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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

Everyone has dreams.

Buying a summer cottage in New Hampshire.

Cruising around the world just to see what a sunrise looks like in Fiji.

Giving up the rat race at an early age and motoring around the country.

But when it comes to melding the wishes of two people into one life plan, financial consultants and counselors say compromise and understanding are essential. Whether a married couple is just looking for a first home or planning the perfect retirement together, respect for each other's wishes and a frank discussion about spending and saving priorities can help get them there.

"I'm one that believes very strongly that anything is possible," says Carol Nowka, a retired Certified Financial Planner in Grand Island, Neb. "It just depends on how much you're willing to sacrifice to make that happen."

Big purchases can mean big headaches
Purchasing decisions cause some of the biggest headaches for married couples and they only get more complicated when thousands, rather than dozens, of dollars are involved. People have their own wants and needs, and sometimes they aren't used to the idea of working with someone else to satisfy mutual goals.

Yet none of this has to stand in the way of a successful relationship -- as long as couples approach large financial commitments sensibly.

The first step to getting into a new home, for example, should be a frank discussion around the apartment's kitchen table rather than a visit to the nearest mortgage company's Web site.

"The home is probably the largest item they will purchase," says Peggy W. Fellouris, a New Bedford, Mass., marriage counselor and divorce mediator. "I talk to clients about whether, 'Do you want to be in the house for two years or four years? What kind of a lifestyle do you want? Have you finished your education and are you starting a career? Or are you simply at a job and you don't want it to be a lifestyle for the future?'"

"One thing that's very important in a marriage is that you eliminate as many stresses as possible," she says. "Finance becomes a very strong topic and it can easily become a stress if it's not handled right."

Money attitudes shaped in childhood
Some specific problems couples can watch out for and avoid relate to upbringing and personal goals. By figuring out where each partner is coming from, husbands and wives can dodge conflicts over what type of house to buy and how far they should stretch themselves to pay for it.

 
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