More spouses are cheating- financially! A new study found 1 in 5 Americans has hidden a purchase of $500 or more. And men are twice as likely to be secret spenders.

Q: It may not seem romantic, but you say there’s a connection between love and money..
You’ve probably heard it before, and there’s research to back it up- couples argue more about money than anything else (according to a June 2014 survey by money magazine). One of the best ways to avoid money fights is by having open and honest conversations with your significant other. This is key in establishing a healthy financial relationship.

Q: What should couples be talking about?
What you talk about depends on what stage of your relationship you’re in. I like to break it down into these categories:

Dating: Talk it Out
When you’re starting to date someone you want to put your best foot forward, so it can be tempting to keep financial secrets like debt or spending habits. According to a new study (from men are twice as likely as women to have hidden purchases. At the same time, more men say they don’t mind if their spouse hides a big purchase. Women do not feel the same. It is important to establish honesty at the beginning of a relationship so little white lies don’t turn into larger deceptions. A financial compatibility quiz can be a fun way to start the conversation. There are no right or wrong answers- just questions designed to get you talking about the important topics like debt, financial goals and responsibilities.

Marriage: Pool your Money
7.2 million Americans have a bank account or credit card that their spouse doesn’t know about (according to a new study from A lot of couples ask me when they’re about to tie the knot- should we pool our resources or maintain separate accounts? I say both. Pooling your money helps avoid fights about who pays for what and who makes more money. It also saves time if both people have access to the same money to pay bills. However, a lot of couples like to keep a small side account for things like gifts and discretionary spending. Talk it over with your fiancee and set up a plan that feels right to you.

Parenthood: Set a Baby Budget
Don’t wait until you have a teenager to figure out how you’re going to pay for college. You should start saving when your baby is still in diapers, if not before they’re born! Parents of babies right now can expect to pay $220,000 for a child attending a four-year in-state college, and a four-year private school will cost close to a half-million dollars (according to a 2014 report by The College Board). Plan on putting away $250 a month for a public college and twice that- $500 per month- for a private school. It may sound daunting, but the earlier you save, the smaller the burden will be when the time comes.

Golden Years: Stagger your Retirement
It may seem like a dream come true- to retire with your loved one, but it may make more financial sense to stagger your retirement. When one spouse works longer, the amount of Social Security benefits the couple will receive will increase. He or she will also be adding to the retirement savings. And there are health insurance costs to consider. If one spouse works longer, the couple can save money by keeping insurance through the employer. Not to mention the emotional aspects of retirement. When a couple retires together, they suddenly have a lot of time at home together, which can be a difficult adjustment for some.

Q: Do you have any advice that all couples can follow?
I can’t stress it enough – be honest. More than one-third of married people admit they are committing financial infidelity, including hiding purchases, hiding bank accounts and lying about debt (according to a January, 2014 study from the National Endowment for Financial Education). I recommend my clients set up a monthly meeting to talk about money to keep the lines of communication open and help avoid any secrets or lies. Put it on your calendar like a business meeting to make sure you stick to it!