Marriage and financial woes: Just be honest

June 13, 2012 at 1:49 PM ET

David Bach

It’s great when you’re significant other keeps you on the road to financial well-being, but what if your better half is also a fiscal train wreck, or they're just not on the same page as you when it comes to money management?

The first step in dealing with the problem is admitting you and your lover have a problem, said David Bach, a personal finance expert and author of numerous money management books including “Debt Free For Life: The Finish Rich Plan for Financial Freedom.”

Bach was on hand Wednesday to answer relationship money questions from readers during our weekly live web chat that included a host of inquiries on how couples can put their financial houses in order.

The key, Bach maintained, is being honest about financial challenges and getting both members of a couple to do their part.

Clearly, it’s a challenge. According to a and SELF magazine survey released earlier this year, nearly half of respondents admitted to keeping financial secrets from their partners.

Of those who kept secrets, about 34 percent said it was because they disagreed with their significant other about where to spend the money.

One reader who joined the web chat was able to put all his and his wife’s financial cards on the table.

G. Money asked Bach:

“My wife and I have been married for 15 years. We both are spenders. We have accumulated a lot of debt. We have about a $110,000 mortgage, $35,000 2nd mortgage, $12,000 personal loan and $10,000 in credit card debt. How do we tackle this debt? Also, how do we change our bad spending habits?”

Bach’s reply:

“All financial progress begins with telling the truth and you just did that, so well done. I think you need credit counseling. I would go to, and get a referral to a non-profit credit counselor to review what you bad habits are and what you can do to change your behavior. Also go to the library and get Debt Free For Life, my new book and simply work the plan I lay out, it can help you get on the right track to crush your debt and change your life. Good luck to you! You can do this, and you can change.”

For those individuals who have a spouse who’s the opposite of them when it comes to personal finance, one of you may need an education in dollars and sense, advised Bach.

Khang asked:

“She wants a joint bank account; I don't. She's a spender, I'm the saver. Can you help me resolve conflict with my future wife?”

Bach wrote:

“Khang, welcome to The truth is we almost always marry our financial opposite. Check out my book "Smart Couples Finish Rich." In this book I teach couples to first work on discovering their core values, and planning their dreams together. Then I turn to your finances. The best place to start is on organizing your financial documents at home with my Finish Rich File Folder System. You can actually find this on my website also at Next you should work on finding your couples Latte Factor, where you spend small amounts of money on little things that you can both give up. And then it's time to work on a 'pay yourself first plan', where you agree to set aside a fixed percentage of your income off the top of your income before you spend anything. Lot's to consider, but trust me you really can do this--and being on the same page with your money will change your life! Good luck to you!”

Here’s a transcript to the entire Q&A with Bach: