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On money and your honey: Rules for homefront harmony

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Im feeling like the Cubs right now.

In my win column: 25 years of wedded bliss.

And, given all the acrimony during this election season, couldnt you use a story about a man and woman in harmony?

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Im so grateful I married my soul mate. My husband is also a great money manager and most of all what makes him so sexy hes a penny-pincher, too.

We rarely fight about money. When we do have what we call intense fellowships about our finances, its usually because Im scared to spend even for things that we need or have saved to buy.

Weve had our share of problems, but early in our marriage my husband suggested we institute some guidelines by which we could settle disagreements. He called them House Rules.

One example: If someone is watching a television program, you cant come into the room and change the channel.


Maybe. But every day when we leave our homes, there are rules we all have to obey. So why shouldnt we establish guidelines within our homes to dampen the drama, especially around finances, which can be a very hot topic.

Studies show one of the top issues that can derail a marriage is money. Well, as therapists like to point out, the underlying cause of the friction is really the emotional baggage that people drag into the marriage that manifests in financial fights.

Experience can be a great teacher. So Id like to share four financial House Rules that have helped keep peace in my marriage over the past quarter-century:

Commit to being transparent. Every penny spent or earned should be disclosed. No secrets.

In a survey released this year, the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 42percent of U.S. adults admit to financial unfaithfulness. And not surprisingly, when theres deception, 75 percent of respondents said it affected their relationship. Couples hide purchases, income, bank accounts, cash and credit card debt.

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Even if you decide to keep separate bank accounts, your spouse should have access to all the information. So ladies, your mamas wrong if she told you to keep a secret bank account in case your husband runs off with a home-wrecking hussy.

Dont cheat on your spouse when it comes to money. Trust lost is hard to regain. Remember this: Whats done in the dark will eventually be brought to light.

Communicate regularly. In another survey released this year, TB Bank found that couples who talk about their finances at least once a week say they are happier than those who have such conversations every few months.

One conversation you need to regularly schedule is a look at your net-worth statement. Your net worth is the value of all assets, minus all your liabilities.

When my husband and I counsel couples about their finances, we have them first do a net-worth statement, which is an overview of your familys financial health. Often we find couples are arguing about their debt while not realizing that overall their net worth is pretty good.

Bankrate.com has an online net-worth calculator, with a list of definitions to help you identify your assets and liabilities.

Come up with a code. You need to do something that will de-escalate disagreements.

My husband and I decided we would buzz one another if we violated any House Rule or if we were becoming too upset or disrespectful.

Initially we took an actual buzzer from a board game. When you broke a rule, youd get buzzed. That lasted for just a few arguments because one of us me wanted to throw the buzzer out the window. So we instead just make a buzzing sound when a rule is violated. It often breaks the tension because we end up laughing at being buzzed.

Together, think of a sound or phrase that can help during heated battles. Find something that amuses you both. One couple came up with toe jam as their cooling-down code phrase. Cracked them up every time. And that, in turn, calmed things down.

Confide in each other. Your spouse ought to be your financial best friend. Share all your fears and frustrations about money. Talk about your goals.

But in order for your spouse to feel comfortable sharing, you have to establish a safety zone. Be respectful at all times. Listen more than you talk. Youve got one mouth and two ears for a reason.

No marriage is perfect, but with some rules in place and a commitment to peaceful interaction, youll be a winning team.

Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com. To read more, go to wapo.st/michelle-singletary.


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