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Reconciling a Spender-Saver Marriage

In any marriage, even one where both partners have similar money management styles, family finances create conflict at least occasionally. But when one spouse is a saver and the other is a spender, financial disagreements can be frequent, emotional, and divisive. For these couples, achieving financial harmony—where both personalities contribute to a balanced approach to the family finances—requires compromise and communication.

One of the keys to achieving successful compromise is learning to appreciate and respect the very differences that attracted you to your spouse in the first place—rather than trying to change him or her. Of course, that's easier to do if you can look at your spouse's behavior objectively. Though it might be hard not taking his or her actions personally, in reality, how your partner spends or saves his or her money is probably not a reflection on you or the relationship. Ongoing communication about money is crucial if you're to avoid misunderstandings about your motivations.

A solution that works for many couples is to have His, Hers, and Ours accounts. Use the joint account to pay household expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, and car and home repairs. If there's money left over, split it into personal no-questions-asked accounts. It's from these accounts that you can pursue individual wish-list goals. For a spender, that might mean paying for a family dream vacation. For a saver, it could mean beefing up an IRA (individual retirement account).

Throughout your discussions, remain open-minded, rather than insisting that your partner do things your way. Make agreements — they add weight to your intentions and keep you on track. Set goals together, and make a few of your own. And, if you reach an impasse, consider working with a professional who can help you move forward.

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