It happens too often.
One spouse takes the lead on all things financial while the other is hands-off. That may seem like a good idea, but it can lead to trouble down the road.
If the financially savvy spouse should pass away, the survivor (usually the wife, but not always) is left in a stressful situation because he or she knows little to nothing about the family accounts or how to access those accounts. Possibly, the surviving spouse never even with the financial professional who handles their investments.
At Semmax Financial Group, we believe finances should be a family affair. Both spouses don’t need to be experts in all things money, but they should have a grasp of their general financial situation and take part in any decisions that are made.
If finances have been a one-person show in your household, here’s how to transform that into a family affair:
Create a plan
When it comes to financial goals – or probably any goal for that matter – you can’t just blindly throw darts at a wall and hope everything works out. You need a plan, whether you are saving money for retirement, a new house, a vacation or some other expense that doesn’t fit into the daily budget. Everyone who is affected by the plan should be involved.
Also, I recommend putting that plan in writing because once it’s in writing, it becomes a living thing, not some nebulous notion. Write down your goals, create a timeline for achieving them and develop a roadmap for how you will get there.
Schedule dedicated time to work on things together
Wealth-building doesn’t happen on its own. To make finances a priority, regularly set aside time to work on things together, so it’s clear that all parties are dedicated to your financial goals, and one person isn’t pulling all the weight while others are out of the loop.
Household finances come with plenty of working parts. Taxes. monthly bills. investment. Although it’s important that everyone is aware of the big picture, you should delegate responsibilities for individual tasks.
Perhaps one person feels more confident handling the taxes. Another person may want to take charge of investments because they love to follow the market. Once again, the key is that everyone is involved, even if an individual carries out the specific assignments.
Make sure both spouses meet with the financial advisor
This is one time when you don’t want to split the duties. Both spouses should attend meetings with the financial advisor. Even if one person has no interest, they still need to be there to understand what’s happening with the family’s money and to get to know the advisor. why? Because that advisor is who you will call if something happens to your spouse and you encounter a problem with your finances.
make it fun
Money matters can be drudgery and stress-inducing if you let them be. To ease the tension, inject fun into the process. For example, you can create a rewards system for when you reach certain milestones, such as when you manage to knock off another $1,000 off your credit card debt. Treat yourself to a date night, a spa day, a family picnic. That way, this potentially tedious chore becomes more palatable.
Making finances a family affair ensures that one spouse isn’t left in the dark when the other spouse dies. But that’s not all. Financial planning and related financial chores are less burdensome if more than one person is carrying the load.
Financial decisions also may prove wiser when two people provide input. And the odds that the financial plan will be a success and that the goals will be met are much higher if all parties have buy-in.
Ronnie Blair contributed to this article.
Financial Adviser, Semmax Financial Group
Penny Di Giovanna is a financial advisor with Semmax Financial Group in Winston-Salem, NC. She has earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®) and Accredited Asset Management Specialist™ (AAMS®) professional designations. Di Giovanna previously worked for 20 years in the real estate industry, handling everything from complex commercial transactions to first-time home purchases.
The appearances in Kiplinger were obtained through a PR program. The columnist received assistance from a public relations firm in preparing this piece for submission to Kiplinger.com. Kiplinger was not compensated in any way.