Wall Street Journal | February 22, 2010
Doing everything right on paper will only take you so far when it comes to money and marriage. You have to be able to communicate with your spouse or partner, to make sure you stay on track to achieve your financial goals. And an added bonus: if you can talk about money, you can probably talk about anything.
I often work with couples, and am very well aware of the unique challenges that are inherent in financial planning for a team, rather than for an individual. Although the numbers behind the financial plan are important, the communication used to achieve the goals is paramount.
From the article:
Lauren Lyons-Cole is a New York City-based independent financial planner. She spoke with WSJ Financial Adviser about helping couples improve their financial communication, not just their finances.
I have clients, a couple with a young child, who are doing all the right things — on paper. They are saving for retirement, they’ve started a college fund, they own a home, and they have all the proper insurance. On a daily basis, they live within their means. But when they talk about their day-to-day financial decisions, a lot of tension arises.
They disagree over everyday things, such as whether to go out to dinner or eat in, and whether or not to buy new clothes. These aren’t break-the-bank decisions but the stress and tension, I think, still works against their financial security in the long run.
Financial planning is more than just handing clients a piece of paper that lays out an investment plan. Our job is to help clients build financial security that is more comprehensive than just dollars and cents. It should include happiness and security in their emotional lives as well.
Working with a couple is almost like working with three different personalities — the two separate individuals in addition to the combined personalities in the form of the couple. Creating a successful financial plan requires engaging all three personalities in the process and making sure that the two individuals are communicating with each other just as much as they are communicating with you, their adviser.
Most people are uncomfortable talking about money, even with their partners. Improving that communication should be an integral part of any financial plan. Many advisers probably feel that communication between their clients falls outside of their purview, since it’s not something that can be written down in a plan. But lack of communication can jeopardize even the best of plans — not to mention the strongest of marriages — so how can we afford to ignore it?