Part one of a three-part series
It’s not hard to understand why most women feel more comfortable seeing a female doctor. It’s easier to talk to someone whose body is going through the same thing yours is going through. The same can be said of working with a financial advisor, especially in times of personal trauma, such as divorce or widowhood.
By that time, though, the help you as an advisor can offer is limited by the financial decisions that were made in the past, often without the input or understanding of the person now sitting in your office. The best time to help your female clients take–and keep–control of their finances is before the wedding.
As romantic as that clich?(C) sounds, opposites also repel, especially when it comes to money. Finances are the single leading cause of divorce in this country, and probably the easiest conflict to overcome if couples–particularly women–have a few useful tools going into the marriage.
The first, of course, is good communication. Whether it’s a lot or a little, money is almost always an emotionally loaded topic, which is why many couples avoid the subject all together. As an advisor, you are in a unique position to encourage and, if need be, facilitate conversation about spending and savings before vows are exchanged.
If you are already working with one member of the couple, invite them to bring in their fianc?(C)e for an informal meeting. Make it clear that no subject is off limits, and then start off with some opened-ended questions about their dreams and goals for the future. Once they start talking about where they want to be, you can ask how they plan to get there.
This is when the differences in financial personalities become apparent; it is also the best opportunity to get couples talking about their individual beliefs regarding saving, spending, and debt. The sooner you get them talking about these potential sources of conflict, the sooner you can help them build the communication skills they’ll need to talk through tough times.
One of the first financial decisions couples should make is how many checking accounts they need. If both partners work, many advisors recommend three accounts–one for each partner, plus a household account. They should decide in advance how much each person will contribute to the joint account. It’s important, though, for each of them to have their own money about which they can make independent spending decisions.