With A Minor In Psychotherapy
Financial advisors and bartenders dont have much in common, except for one crucial occupational skill they dont even train for: acting as psychologists to their troubled clients. But unlike bartenders, advisors dont have the luxury of lubricating client discussions over a martini or margarita. And the heart-to-heart talk often involves not a one-on-one, but one-on-two: boomer couples who hold diametrically opposing views on financial priorities.
“A lot of the time, I play the shrink,” says Rick Van Benschoten, a manager partner at Lenox Advisors, New York. “When couples are at odds with one another, we dont start by discussing cash flow and retirement models. The first step is to get them onto the same page.”
Thats not so easy, he adds, when the boomer partners are, financially speaking, polar opposites: one a saver who feels strongly about retirement planning; the other a carefree spendthrift who desires only to live for the momentnest eggs be damned!
This situation commonly arises, says Van Benschoten, where one spouse works and is goal-oriented and the other doesnt work and is non-goal-oriented. The chasm in financial priorities may extend to other areas that are contributing to underlying tensions.
All of this can lead to confrontation when one spouse makes budget-busting requests. Van Benschoten cites one couple where the wife forced the husband into buying a beach house and, some months later, demanded a new primary residence.
Disagreements also may arise among partners who are penny-wise, but pound-foolish. Bill Driscoll, a financial planner with Driscoll Financial, Plymouth, Mass., recalls 2 spouses who were outspending cash flow by $1,500 per month because of high interest rate payments on credit card debt, yet fought in his presence over their substantially lower food bill. The latter, Driscoll told the couple, was too minor an issue to spend time on.
Often, advisors say, the financial troubles stem from a lack of communication. When boomer couples dont talk openly and frequently about budgeting and retirement objectives, frictions can mount, forcing them to take their differences to a financial advisoror a divorce attorney.
Driscoll, however, notes that financial-related intermarital conflicts usually arent so dire among his boomer clients.