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When a marriage and money styles don't mix

She’s careful, he’s a spendthrift. Jean Chatzky has tips to get you on the road to financial — and marital — recovery.

Jim Ball, founder of the Goals Institute, helps individuals and corporations structure and meet their goals.

He tells of working with one woman, Robin, who said she thought she'd feel much better about her financial future and retirement if she were just able to save $50 a month. When Ball asked her what sort of barriers stood in her way, Robin answered without a second thought, "My husband. He likes to spend money."

Ball shook his head. "That's not going to work," he explained to her. "He's going to get in your way every step. Unless he has an interest in your saving — unless he sees that there's some reward in it for him — you're not going to be able to save without racking up additional debt. But if you can get him to buy into the program, perhaps together you can save even more."

Here are some tips:

Isolating your obstacles. Like Robin, one of the first steps in reaching your goals is figuring out what stands in your way. It could be your spouse, your friends, and, of course, your own habits.

Avoiding your obstacles. In addition to recognizing your obstacles, you'll also need to manage your environment so that you have little exposure to the temptations that plague you — whether that means walking out of the path of your favorite shoe store, particularly during the winter sale, or not having dinner with the friend who believes you can't get a good bottle of wine for less than $100. (Meet her for coffee instead). Condition yourself to ignore television ads. The commercial break is the perfect time to check your e-mail, make school lunches, or return a call. Then surround yourself with healthy examples — good money managers, sound eaters, avid exercisers, or people who embody the characteristics you desire.

Jean Chatzky’s Bottom Line:
This week: How to help a money-messed marriage
It's never easy to talk about money. If money becomes a real point of contention in your marriage and you find you can't talk about it without the conversation disintegrating into a brouhaha, you should know that help is available.

The options: Many divorce mediators now offer a service called "marital mediation." This involves working out a legal agreement on paper, which allows couples to get past the fighting and on with the marriage. Some experts call this a postnuptial agreement.

The details: According to one of the leading practitioners of marital mediation, most couples seek help because of unresolved money issues. A wife might complain, for example, that her husband doesn't give her enough time to go over their joint tax return before signing it. A mediated agreement may specify that she get two weeks for this. If he misses the deadline, the penalty could be monetary (for example, $100 for each week he's late).

The cost: Marital mediation is usually a 10-session commitment with a mediator who'll charge $150 to $225 per hour, or a total of $1,500 to $2,250.

Jean Chatzky is the financial editor for “Today,” editor-at-large at Money magazine and the author of “Talking Money: Everything You Need to Know About Your Finances and Your Future.” Her latest book, "Pay It Down: From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day," is now in bookstores. Copyright ©2004. For more information, go to her Web site, .