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Q&A: Jacquette M. TimmonsThe money expert and author of Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate (due out this fall) dishes on building a successful relationship and a healthy bank account.

2: What do you mean by “financial intimacy”?
Timmons: It’s the ability to talk about money. And when I say talk, I don’t mean superficial conversations; I mean substantive discussions. The intersection of love and money is inevitable; talking about it will make your relationship stronger.

2: Why is it so important for couples to communicate with each other about money?
Timmons: Money exposes other aspects of your life. If you’re able to talk about money, then you’re able to learn things about each other that you may not have known before, or discover areas that you may not have explored. The conversation could give you some insight into areas of fear for your partner that you may not have talked about before, as well as their beliefs, expectations and aspirations.

2: How often should couples discuss monetary issues?
Timmons: I have recommended to a lot of clients that they make it a weekly habit. Have a glass of wine, talk about what you spent this week, what your goals are, and what progress you made in terms of getting toward your goals. Again, if you can get to the point where it is a non-event, that’s perfect. The key is not to wait until there’s a problem, because then you’re not able to take a step back and be objective. There’s too much emotion involved.

2: What advice can you offer newlyweds when it comes to money and their relationship?
Timmons: First, whatever questions you might have for the other person, make sure you have answered them for yourself—or that you are in the process of answering them—because it allows the other person not to feel defensive. You can approach it by saying, “I’ve been thinking about A, B or C, and you know, maybe I haven’t figured it out completely, but this is where I stand. Where are you with that?” Or, “When I grew up, this is how my parents handled money. And this is how their actions around money affected me. What happened in your household?” It makes it less threatening, less judgmental, and it opens up the opportunity for someone else to share their story.

2: How can a couple cope financially if one partner loses their job?
Timmons: The first thing they’ve got to do is make sure they are not spending more than what’s coming in. If they’re in a situation where they can see the writing on the wall, then they’ve got to start preparing for that moment. But if it catches them off guard, then they need to immediately rein in their spending. That’s the first thing that they need to look at if someone loses their job: How am I as an individual—or how are we as a couple—spending our money? What choices do we need to make to scale back so that as we go through this down period, our lifestyle can be maintained?

Financial Intimacy book jacket art.2: What would you say to a couple who are worried about the current economic slump and its effect on their finances?
Timmons: Take a step back and look at what’s real versus what’s imagined. And by that I mean, you may feel like you’re under a great deal of financial pressure—and that feeling is absolutely valid—but when you begin to track and look at the numbers, you might recognize that it’s not as bad as you think. (Or, you might discover that it’s worse than you think it is.) If you actually know where your money is going, if you know how you are invested and you’re looking at the performance of that, if you know what insurance coverage you have, if you can actually see that on paper, it’ll allow you to respond to what’s actually happening versus what you think is happening.