How financially close are you to your spouse?


I look forward to that point in the meeting when the chairs of the husband and wife I’m meeting with swivel inward so they are facing one another. When we reach that moment it means the couple is no longer just communicating with me as their advisor; they’re talking to each other.

Sometimes they’re just catching each other up to speed on family progress one didn’t know about. Or they might be sharing a personal opinion on a major purchase coming up. Sometimes things can get a little tense as one shares disagreement or hurt over a big decision. You might be surprised to hear that couples can even be critical of the other spouse’s use of money.

Spouses don’t always like to talk about money, but I love every moment of it. Regardless of what’s being said, it means the couple is connecting on their financial life. Even if the conversation is hard, it means we’re making progress.

And although 72% of married couples think they communicate exceptionally or very well, a recent Fidelity study revealed that more than four in 10 spouses couldn’t correctly identify how much their other half makes. One in three couples couldn’t agree on how comfortable their expected retirement lifestyle would be.

This doesn’t surprise me. It often takes a [neutral] third party to ask questions and facilitate a conversation to build a combined plan. It also doesn’t surprise me that the study showed that Americans are worrying more about their finances. The biggest concern couples have is being able to afford unexpected health care costs (74%). Over 50% of couples worry that they’ll outlive their retirement savings.

Unfortunately, the study also said that fewer Americans are actually planning for the future. Only 2 in 10 couples have already developed a detailed retirement plan.

But the efforts are worth it. The study revealed that those who have a financial plan in place are:

  • Twice as likely to expect to live a “very comfortable” retirement.
  • More likely to be “completely confident” in assuming full financial responsibility for retirement if needed.
  • Less likely to have “no idea” when it comes to how much they need in retirement.
  • Less likely to be concerned with outliving their retirement savings.

So if you’re married, here are three things you can do to get started down a path of greater communication and confidence as a couple:

  1. Meet with a financial advisor to make sure you have a family plan for your financial future.
  2. Schedule a date night specifically to ask each other what their dreams are about the future. A great question to get started is: “If your life were to turn out perfectly, what would the elements be?”
  3. Designate a place (physical or digital) to store your financial and important documents.
  4. Review your goals & spending quarterly to measure progress and adjust to life’s twists and turns.


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