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Q. My husband thinks nothing of buying the latest computer gadget or big screen TV without consulting me, but I'd much rather invest our extra money in the kids' college funds. He says he works hard and should be able to buy what he wants, and that I don't know how to enjoy my life. How can we reach a compromise?
A. Money is an emotionally loaded subject, which is why one partner often focuses on long-term financial goals while the other believes in the enjoyment that money can bring right now. It sounds as if your problem lies less in the arena of money management and more in the area of plain old communication. You can't put a lock on your husband's wallet, but you can communicate better about why you think it's important to save for the future. You need to find ways to compromise so you both feel acknowledged and safe. Recognizing up front the emotional underpinnings of spending is critical for every couple. Ask your husband why he needs to buy so many new things. He may say he feels he works hard for his money, but he may also say he feels he doesn't spend enough time with you. Or perhaps his parents used to spend freely when he was young so he's following a similar pattern. On the other hand, maybe his parents had very little and he felt deprived, so now he's making up for lost time.
Dividing your money into three accounts -- his, yours and ours -- will allow each of you to achieve your goals. You can even suggest that you designate any windfall -- a tax refund, for example -- as bonus money for the next electronic gadget that catches his eye.