Couples and Money

What are some of your earliest memories about money? Did your parents agree about money when you were growing up? Do you and your spouse make financial decisions together? Or apart? Do you view money differently? Have you ever discussed these things with a financial planner or advisor??

We financial planners wear many hats – problem solver, prudent investment manager, enlightened advisor (helping our clients avoid the risk of outliving their assets), etc. In addition, another hat I wear in my financial planning practice is – for lack of a better word — “money therapist.”

I’m not a licensed therapist, but emotions and money often are tied to each other. If there is discord, misunderstanding or distrust in a relationship, this can show up in financial matters. In meetings with clients, I try to listen well (and talk less). And I’m attentive to both husbands and wives (regardless of who the financial decision-maker is in a relationship). Have you ever met a professional who only looked at you, but ignored your wife or husband through the entire meeting? It’s important to provide a non-judgmental space for both you and your spouse to speak – even if you don’t agree on some issues.

Here’s why this can matter to you:

• money problems/differences is one of the biggest triggers for divorce; money is power
• if you’re emotionally invested in your plan, you’re more motivated to implement it and achieve financial success
• in my experience, women and men often behave differently toward money/financial decisions – it’s helpful to you if your planner reaches out to both the “yin” and “yang.”
• at least half of financial planning clients are women, but only ¼ of Certified Financial Planners® are female

Studies show that women seek out financial advice more than men, while men often view financial planning in more dispassionate terms. Men tend to be more confident about making financial decisions on their own. Drawing on both of these typical gender-linked traits can be a positive for the experience.

How does all of this play out in an initial meeting with clients. In my case, I guide them through a discovery process that gives them time to speak (without interruption from the other spouse) about what’s important to them about money. Often a wife or husband will relay something that prompts the other to say something like “I never knew that about you” or “I’m surprised to hear that – I really had no idea you felt that way.”

When I grew up in the 1960s, financial planning didn’t exist. My family was under stress due to discord over lack of money and problems with a struggling business my father started. My parents eventually got divorced after a prolonged period of financial hell. It’s possible divorce could have been averted if my parents had access to objective financial advice…

A Money Magazine survey indicates that “71% of Americans admit that they keep secrets or lie to spouses and significant others about their money.” If you’re married, you know how intertwined money is in your relationship. Work with a financial planner who can help you sort through issues that help unite you and your spouse, instead of dividing you further.

Copyright © 2011 by Eve Kaplan