May 19, 2017

Your “Silent” Partner

Credit: Ambro at
I would like to tell you a few stories…

I’m meeting with a husband and wife and they’ve got some bonus money they’re trying to decide what to do with. I raise the question as to whether they’d like to pay off their mortgage or invest the funds and the husband quickly answers “Invest the funds!” The wife subtly looks out the window.

I’m meeting with a husband and wife and we’re reviewing their investment allocation. They have chosen to be a little more aggressive than I’d typically recommend for someone with their monthly withdrawal needs. I suggest they boost their personal cash accounts and increase their allocation to fixed income in their investment accounts while reducing their international stock and small cap stock exposure. The husband shakes his head before the words are barely out of my mouth and informs me that they’ll keep the pedal to the metal. The wife is suddenly interested in her shoes.

I’m meeting with a husband and wife and we’re going over how much they have saved in college savings accounts for their children’s upcoming college expense needs. I show them they have set enough to cover more than 4 years at most universities even though their kids aren’t sure where they want to go or if they will have any scholarships. The wife tells me their kids might just go to an Ivy League school, and she gets out her checkbook and starts writing checks to make some additional contributions to their children’s college savings accounts. The husband spontaneously becomes interested in his cell phone.

I’m meeting with a husband and wife and I suggest we examine their estate planning documents as it has been several years since they’ve been executed. I talk about the importance of making sure their wishes would still be fulfilled, but the wife says that won’t be necessary because it’s not fun to think about. The husband takes a sip of his water and awkwardly asks me what my expectations are for the market for the next twelve months.

The title of “husband” or “wife” is meaningless in this post. The subtly looking out the window, the sudden interest in one’s shoes, the spontaneous interest in one’s cell phone, and the awkward subject change are not. These body language cues, gestures, and reactions are significant.

In my experience as a financial advisor I’ve learned there is oftentimes a more vocal spouse. There is oftentimes a “CFO Spouse,” one that is more involved or interested in the family finances. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this norm, but I’ve also learned the value of engaging the less vocal, less-CFO spouse if they’ll let me. Sometimes they have questions that have gone unanswered and concerns that have gone unaddressed. As you may have surmised from the stories above, I’ve found cases when one spouse would sleep a lot better if their mortgage was paid off, one spouse would feel a lot better if they were a little more conservatively invested, one spouse would be in support of setting aside a little less for the kids, and one spouse would be more confident in their situation if certain difficult and time-consuming conversations were had.

I hope my words are food for thought and will serve as a good heads-up. As a financial advisor (and husband) I can tell you that if your spouse isn’t happy, nobody’s happy!