Talking about money with your spouse

It seems that my column titled “Honey, we need to talk about money” struck a chord. A typical response: “You certainly could have been talking about my wife and me,” writes reader Del Richter.

As I wrote in January, when it comes to finances, women often suffer from a glassy-eye syndrome that can be attributed to a number of reasons: lack of time, interest, or confidence, to name a few. Fortunately, Richter and others have devised successful strategies for overcoming spouse resistance.

As he neared retirement, Richter launched what he calls “a clandestine, multi-pronged campaign” to pique his wife’s interest. He first said, “Honey, you know when I retire there won’t be a paycheck anymore, so we really need a forward-thinking budget to see if we can continue this lifestyle.”

Then he convinced his wife, Dena, that they needed to update their wills. “He realized that our assets had grown substantially and we had to address how we wanted them distributed to children, grandchildren and charitable causes.” (My observation: By taking things one step at a time, the Richters made the process manageable rather than overwhelming.)

The time factor is essential, says reader Coco Yackley. “Many of my friends are reluctant to get involved in finances not because they lack interest, but because they lack the time and mental space to do so.” Yackley’s Tip: “Have your husbands do some housework so they can do tax paperwork or take a class on financial planning.”

Dan Williamson says hiring a financial advisor helped ease his wife’s worries about the future. But he worries that her three daughters in their forties, two of whom are single mothers, don’t have time to focus on finances. (My advice: Dad could take them to see his financial advisor or, as Yackley suggests, offer to babysit while his daughters take a financial class or seminar.)

the power of sharing

Amy Breiting found that a simple step like sharing passwords made a big difference. “My husband is recovering from heart surgery and we had not shared passwords,” she writes Breiting. “Now I promote sharing them with someone you trust.”

Breiting has always made it a point to accompany her husband to appointments with his financial advisor, and felt comfortable visiting him when her husband fell ill.

The outside help you seek as a couple has also been a great help to other couples. Richter’s “third point of attack” was getting his wife to participate in the year-end review with her financial advisor. “The counselor would ask my wife direct questions like ‘What are her concerns about the plan we’re discussing?’ and ‘Are there items you don’t understand or want to change?’ ”

After managing the family finances for the first half of their marriage of nearly 40 years, Sandy V. encouraged his wife, Ellie, to hire a financial advisor so she would feel comfortable taking charge in the event of his death. He interviewed two advisers, selected them both to manage different asset groups, and now meets with them at least once a year.

Some women just need a little encouragement to do it on their own. “I was unable to get my wife, Mary Beth, interested in our investment accounts, which she perceived as mine,” writes Randy Johnson. “So I set up an account for her and walked her through the buying and selling process. Now, four years later, she has a portfolio of 28 stocks. She usually beats my accounts.”

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