For many individuals, financial interest and financial engagement can find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum. Especially in relationships where one spouse handles the lion’s share of financial matters, the less-engaged spouse often has a strong desire to feel more knowledgeable and secure about the management of their wealth, yet for some reason remains reluctant to insert him or herself into the financial conversation.
If that sounds eerily familiar, it’s time for you to pull up a seat at the financial planning table. Why start now? The reasons are myriad.
First and foremost, with greater knowledge comes greater confidence—in both your investments as well as your financial future. Having a clear understanding of your complete financial picture helps you realize that no matter what obstacles life may throw in your way, you’ll ultimately be able to weather the storm and stand on your own two feet. That’s the essence of true independence; but it can only be achieved by jumping into the financial conversation.
It’s important to realize that spouses may be driven by very different financial engines. For instance, one partner may be laser focused on portfolio performance and maximizing returns, while the other’s financial motives all revolve around financial values and how best to use their wealth to benefit the family and the charitable causes about which they’re passionate. By no means is this a bad thing. Competing interests can actually bring considerably more balance to your wealth management strategy.
There’s a chance (no matter how remote) that you may end up divorced at some point in time. And of particular concern for married women, there’s a strong statistical likelihood that at some point in your life you will find yourself solely responsible for your finances after the death of your spouse. These are already stressful and difficult times without the added burden of being financially unaware, or worse, finding out that your spouse made ill-advised financial decisions that have left you far less secure than you thought you were. As the old proverb rightly advises, “forewarned is forearmed.”
Fostering financial collaboration
The following are just a few of the many ways you and your spouse can begin to level the playing field when it comes to financial literacy:
- Set aside a day each month where you will sit down as a couple to talk about your short- and long-term financial goals, review monthly expenses and talk about any financial questions or concerns you may have (e.g., perhaps one spouse is worried about taking on too much market risk in your investment portfolio).
- Every few months, consider inviting your SunTrust advisor to join you as a couple to focus on one specific area of financial planning such as retirement income planning, insurance or estate planning.
- Take advantage of one of the many online financial planning and aggregation tools, such as SunTrust SummitView, so you both have a 24/7 window into your finances. This can help to quickly get the less-involved spouse up to speed and serve as the basis for asking questions about any issues that might not be clear.
- Keep your financial discussions positive rather than contentious. Open a bottle of wine, be upbeat and at all costs avoid criticizing decisions or assigning blame. Agree to focus on positive actions you can take moving forward rather than dwelling on the financial mistakes of the past.
There’s an old African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” You’ve got a far greater likelihood of achieving your financial goals when both partners are active participants in making important decisions. Not only does it provide an additional and often fresh perspective, it can help to offset some of the inherent (and often damaging) financial biases that each of us brings to the table based on our personal experiences and beliefs.