In looking back at my last few weeks of meeting with potential clients, I noticed a few common themes that kept coming up. Each concern was expressed by the “CFO” spouse; the person in the relationship responsible for making most of the financial decisions. I’ll highlight two concerns today.
Theme #1: “I’m responsible for all the financial decisions which means if the plan is wrong, it’s all on me.” That’s a pretty heavy burden to bear for one person. Each person I met with was looking for a second set of eyes; someone to validate their plan; someone to offer ideas to improve their plan; and someone that could be the scapegoat if it doesn’t work out as intended. I’ve heard the last one before – the scapegoat that is – but it was interesting to hear it in each of these meetings expressed in slightly different ways.
Theme #2: “I wish my spouse was more involved in our finances”. This concern was less about “it’s all on me” and more about “I wish we were on the same page”. This one took various forms but the one that stuck with me was a husband who wished his wife would be more willing to spend in order to do the things they enjoyed. He felt she wasn’t confident in the plan he devised (emphasis on HE DEVISED), and therefore – while he was confident that everything would be OK with higher spending – she didn’t have that same level of conviction. He admitted, though, that he’s never been able to communicate to his wife WHY the plan he had in his head would work; or the reason WHY he believes they’re OK. So, how could he expect her to be confident in the plan if she wasn’t involved in putting it together and he couldn’t explain it? She trusted him but without seeing it for herself, she couldn’t possibly have the same level of confidence.
This is the reason that financial planning – when done correctly – gives a voice to both spouses. No longer is one person in the relationship saddled with the burden of sole responsibility for the financial future of the family. And no longer does one spouse need to feel a lack of control; sometimes expressed as fear. The fear to do the things they want to do because they don’t have a clear picture of the plan in the first place.
All parties need to have the opportunity to express their concerns and have those concerns addressed by an objective outsider. Someone without an emotional attachment to their money. Someone without the same last name. Don’t let your plan sit in your head. Write down your goals, develop your plan, test your plan, stay accountable to your plan, and adjust your plan when life changes.
It’s easy to think other people have it all figured out but if these themes sound familiar to you, know that you’re not alone.