Almost everyone knows that money and finance issues are one of the most common causes of divorce in our country. Because finances are such a minefield for many couples, they often avoid talking about it and just hope that everything will work out. As the divorce statistics illustrate, however, that’s usually a very bad idea.
As an advice-based financial planner, you likely work with a lot of couples and see the problems that discussing money can cause. We’ve already talked about working with your couple clients on deciding spending discretion, but let’s take a step back to see the bigger picture. How do you help them approach any conversation about money in an open and honest way without it triggering a disagreement? When you mentor your clients in this area, you not only increase your value as a fiduciary, but you also reduce the chances of them reacting with defensiveness and making your job a whole lot harder. Here are three suggestions that can help you direct a financial discussion with your couple clients in a harmonious and fruitful manner.
Help Them Understand Each Other’s Upbringing
It’s quite likely that your couple clients come from very different backgrounds. Take my wife and I, for example. While she was raised in a family with a lot of kids that had to work hard to put food on the table, I was raised in a smaller, more financially secure family. This has had lifelong effects on us and how we think about money. My wife is a saver and gets nervous when we need to make a large spend while I’m a spender and tend to believe ‘everything will work out fine’. Encourage your clients to have an open discussion about their upbringing and how that may affect their current views about money. This will help them develop more empathy for each other and understand where their different mindsets come from.
Encourage Them to Know Each Other Better
Not making a lifelong commitment to continually get to know their partner better is the underlying cause for almost all late-life divorces. Some couples never really get to know each other at all and get swept up in infatuation and marry before they truly know the person they have vowed to spend the rest of their lives with. Others get to know each other well in the beginning, but never continue the process as their lives and relationship evolves. In either case, it’s always beneficial to encourage them to take a deeper look at each other’s personalities and how this may be affecting their views on finances. I encourage all my clients to take the 16 Personalities test and the Kolbe Index. 16 Personalities goes deep into characteristics like introvert vs extrovert and idealism while the Kolbe is a conative test that shows how people tend to take action. When your clients really get to know each other, it improves their chances at communicating effectively about money and can deepen their relationship in other areas as well.
Show Them How to Use Issues as Flares versus Clubs
No matter how well your couple clients get along, they will inevitably have some disagreements about money. This provides you with an opportunity to further mentor them on how to deal with these disagreements. The key is to show them the difference between flares and clubs. A disagreement about money should act as a ‘flare’ or a red flag that there is an issue they need to pay attention to. Unfortunately, many couple use disagreements as a ‘club’ to beat each other up with. If your clients say things like, “We agreed on this and you just went and did your own thing like usual” or “Why do you always have to ruin our budget with your impulse spending?”, they are using the ‘club’ approach. Not only is this hurtful to their partner, but it’s also creating a wall that can be difficult to bring down. Help them see that a disagreement is just a beacon that will help them dig deeper into the issue and find new ways to understand and appreciate each other.
Talking about money between couples is never an easy experience. However, it doesn’t mean they should avoid it, and it’s your responsibility to make sure they find a way to have important conversations in a productive manner. When you encourage them to more deeply understand each other, you’re not only helping them become more financially secure, but you’re also mentoring them to a deeper and more harmonious marriage. Would you like to talk more about mentoring your couple clients? Please reach out so we can chat.
When you become a mentor to your clients, deeply understand them, and guide them toward a better future, then you’ve learned the ways of a financial caregiver. You’ve come to know what it means to be a true purveyor of advice, and how to use money as a conduit to a more fulfilling life for yourself and those you serve.
Patrick Tucker, owner of True Measure Wealth Management and founder of True Measure Financial Advisors, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He’s spent over $500,000 finding mentors, studying consulting businesses, taking courses, studying the soft sciences, running trial and error experiments, and learning how to be an entrepreneurial financial advisor. He’s simplified this into an easy to use blueprint for anyone who is entrepreneurial-minded and is tired of the sales culture. Patrick has been able to acquire over $158 million under management with little to no money spent on marketing.