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Reality Check: Hiding Cash from Hubby?

Q. I'm tempted to keep our tax refund from my husband, since he'd just go out and spend it instead of saving it. Aren't I right?


A. No! That money belongs to Your Family, Inc., and in this kind of business, hoarding cash is a serious offense, even if done with the best of intentions. Before you go tucking that money under your mattress, remember that no good can come of it if your business partner  -- the one whose salary, receipts, and deductions helped earn the refund  -- finds out you're making financial decisions without his input. How would you feel if he got to the mailbox first and decided to spend the money without checking in with you? My guess: You'd be ticked off.

Of course, the real issue isn't the money, or even the difference in your spending habits  -- it's that you're avoiding a candid discussion about financial priorities. Such talks aren't easy; arguing with a spendthrift partner can leave you feeling like you've gone ten rounds with a young Ali  -- at least that's what my husband, Nick, says. I'll admit it: I'd much rather buy curtains and cute outfits for the kids than tuck every dime away into, say, a retirement plan. But the frivolity of that thinking is so much clearer to me when Nick points out that if I have my way with our money now, we'll both be applying for jobs from the grave.

I like working. But not that much.

Still, Nick understands that he has to let go of the purse strings a little if we're to keep our marriage from falling apart over the Crate & Barrel bill. So we talk until we both leave the couch reasonably satisfied. This is what you have to do, no matter how tough it is. Sit down and plan how to divvy up the funds. Maybe you each get 20 percent to play, and the other 60 percent goes into savings for family priorities.

And if he agrees to it and wants to spend his part on Snickers bars, keep your mouth shut  -- that's his prerogative, just like it's yours to head to the bank.

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