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· budget, education

Valentine’s Day 2016: What we really want, but are afraid to ask

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, finances may not be the first thing on your mind. That’s unfortunate, because how we handle our money plays a significant role in our health, well-being and even the success of our romantic relationships.

Many couples say money is the most common cause of arguments and that financial stress profoundly impacts their relationship. In fact, a 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found almost a third of adults with partners say money is a major source of conflict.

Why not use this Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to give your partner what we all really want: an honest, constructive exchange about our financial philosophies, money management styles and life goals. (OK, maybe it’s not what we all want, but it’s certainly what many of us need.) Whether you’re a blushing newlywed, or a seasoned veteran of wedded bliss, here are tips for discussing finances … without a fight.

Talk, calmly, about your financial goals and values

As soon as you realize your relationship is serious, and you’re in it for the long haul, have a frank conversation about your financial goals. Agree ahead of time to let each other talk honestly, without fear of judgment or criticism, about where you each want your money to go. Do you want to save for a home, education or retirement? Or, is it important to you to enjoy entertainment or travel? Understanding each other’s priorities will enable you to set goals that matter to you both.

Develop a plan

Once you identify your goals, plan how you will reach them and, this is important, put a time frame on each one. Be sure to consider any joint or separate checking accounts, all sources of income and all expenses. You can then decide where to limit spending so that you have the cash to spend on the things that matter most to you. If you need it, seek the help of a financial advisor. Many financial institutions, including Delta Community, offer free workshops and seminars to walk you through the planning process, and experienced professionals can provide objective advice for reaching your goals.

Design a system to handle your finances

Household finances are generally best handled as a team – each spouse should play a role so that neither one is in the dark. Give each partner specific responsibilities, like balancing the checkbook or paying the bills. This way, you both have a clear understanding of your financial situation.

Hold bi-weekly financial meetings

It may sound formal, but setting aside time every other week to discuss your finances ensures that the lines of communication remain open. Also, by committing to a regularly scheduled review, you can address issues before money gets tight – and you get in a fight. During regular meetings, review the income and expenses for your household, and be on the lookout for upcoming expenses that may require more careful budgeting.

Keep the conversation going, because your income, expenses and even goals will change over the years. Remember that household finances should be a team effort and communication is key. It may not be a traditional idea of romance, but it’s a thoughtful gift to the person you love.