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He Said, She Said

The Money Pit

Thanks to the new expenses they found themselves saddled with during the first few months following their son Tyler's birth, Scott Scheirer, a factory worker in Reading, Pennsylvania, and his wife, Lori, fell into a regular pattern of arguing about money. "If I'd buy myself a pair of shoes for work, she'd complain that I couldn't buy her sneakers," Scott says. "We'd always end up shouting."

With a new baby comes the need for gear, clothes, and childcare. But it's not just these costs that can cause conflict. No matter how wealthy they are, all couples argue about money. Why? Money symbolizes power and control. Typically, the person who earns it is the one with the greater amount of perceived control in the family. "Many men who earn more money (than their wives) feel that they should have authority over spending," says Olivia Mellan, author of Money Harmony. Conversely, "research has shown that women who make more usually want to share the power democratically." Therefore, she says, it's up to women to teach men the benefits of teamwork, no matter who has the bigger paycheck.

How to do this? Talking about how your parents viewed money can offer a lot of insight into your own and your spouse's financial views, says Mellan. Discuss your goals and values when it comes to saving and spending and try to find common ground. Then keep it up with monthly or even weekly money talks. If one parent usually handles the money maintenance -- paying the bills, dealing with the bank -- it can leave the other person in the dark without a clear picture of the family's financial situation. Take turns balancing the checkbook or simply spend five minutes every month going over it together.