smart spending

Can spenders and savers co-exist?

Structure accounts

If you're just getting started in your relationship, it's important to sit down and work out the details of your family money philosophy. For instance, will you keep separate checking accounts or combine all your money?

"Ask, 'How are we going to structure the mechanics of our money?' And then, 'Who pays the bills?'" says Michael Masiello, owner of Masiello and Associates, a financial planning firm. "And, 'Do we set a limit that says either of us can spend up to $50 without having to justify or explain it?'"

Some couples prefer to pool their money into a joint account and then siphon some out to joint savings accounts, pay bills and then spend as needed.

"In the ideal world, you have combined your resources and incomes and each month you put a portion of your money into a household fund. Then when the washer and dryer go out, there is $2,000 so we can go out and buy one," Masiello says.

Another approach that works for some couples: Keep a joint account for household expenses and common goals, but separate checking accounts for individual purchases.

"Then you each have to say, 'We need X amount to pay bills and maintain lifestyle. Above and beyond that, do your own thing.' But make sure that the monthly number is committed on both sides," says Masiello.

Staying engaged

It's not enough to get the technicalities ironed out and then forget about finances for the next 30 years.

Even in this day and age, far too many women cede control of their financial future to their husbands.

Masiello has seen that with his clients.

"The fairer sex tends to abdicate responsibility for finances to the male, and I do not believe that testosterone adds intelligence," he says.

No matter who does the investing and money management, both parties should be fully aware of where their money is going and what it does when it gets there. And they should leave the traditional gender roles out of it.

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