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Sex and money. By now everyone knows these are the top relationship busters.

So when finances take a hit and the going gets tough, what happens to that "for richer or poorer" promise? Angela Self, one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group, says that ironically enough, the recent economic turmoil has likely spurred some sorely needed money talk among couples.

"If there is any silver lining to what has happened in the last few years, the unemployment and financial difficulties, it has forced couples to sit down and talk about money," she said.

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Understanding your partner's financial character is the key to avoiding conflict, Ms. Self said.

Ms. Self, who writes a bi-weekly column on managing and saving money for the Globe Investor site, is one of The Smart Cookies, a group of five Canadian women who specialize in personal finance.

She has provided us with these tips on how couples can see eye to eye, at least when it comes to finances. They will have to figure out the sex part on their own.

1 Be happy you've attracted your financial opposite. Spenders give their hearts to savers and meticulous bill trackers fall for disorganized types all the time. Attracting your financial opposite can really be a great thing - if you work it right. The key is to accept each other's weaknesses and play to each other's strengths. Translation: The more organized partner manages the money and pays the bills on time, while the shopaholic is tasked with the family's weekly shopping and getting creative to stick to the agreed-upon spending plan.

2 Get real. It's not money that causes divorce, it's the not talking about money that's the culprit. Have you ever asked your partner why they impulse shop or why they get so anxious when you spend large chunks of money? There's a reason for your partner's money personality - get to know it. Talking about money is the launch pad for creating a spending plan that works for your money personalities and is in line with your mutual goals. Keep in mind that you should pick a low-stress time to talk and should focus on future goals and not past mistakes.

3 Realize two heads are richer than one. Take advantage of the opportunities you have that your single friends don't. You can split expenses, leaving more money to chip away at debt or you could bank one salary for savings and live off of the other. The point is, when you work together, you can compound the results. What could you be doing today to take advantage of your situation?

4 Dream a little dream ... over cocktails. Take a night, get comfy, grab a drink and look ahead one, five, 20 years into the future. What do you want your life to look like? Is it similar to your partner's dream? You're in this together (for better or worse, remember?) so get on the same page and get excited about your future. Then you can put your dreams to paper with a realistic dollar amount and time frame. ING has a helpful calculator to help you run time and cost scenarios.

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5 Maintain your independence. You should have at least three bank accounts: one for you, one for him and one for your shared expenses. Fund the shared expense account with equal percentages of take-home pay and the remaining money funds your own account. Not only will this help each of you maintain positive credit scores, but it will eliminate either of you from feeling like one partner has all of the control and is making all of the decisions. Plus, if you want to surprise your love with a gift, best to do it from a separate account.

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About the Author
Personal Finance Web Editor

Roma Luciw is the Globe and Mail’s personal finance editor. She has worked at the Globe as a business journalist since 2001, covering stock markets, breaking news, and most recently anything that helps regular Canadians manage their own money. More

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