04/09/2012 03:21 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

5 Steps to Make Your Relationship Financially Happy

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

In a survey by American Express, 27% of respondents said they had lied to their partner about the amount of a purchase, and 30% reported hiding purchases from a partner.

Many couples have different values around money, and neglecting to take the time to hash out issues can potentially ruin relationships.

But you can improve your financial intimacy. Here are five tips to do just that:

1. Hold a Monthly Financial Discussion Night
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"? Also discuss and update your long-term and short-term financial and savings goals. Ask if the purchases you're considering will move you closer to your goals. 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.

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.

3. Eliminate Debt to Outside Financial Institutions
Debt is deadly to many relationships. A top priority should be to reduce and eliminate debt to banks and credit card companies. Make spending decisions consciously. Build an emergency fund that can help you weather life's emergencies. For tips on creating a rainy day fund, including how much to set aside, see the video, The Secret to a Financially Stress-Free Life.

4. Have a 'Plan B'
What's your back-up plan if things change? What if one of you loses a job or wants to go back to school? What if one of you gets a job in another part of the country?

5. How to Take the First Step
There's no time like the present to start or deepen the money conversation with your partner. A fun, non-threatening way to do this is by taking our Love and Money Financial Self-Assessment. Take this three-minute survey either separately or together, and compare your money values. I think you'll find it to be eye-opening!

This story was originally written by Pamela Yellen for 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