It’s not uncommon for one spouse to take a leading role when it comes to handling the finances, but that doesn’t mean the other person should just look the other way.
“A vast majority of couples describe themselves as one financial entity,” says Lauren Brouhard, senior vice president of Retirement at Fidelity Investments, which recently polled couples about money and investments. “But there’s a major disconnect between a couple’s financial goals and expectations for the future.”
Whether it’s a young couple creating their first budget or two people nearing retirement, it’s important both individuals are part of the planning and are able to recognize a plan isn’t working.
Whether it’s differing money goals or out-of-control spending habits, here’s a look at four signs it may be time to hand over the family money-managing reigns or at the very least, relinquish some control.
Sign 1: Budget Only Includes Spending
Saving should be the main focus of every budget, so if the spouse in charge is more interested in the spending part, it’s time to shift priorities.
“What the budget looks like: how much is spent and how much is saved. All of those things each individual needs to take a certain level of accountability for,” says Brouhard.
Sign 2: One person has No Clue who is Managing the Money
If the person in charge of the finances suddenly gets very sick or passes away unexpectedly and the surviving spouse doesn’t know where the accounts and finances are located and who is helping managing the money, it can create a big hassle and lead to financial distress.
Gary Marriage, Jr.., founder and CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors, recommends every couple create a financial inventory roadmap that is kept up to date.
“It is the GPS, that tells the spouse/beneficiaries where every policy and account is located, who the servicing agent is, and the values on these are updated annually with both spouses present during an annual review.”
Sign 3: Risk Levels Don’t Align with Goals
Some people love the roller coaster ride that can be Wall Street, while others like a more conservative investing approach.
There’s no right strategy, but couples need to take each other’s approach into account when creating a budget and savings plan.
Things can go badly when the person in charge of the money is a risk taker while the other spouse likes to take a safe, staid approach. According to Daniel Soo, senior wealth management advisor at TIAA-CREF, the ability for both spouses to appreciate and tolerate a portfolio’s risk level is essential. He says both parties have to be on the same page when it comes to other types of risk such as interest rate, inflation and political--all of which can have an impact on the investments.
Sign 4: An Emergency Fund Isn’t Part of the Planning
If a couple’s budget plan is full of dining-out expenses, making big-ticketed purchases on a whim or hitting the local coffee shop two times a day yet they don’t have a comfortable emergency fund, that’s a problem says Brouhard.
If the spouse who is in charge of money isn’t putting money aside for emergencies, be it a costly home repair, an unexpected illness, or a job loss, and the other doesn’t know of the spending pattern, it’s likely time to have the conversation about giving up control, says Brouhard.
“You need liquidity to cover the basic living expenses for several months.”