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A spender and a saver – would you say this is a match made in heaven or a future divorce statistic? You’d think that when it comes to saving and spending, birds of the same mindset would flock together. Not really – say some personal finance experts – in fact, polar opposites tend to attract when it comes to money and love.

But what if you’re a spender when it comes to some things (like Blu Rays or vacations) and a saver when it comes to other things (like starting a retirement fund). Given this, could it be that as individuals, we’re all a mix of both? What is it about a relationship that makes one person take on the role of the saver while the other becomes the spender?

In most cultures, men have taken on the role of the saver since they were the breadwinners of their families while women were the spenders as the homemakers. Not the case in Japan. While men are typically the breadwinners, they almost always hand over their paychecks to their wives to manage. The thinking there is that women will put the interest of the family first while men have the tendency to squander their money.

Cultures aside, in this day and age, are money management roles assumed or are they assigned?

Many personal finance gurus recommend engaged couples to have a conversation about money before they actually get married. This way, they can work out their financial differences before a horrible spat leads to splitsville. While it doesn’t surprise me that money is a leading cause of divorce, I really wonder how many people actually have this conversation.

Ron Lieber at The New York Times wrote a good column for Your Money last week about the money talks to have before marriage. In a nutshell, here are the things that couples should go over during these conversations:

  • Ancestry: Discuss how your partner’s parents managed their money. This will give you a good idea about how he/she does or will relate to money.
  • Credit: It’s now or never – find out what your partner’s credit score is. You’ll either have a big sigh of relief or cry…better to do it now then when you’re trying to buy your first home together.
  • Control: Figure out how will you manage your money as a couple. Will the responsibility fall on one person or will both of you have a hand in the bills? Will you keep private accounts or combine everything together?
  • Affluence: Know if your financial goals are aligned – in other words, “just how rich do [you and your partner] want to be one day” and how will you get there?