“My wife and I are retired, and we are concerned about making sure that we manage our finances smartly. I am particularly worried about my wife, because she has never wanted to manage finances or deal with the specifics of our financial matters. What could I do to get her to take more of an interest in managing our finances, especially if anything should happen to me?”
E.C., Boston, Massachusetts
Many couples face this dilemma when only one of the spouses has been the “primary money manager” of the household. The problem is more serious when a death occurs and the surviving spouse becomes overwhelmed with the financial responsibilities. For many reasons (which we won’t get into here), women as the surviving spouse typically have the more difficult experience and are often victims of scams.
Our IBSS blog will be addressing many of these issues in the near future. Meanwhile here is a checklist of some action items (which applies to either spouse) for you together with your wife:
- Develop a document listing the contacts and details (for example, account numbers) for your banking, savings, investment, and legal items. Also show her where the related documents are kept, and walk through what she should do in the event you can no longer manage your finances.
- Get her to agree to do small money-related tasks – such as paying the bills or calculating the monthly cash flow (monthly inflows and outflows of your joint money) – to get acclimated to your finances.
- Review with her your family’s total financial situation so that she can get comfortable with the family’s overall money scenario.
- Introduce her to objective information sources, like money-related blogs, articles and books that are free or low cost.
- Talk with her about your financial hopes and concerns and come to agreement on some money goals.
- Work with her to achieve some small money goals (such as having her make investment decisions with her own IRA account with your help) so she can gain some confidence in dealing with investments.
Don’t rush out to find a financial planner yet until you are both comfortable with some level of knowledge about your finances. An objective and trustworthy financial advisor can become a “family treasure,” but it is more cost-effective if both of you take responsibility to self-manage your family finances. You will both feel great when you save thousands in financial planning or money management costs, and the savings could make it possible for you both to enjoy your retirement years significantly more.
P.S. My wife doesn’t like the money management side of things. Read her thoughts here.