Suze Orman
Photo: Brian Bowen Smith
You need to find a way to create a compatible three-way relationship between you, your partner, and your finances. This woman who is struggling to get ahead financially, thinks budgeting tips can solve her problems, but I can see she's not facing the fact that her fiancé might have serious credit issues. She's not alone. Couples hate talking about money. In its most recent Couples Retirement Study, Fidelity Investments reported that fewer than half of the couples surveyed make managing household finances a joint effort, and just 38 percent talk openly about retirement planning. And don't tell me you're fine with that; a recent PayPal survey found that money is the number one cause of arguments among American couples, and 14 percent say they ended a relationship because of financial dustups. It's time to talk money with your honey. Three rules to get you started:

Meet in the Middle
Whether you are newly engaged or suddenly find a long-term relationship challenged by a financial setback, support each other. Retreating to your corners does not help. Nor does finger-pointing; blame doesn't help your balance sheet. To address any money problem, you need to work together to come up with a game plan.

Consider Yourselves Equals
Who makes what is irrelevant. Do you hear me, stay-at-home moms? The size of your paycheck does not determine your role in the family finances. Respect each other as equal partners, with an equal say in money management.

Don't Hide Your Head in the Sand
A lot of women fall into the habit of letting their partner handle the money. If you are one of those women, that's not your spouse's fault; it's yours. Your husband may be doing a fabulous job with your money—that's not the point. You need to understand the family finances and weigh in on all decisions. In the Fidelity survey, just 15 percent of couples feel confident that either of them could take over the finances if necessary. That's especially chilling for women; the fact that women tend to live longer than men means they may need to rely on the money longer and will also find themselves managing it at some point. The longer you wait to engage, the bigger the surprises you may find down the line.

Ask Suze your questions about debt & saving money

Suze Orman's most recent book is her 2009 Action Plan: Keeping Your Money Safe & Sound (Spiegel & Grau).

From the November 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.

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