Have you noticed the trend of couple divorcing later in life? If you have, you’re not alone. Statistics show that couples over 50 now represent one of the groups most likely to experience a divorce. Why? Some theories contend that it’s due to a longer and healthier lifespan that one or both members of a couple feel they don’t want to spend in an unhappy marriage. Others point to the fact that dual-income couples have more resources to strike out on their own if they aren’t fulfilled in their marriage. Whatever the reason, I’ve personally seen how emotionally and financially devastating a late-life divorce can be on my clients. One of our responsibilities as mentors and fiduciaries is to help guide our clients in every part of their life. Do you have a couple reaching retirement age and may be in danger of divorcing? Here are some tips on how to help.
Always Require Both Members of a Couple to Attend Meetings
One of my secrets to success has always been to never take a meeting with only one member of a married couple. Why? I have found that if a husband or wife wants to meet without the other spouse, it usually means there is trouble. Either they want to hide financial details from their spouse, they aren’t seeing eye to eye on financial issues, or there are other problems. When you always meet with a couple together, you can financially counsel them together and avoid making decisions that may lead to rifts in the marriage.
Spot Red Flags Early
Part of being an emotionally intelligent financial advisor is spotting potential problems early. You may notice that one of the members of the couple seems emotionally checked out, or that they are increasingly argumentative in meetings. You may also notice that one member of the couple always talks about goals and plans after retirement while the other one doesn’t even seem to think about it. When you get the feeling that all is not well in a couple’s marriage, you can adjust your strategy and find ways to help them repair damage before it becomes too late.
Communication is the bedrock of any successful marriage, and your clients reaching retirement age need to rely on it more than ever. Encourage communication between a couple at every stage of the financial planning process. If a husband or wife is unusually silent in a meeting, draw them out and ask if there is anything they’d like to talk about with their spouse. Check in to make sure decisions are mutual and achieving both members of the couple’s goals and expectations. When you put a constant focus on communication, it’s likely that your clients will see its value as well.
Your clients may be too busy with careers and children now to focus much on their own hobbies—but all this will change once they retire and the kids head off to college. When mentoring clients, always encourage them to develop their own hobbies now so they have something fulfilling to do when they stop working. I usually find that couples who develop some individual hobbies as well as one or two they enjoy together are the most protected against divorce.
Know When to Suggest Outside Help
Of course, your job is to be a financial mentor, not a marriage counselor. Though you can encourage your clients to communicate and make decisions together, there will be instances when problems have gotten too deep for you to address. In this case, find a gentle way to suggest they seek outside help. It’s always a good idea to have a relationship with an excellent marriage counselor you can refer them to should they be interested in therapy.
Helping your clients avoid the financial and emotional upheaval of late-life divorce should be one of your jobs as a fiduciary. By using the above tips, you can spot problems early and help your clients address them before they progress to crisis level. Want more tips on mentoring clients? Please reach out, I’d be happy to talk more!