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Special section Love and money -- oil and water?

This Valentine's Day learn how to live in financial harmony with your partner and work together toward long-term goals.

Teamwork makes the expensive dreams come true

"It's partly due to how they were raised as children. Maybe one spouse was raised by a parent who instilled in them that for every dollar that you earn, you have to save 10 cents," says Nowka. "Maybe the other spouse was raised by the idea that somebody else takes care of that for me and I don't have to worry about those things."

As for goals, experts say homes, cars and other expensive items should offer something for both parties in the marriage. A man shouldn't have to give up his wants to please his wife, for example, unless his wife is willing to compromise or offer something equally important in return.

"Frequently the husband will forgo the garage that he has dreamed of having or the workshop that he has dreamed of having because she wants a particular house in a particular location," Fellouris says. "But when they're purchasing a home, it must be a joint effort where they both have a vested interest in the home.

"It cannot be a gift for one person."

Once they identify these goals and attitudes toward money, couples will be better able to discuss big purchases, experts say. They can then use that background information to come up with a spending, savings and shopping strategy together that both can stomach, says Judith Stern Peck, director of the Family Money Matters Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. The New York-based nonprofit organization counsels couples with financial and personal problems.

"Let's say they want to buy a house and they want to spend 'X' amount of dollars, but they want to live in a particular neighborhood," she says. "So what would the strategy be? Maybe the husband would start looking with a real estate broker or the wife would start looking and they would begin to look at the marketplace.

"Then, one of them would start looking at the financial steps and how to get the right mortgage" and so on, Peck adds, "sharing the responsibility."

 
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