How to See Eye to Eye With Your Spouse

They were in their late 30’s with three small children.  He was friendly and open, she was quiet and not terribly happy to be there. He’d orchestrated our meeting after finding my website and liking it so much he called me.

Like many Americans, they are caught in a financial “perfect storm.”  They got married 6 years ago and decided to have a family. After the first child was born 4 years ago, she left her job to be a full time mom. They now have a 2 year old and a newborn as well.

The American Dream
In 2006, they put 20% down on a million dollar home.  Back then, (it seems like another age entirely) not having the income to support the mortgage payments on an $800,000 loan was no big deal. You just “stated your income” and secured an interest-only loan.  And voila! Home ownership was yours – the American Dream.

Fast forward three years.   The ITI (Interest, Tax and Insurance) payments are killing their budget, vacations are out, they’re having a hard time finding the money they need for home improvements and funding college savings accounts.  To add insult to injury, the company she worked for went bankrupt, and all of her retirement savings was in company stock which is now worthless.

Stormy Weather
She tried freelancing,  but with three young children, concentration is difficult and the stress level is climbing. His employer has announced no more matching funds for the retirement account and no cost of living raises this year. Serious storm clouds are gathering on this couple’s financial horizon.

Love and Money
Given what is happening to this couple, I found myself surprised that only one of them – the husband – wanted to meet with me. It was rough sledding with his wife – she wasn’t convinced I could help and was quite firm in her convictions. But credit where credit is due, she did come to the meeting. Truth to tell, it’s usually the other way around. Such is married life, I suppose. You like camping, I like bed & breakfast’s, you  like parties, I like quiet nights at home, you want a financial planner, I want a vacation. Yin meet Yang.

Advice and Consent
Here is my advice to couples who are facing financial challenges and don’t see eye to eye on the value of a financial planner. Work together and see if you can find consensus. Remember one of the rules of marketing: What’s In It For Me? Help your partner understand there are benefits.  Even though the process may be uncomfortable, and difficult to understand, the end results are what matter most.

It’s one thing to say, “We have to have a financial planner because we don’t know what we’re doing” vs “If we get a financial planner to help us, we increase the chances that we can put Peter and Julie through college and have a decent retirement. Without that kind of help, I’m not sure how we can do those things. Will you help me?” Stress the long term and short term benefits.

Or, you can take a different attitude all together…as  another reticent  spouse said to me at the end of a recent interview:  “Oh, you mean I can pay you to listen to him nag about our money…that sounds really good to me.”

Say Good-Bye to Your Money Troubles
Which brings me to a very important reality:  Money troubles are a leading cause of strife in a marriage and often times can lead to divorce.  If an objective advisor can help you to communicate about money and develop a workable plan which in turn leads to a more harmonious relationship…wouldn’t it be worth it?

So what do you think?  Does this couple need a comprehensive financial plan?  Will he persuade her? Will she come around? Would love to know your thoughts.

About the author

Cathy Curtis, CFP®

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