Have you been to a restaurant lately? If so did you notice that the overwhelming majority of couples barely spoke a word to each other? When they weren’t eating they were sitting, with their heads down, thoroughly engrossed in whatever they saw on their smartphone. Not all of us men are big on the ‘communication thing’ with the spouse. For some, a deep conversation may revolve around who will pick up milk on the way home from work. When it comes to money issues, I think the lack of communication is a two way street. Both men and women have a very difficult time calmly talking about their finances. Too often the attempt at a discussion quickly turns into the spending blame game.
While many think infidelity is the number one reason for divorce, it turns out that money issues take the top spot. According to none other than Dr. Phil, “It’s this simple: Money can ruin your marriage. In fact, it’s the number one problem in marriages and the number one cause of divorce. People often underestimate the commitment in merging two lives together. The reason we fight most about money is because it’s the most measurable. Sure, compromises also need to be made when it comes to issues of time, space and affection, but with money, the give and take is quantifiable.”
It’s imperative that the couple get on the same wavelength regarding budgeting and saving issues. It’s even more important that they start speaking about the future. i.e. retirement planning.
Now is the time
I sit with middle-aged couples all of the time and for the most part they have never spoken about retirement with each other. I understand that between work, raising children and a thousand others things that leave us with no time, speaking about what will be in 20 years can easily take a back seat. I don’t believe that every couple needs to speak weekly about retirement plans but once or twice a year; just to make sure that they are both of the same mindset is vital. It goes without saying that the closer you get to retirement the more frequent and the more in depth these discussions need to be.
It’s important that couples start trying to define their retirement goals. Certainly a 40 year old doesn’t need to have a mapped out retirement, but having a general idea of what retirement may look like is a good idea. While there are planners out there that believe you need to have a concrete retirement plan when you are 40 years old I think that is over the top. Living in Israel for many years has taught me that I don’t even know what to expect tomorrow let alone 20 or 30 years down the road!
What is crucial is that the couple be on the same wavelength as to what they want to do during retirement. Do you enjoy travel? Are you blessed with a large family and do you want to help out and spend a lot of time with grandchildren? Whatever you come up with now is helpful because you can guesstimate how much that type of lifestyle may cost and you can start planning accordingly.
I can’t emphasize enough the need to discuss these issues civily, not start blaming one another for over-spending. It’s common that one person in the relationship may be focused more on saving while the other does a lot of the family’s spending. This means that from the get-go, there is potential for conflict. Go out to a restaurant, turn off your cellphones and start discussing these issues calmly. This way you can get a better understanding of where each person is coming from and reach middle ground, and not only start defining goals, but agree to a spending plan that will enable you to achieve your dream retirement.
This method also helps get the couple on the same page and creates a team like approach to handling money as opposed to an adversarial relationship. If the couple works as a team then there will be more discipline on the spending side, which will free up money to go into savings. It will also pave the way to a much better marriage!
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.
Aaron Katsman is author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and is a licensed financial professional both in the United States and Israel, and helps people who open investment accounts in the United States. Securities are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. (www.prginc.net). Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. For more information, call (02) 624-0995, visit www.aaronkatsman.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.