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Yours, Mine, Ours: Balancing Personal Needs and Marriage

Money Squabbles

Conflict zone: This is an emotionally charged subject that's bound to create sparks. While we're all struggling to stay within our budgets, few couples have identical spending habits and are simpatico on everything from grocery bills to investment strategies. In fact, fights over money are one of the main reasons couples seek counseling.

Keeping the peace: Betchen advises couples to stop thinking as individuals ("It's my paycheck, so I'll spend it as I please!") and start thinking like a team ("How should we manage our finances so we can retire early?"). Household income is joint marital property, no matter who earns it. "When one spouse tells the other, 'I don't want you to spend my money,' it's a huge red flag for a dominance problem," Betchen says. Keep track of costs to see where you can cut back; then set an amount that each of you can spend every month as you wish. Agree that major purchases will be a joint decision. If you're at odds over how to save for college and retirement, consult a financial planner.