02/08/2012 07:15 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2012

Five Tips for Relationship Fiscal Harmony

Money is the leading cause of marital and relationship troubles.  40% of married couples have serious, recurring arguments about money, according to Matt Bell, author of Planning for Fewer Fights with Your Spouse.

49% of those battles have to do with what to buy or not buy, 33% are about debt and 26% about savings.

According to a survey by American Express, 27% of those who responded have lied about the amount of a purchase to their partner, and 30% have hidden purchases from their partner.

And would it surprise you to learn that some people admitted to knowing their partner's weight but not their salary?

How compatible are you and your partner when it comes to money and finances?

Many couples have different values where money is concerned and neglect to take the time to hash out issues that can potentially ruin their relationship.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I've put together five tips for improving the fiscal harmony in your relationship...

Tip #1:  Hold a monthly financial discussion night

Since so many couples don't talk openly about money, when money issues do come up, it becomes a sensitive subject and leads to conflict.

The solution is to sit down with your partner every month and go over your spending and savings plan.  Look at everything you bought during the past month and everything you're thinking of buying soon, and ask yourselves, "Is this really a need or a want"?  Awareness is the key to taking control of your spending habits, and asking questions like this one is very powerful.

Also discuss and update your long-term and short-term financial and savings goals, and then ask yourselves if the purchases you're considering will truly move you closer to those goals.

Tip:  If you have children over age 6 or 7, include them in your monthly family finance night -- it's a great way to prepare your kids to be financially successful and responsible adults.

Learn more about how to teach teens financial responsibility

Tip #2:  Share responsibility

It's common today for one partner to play the primary role in managing finances.  But both partners should be aware and involved.  Make all decisions about major purchases together.

Trap:  Allowing the partner with the biggest income to make major financial decisions alone.

Tip #3:  Eliminate debt to outside financial institutions

Debt is deadly to many relationships, and a top priority should be to reduce and eliminate debt to banks and credit card companies.

One way to speed up that process is to make your spending decisions more consciously.  (See Tip #1 above.)

Another key is building an emergency fund that can help you weather life's emergencies.

For tips on creating a rainy-day fund, including how much you should be setting aside, see the video, The Secret to a Financially Stress-Free Life

Tip #4:  Have a "Plan B"

One topic to be sure to cover during your family finance discussion night is what's your back-up plan if things change.  What if one partner loses their job?  Or what if one partner wants to go back to school?  What if one of you gets a job in another part of the country?

Tip #5:  How to take the first step

There's no time like the present to start or deepen the money conversation with your partner.  And here's a fun, non-threatening way to do that...

Begin by taking our Love and Money Financial Self-Assessment.

I encourage you and your partner to take the 3-minute assessment, either separately or together, and see how your money values differ from one another.  I think you'll find this to be eye-opening!

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