable to an
unmarried partner. Access to family health insurance is also usually
denied to unmarried partners. Unmarried partners also need to name one
another on various insurance policies, such as homeowners, auto, and
liability, so that both partners are covered. Also, unmarried partners who
intend to leave certain assets to their partner upon death need to spell
out their wishes in legal documents so that the families do not interfere,
she says.
Once these issues are resolved, even the most financially incompatible
couple can make it.
"Money is simply a tool for achieving all kinds of things that generally
bring happiness and great joy," Morrison says.
Romance and Finance -- Makin
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