Image: Couple with paperwork © Christina Kennedy, Brand X, Corbis

There's no one right answer to most money questions.

That's important to keep in mind when you're discussing financial matters with your mate. People get emotional about this stuff. Understanding that we all have different attitudes, experiences and expectations concerning money can help us talk more calmly about it.

And talking is essential when you're trying to work out a financial plan together. Asking questions, and listening closely to the answers, will help you understand each other better. That can get you started down the road to working out solutions.

"Nothing in the world will affect your future together the way that money will. Money touches every area of your life in some way," said Mary Hunt, the author of "7 Money Rules for Life: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future." "If you and your beloved get your attitudes toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in your lives, both individually and collectively."

Financial planner Carl Richards, the author of "The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money," recommended setting aside regular times and a regular place to have these discussions.


"The worst time to talk about this stuff," Richards said, "is at 11 at night when you're exhausted."

He suggested picking a favorite restaurant, coffee shop or picnic spot for these monthly or quarterly confabs. To avoid burnout, pick one or two topics to discuss at a time, and adopt the mantra "no shame, no blame" to facilitate discussion.

Try to confine your big money discussions to those special times, Richards recommended, to avoid conflict and fights when you're less focused. If there's more to be said, you can say it next time.

"When we leave, the discussion's done," Richards said.

Liz Weston

Liz Weston

Here are some of the questions you should be asking each other:

1. How was money handled in your family growing up, and how did that affect you?

This question is way more practical than it may sound at first. Psychologists tell us our childhood experiences help shape our attitudes about money, but siblings who experience the same events may take away very different lessons. One person who grew up with frugal parents may have admired their resourcefulness and adopted their careful approach to money. Her brother, meanwhile, may have chafed under their spending restrictions and decided that a more "live for today" attitude made sense.

Or here's another scenario:

"Let's say you discover that your fiancée's dad took care of all the bills in a kind of behind-closed-doors fashion so her mother never had to worry about a thing," Hunt said. "If her daddy provided in this way, it is quite possible she expects the same will be true of her marriage and home. She may expect that you will somehow manage all the money and keep the bills paid and her credit card balance at $0 . . . and all behind closed doors, meaning she won't have to think about it."

Talking to each other about your childhoods won't necessarily solve your money problems, but it will help you better understand where your partner is coming from. That empathy may allow you to work better together to come up with solutions.

2. What would your ideal day be like?

Here's another seemingly softball question that can reveal a lot about your values and goals. Take turns with this one. Start from the time you wake up in the morning and describe everything about your ideal day -- where you live, who would be with you, what you'd do with your waking hours. Take some time to fill in the details, from the weather to what you'd have for lunch. You don't have to be practical or realistic with this exercise. You just have to dream a little and listen to your partner's dreams.

Touchy-feely types will tell you visualization is a powerful way to start creating your ideal life. On a more practical note, this exercise will help you identify and communicate what's important to you. That, in turn, may allow you to incorporate more of those activities and experiences into your daily life, now and in the future.