Opposites can attract and work things out when it comes to love and money

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) Jamie Diaferia had always assumed he and his wife would split financial chores, but it didn't work out that way.

''Denise just isn't interested in handling the finances,'' he said of his wife.

So the couple, who married last spring, has developed their own money management system.

Jamie, 31, president of Infinite Public Relations in Stamford, Conn., takes care of the couple's day-to-day finances and monitors their portfolio. But every weekend, he and Denise sit down for what they jokingly call a ''state of the union'' conference to make any big spending or investment decisions.

''That way, we're always on the same page financially,'' said Denise, who is 30.

When it comes to love and money, opposites often attract. One partner may be a spender, and the other a saver. One may like conservative investments, while the other enjoys taking a few risks.

Experts say couples who learn to bridge their financial differences can avoid the stress and distress that can damage a relationship.

''We often think it's black and white when it comes to money, but it generally isn't,'' said Kathleen Gurney, chief executive of the Financial Psychology Corp. in Sarasota, Fla. ''So the best strategy is to try to find common ground.''

For the Diaferias, that has meant keeping the lines of communication open.

''My family was terrible with money ... and I never learned to budget,'' Denise said. ''Jamie did down to the penny.''

He enjoys dealing with money and watching out for their investments. But, he adds that Denise, who has gone back to school to study photography, ''always has good ideas about what we should do.''

Chris Viale, chief operating officer of Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. in Agawam, Mass., said couples need to be honest with each other about money, starting before they marry.

''You need to discuss your spending and saving habits and any debts you have,'' he said. ''Suppressing that can breed anxiety.''

He has counseled clients, for example, after one of the partners started hiding things, like shopping binges that ran up big bills.

''The longer you try to hide it, the more stressful it gets and the harder it is to deal with it,'' Viale said. ''It can break up a marriage.''

Jennifer Openshaw, chief executive of the Family Financial Network, which publishes budget and debt workout kits, said many couples still consider it taboo to talk about money.

''Most couples enter marriage without hashing out their money goals, or how they're going to spend their paychecks, or even who will handle the bills,'' she said. ''That's one reason money problems are the main cause of marital disagreements.''

She suggests couples take time to develop budgets, allowing them to spend on things they want now as well as save for retirement later.

''Living for the moment isn't necessarily bad, if you're also saving for the future,'' Openshaw said.

There may be times when it's reasonable to have different investment strategies, she added. An older man, for example, may need a more conservative portfolio than his younger wife. Or one spouse might want to dabble in speculative stocks.

''There's nothing that says you can't allocate part of the portfolio for each person to invest the way he or she would like,'' Openshaw said.

Gurney, the financial psychologist, said that in many cases, the problem isn't money but the emotions people attach to it.

She's developed a money profile for the GE Center for Financial Learning, www.financiallearning.com. Couples can fill out a questionnaire, then compare the analyses of their money strengths and weaknesses.

For example, they can see where each stands on the question of risk, which can be an issue in deciding on investments or major purchases such as a retirement home.

''One of the worst things you can do is try to bring your mate along too fast,'' Gurney said. ''That's frightening.''

She suggests asking, ''What's the worst thing that can happen if we make this decision?'' Then the couple can walk through that possibility and consider other options before making a final decision.

On the Net:

Cambridge Credit: www.goodpayer.com

www.familyfn.com



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