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Are Finances Taxing Your Relationship?

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More Tips for Family Financial Harmony

As April 17 approaches and we all take a closer look at our finances -- some of us for the first time since last year's tax return filing deadline -- now is a great time to plan for your future. For some, that means frankly discussing spending habits, credit card balances and how little went into "rainy day" savings. The franker the money conversation, the better your odds of preventing money misunderstandings from taxing your relationship.

Although men are often blamed for communication issues in relationships, the tables can be turned when it comes to discussing money. According to Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex, women are overtaking men as America's breadwinners. And a Pew Research Center study shows that in households where the husband brings in more income, buying decisions are made equally; but in households where the wife earns more, women make twice as many buying decisions as men.

Regardless of who brings home the bacon, having "the talk" on a regular basis is critical -- especially when it comes to planning major purchases and saving for retirement. Yet among couples who responded to a recent survey I conducted, nearly 40 percent said they have not discussed their retirement plans in depth. And, 31 percent admitted to keeping spending secrets from their partner, including lying about what they paid for something, hiding purchases altogether and taking money from their partner's purse or wallet without asking.

Those kinds of behaviors are unhealthy and counterproductive to creating a sound and harmonious financial future.

Even if you don't always agree with your partner's spending habits, you can agree that any purchase over a pre-agreed-upon amount, such as $200, will be discussed in advance. Having these ground rules in place can head off misunderstandings and arguments over money, and will lay the foundations for the more important discussions you have to face together -- like strategies for building your savings and planning for retirement.

In those bigger conversations, couples often question how much they should put aside each year. I advocate the "10/10/10 Savings Formula." This time-tested formula, derived from the saving habits of the 1940's and 1950's, avoids all conventional bank and credit card debt and allows for retirement planning in secure savings vehicles that guarantee a specific amount saved up on the day retirement is planned -- without taking on the risk of stocks, real estate and other traditional, volatile investments.

Whether it's planning for retirement, buying a big-ticket item or just making a weekly trip to the grocery store, remember that talking with your partner is the key to reducing financial stress and increasing intimacy. There's no time like the present to start or deepen the money conversation with your partner. Having "the talk" regularly is critical, no matter who brings home the bacon.

As a consultant to financial advisors, Pamela Yellen investigated more than 450 savings and retirement planning strategies seeking an alternative to the risk and volatility of stocks and other investments. Her research led her to a time-tested, predictable method of growing and protecting savings now used by more than 400,000 Americans. Pamela's book, Bank On Yourself: The Life-Changing Secret to Growing and Protecting Your Financial Future is a New York Times Bestseller. Learn more at www.BankOnYourself.com