05/08/2013 06:04 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2013

The Marriage of Love and Money: How to Protect Yourself From Financial Heartbreak

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What's going on (financially) in the private lives of couples across America?

As someone who earns a living providing financial advice for women, I'm fascinated by this question. A recent study about the money behavior of mates, conducted by Learnvest and Ameritrade, yielded the following insights:
  • The typical couple has three primary financial concerns: Having enough money to retire, enjoy their lives and live comfortably today.
  • Respondents reported that they talk with their partners about money on an average of 20 times a year and fight over money at least five times a year.
  • Overall, the study found that older generations are more likely to feel in control and secure when it comes to their finances -- and they're also significantly more likely to feel as if they're on the same page with their partner in regard to money.

Interestingly, while financial conflicts are often listed as a leading cause of divorce, those who participated in the study said that when it comes to finding their ideal partner, money and potential earning were not a priority. Both men and women valued personality, character and looks above financial success. This raises an important question: How can you figure out if you and your sweetie have financial views that could put your relationship in jeopardy - and if so, what can you do about it?

This insightful piece from the New York Times highlights the stories of several couples and what they learned from financial heartbreak. Here are my four favorite ideas inspired by the article:

  • Know the financial profile of your partner. Are you marrying a spender or a saver? Ask about potential debt and the state of his or her credit score. Map out a plan together to address any issues that arise from this conversation.
  • Talk openly about financial values and goals. This includes the kind of lifestyle you each envision for retirement. Make note of where your dreams overlap and where they diverge.
  • Consider a financial three-way. If you do not feel you are financially compatible, but still want to move forward with marriage, consider keeping three types of accounts: yours, mine and ours.
  • Get professional help. Hire a qualified financial advisor to help you find common ground and honor both of your needs.

Financial knowledge creates financial freedom and power. Under the influence of romance, it is easy to be distracted from practical concerns, but including financial planning in the creation of your authentic partnership will help sustain the love life you desire. Having the "money talk" (more than once!) is an investment well worth making in your relationship.

This post originally appeared at For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /ManishaThakor, or sign up to receive Manisha's MoneyZen blog via email by clicking here.