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Your Finance: Marriage and money

Statistics show that couples who lock horns over

Statistics show that couples who lock horns over money once a week have 30 percent increased chance of divorce. Credit: iStock illustration

Money causes more arguments for spouses than other typical flashpoints, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Harris Interactive.

A full 27 percent of respondents said their spats started over money, more than problems with kids (16 percent) or chores (13 percent).

Couples who lock horns over finances at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to get divorced, according to a 2009 study by researchers at Utah State University.

Nearly half of all people have lied to their significant other about money, according to an April poll by Self Magazine and Today.com.

And a survey conducted this spring by CreditCards.com revealed that 6 million Americans have hidden financial accounts from their spouses or live-in partners.

So where do couples go wrong, when it comes to money -- and how can they make it right?

Have the money talk. Only 43 percent of couples talked about money before marriage, according to a May 2010 survey conducted for American Express.

Lack of disclosure about your financial issues -- maybe you're struggling with $100,000 in student debt, or maybe you filed for bankruptcy at some point -- isn't really any different from lying. Be up front about your financial situation, have the "money talk" long before the big day, and tackle any challenges as a couple.

Minor money differences can be overcome as long as you have the basics covered.

What's needed to resolve big money disputes over spending and debt is compromise and communication, planners advise. Even with differing money styles, if both partners take strides toward the middle and agree on broad outlines of a budget, it could prevent countless disputes.

Hiding from help. Money is such an emotional issue that it could be difficult for couples to untangle all the knots on their own. A trained third party can help you figure out the core issues, and mutually agree on a financial plan.

Check out the website of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (www.afcpe.org), which has a searchable database of trained financial counselors.

Being on the same page. It's helpful to have basic guidelines in place that will keep you on the same page. For instance, purchases under a certain dollar amount can be left to each spouse's discretion, while larger ones should be cleared with your partner.

Some couples might be comfortable pooling all of their money, and others may not; neither is the "right" choice, but that should be decided explicitly.

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