Understand where your partner is coming from.
Talk about how your families dealt with money growing up. Share your first memories of having or spending money, discuss each of your parents' attitudes about money and talk about what you wish had been done differently in your family. Chances are you'll gain valuable insights into your partner's current approach to finances (and probably into your own, as well).
Appreciate your partner's strengths.
Often spenders are "seize the day" kind of people who are spontaneous and fun, Wang says. They can be an important counterweight to savers, who tend to value the future over the present. My husband's insistence that we live life today, as well as save for the future, has resulted in some terrific vacations-and much nicer furniture than I'd have bought had I been left to my own devices.
Agree on goals.
Talk about short-term goals, such as your next vacation, as well as longer-term plans like paying for the kids' college and saving for retirement. People who live for today need to have something to look forward to in the near future; too much delayed gratification makes them grumpy and unwilling to cooperate with the longer-term plans.
Track where the money is going.
Stewart asks married clients to bring in at least three months' worth of bank and other account statements so they can see exactly how much income has come in and how much has been paid out. Sometimes this evidence is enough to get an overspending spouse to realize that changes need to be made, particularly if the outgo greatly exceeds the income.
Solicit solutions; don't impose them.
If your expenses exceed your income or you're not saving enough for your goals, cuts will have to be made. But the spender should have an active role in deciding exactly where to cut. "The key is for the person we're dealing with to own the reduction in spending," Stewart said.
Attack the problem, not each other.
No one is blameless here. "It takes two to tango" and create the dynamic that causes financial problems, Wang notes. Attacks and accusations are counterproductive. Instead, she suggests, focus on working as a team.
Tell the truth-always.
Most of us understand that physical infidelity is devastating to a relationship. But many people don't understand that financial infidelity is a big deal, too.
Excerpt of The 10 Commandments of Money is courtesy of HUDSON STREET PRESS, an imprint of Penguin.