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Money, Marriage & Mistakes to Avoid

This week we discuss the importance for married couples to BOTH engage in the planning process from a meaningful conversation of their top priorities, dream and fears to the trade-offs necessary to achieve them and how an advisor can play a critical role in coming alongside couples as they do.


  1. Equity Markets – were slightly down in this choppy trading week with U.S. stocks (S&P 500) down -0.11% while international equities (EAFE) fell -0.27%
  2. Fixed Income Markets – were positive this week with investment grade bonds (AGG) up 0.18% while high yield bonds (JNK) rose 0.11%
  1. Tax Hike to Halt the Party? – Stocks got hit hard Thursday just as they approached all-time highs as news broke of President Biden’s plan to try to raise capital gains taxes on wealthy Americans to over 40%. Several Democrats have gone on record stating they are against such tax hikes, making them unlikely at this point which stabilized markets Friday.
  2. Pandemic Recovery Remains Uneven – While the vaccine rollout continues to improve domestically, with the CDC reporting this week that over half of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, new cases are reaching all-time highs elsewhere around the globe. Among the 5.2 million new cases reported last week, an alarming majority were centralized within lower income countries such as India and Brazil. Meanwhile Germany’s parliament has passed a new law allowing the federal government to impose curfews and lockdowns.
  3. Key Insight – [VIDEO & ARTICLE] This week we discuss the importance for married couples to BOTH engage in the planning process from a meaningful conversation of their top priorities, dream and fears to the trade-offs necessary to achieve them and how an advisor can play in a critical role in coming alongside couples as they do.


The Money Challenge

Money and marriage; the two are connected in so many ways, and as any married couple knows differences inevitability arise. And while the stats around the impact of money on marriage can be sobering, if not depressing, we find that usually the differences are not as vast as they may appear and that even for those couples not at odds, a clear plan/framework can bring so much more enjoyment to maximizing their resources.

That said there are a few challenges to address such as:

  • The different backgrounds and experiences with money each person brings into the marriage
  • Different goals and/or priorities, or perhaps just different ideas on how to achieve them when they are the same
  • Different meanings for what otherwise appear to be similar goals or priorities (e.g. what does “leave a legacy” mean, or “spend more time with loved ones”)
  • Many people’s base tendency is to focus their attention on things outside of their control (e.g. the stock market) that don’t require them to face their own internal issues

The Differences aren’t as Vast as They May Feel

For those of you that may find that money is a common source of angst in your relationship you are not alone, but the good news is that usually the differences aren’t so much about what is important but how to address it. For example, the Protector spouse that insists on saving as opposed to taking the family trip isn’t trying to avoid the family or be unloving, they are just trying to address the burden they feel to provide and protect. A good plan that balances tradeoffs and defines true boundaries can help the “Protector” feel comfortable, while allowing the other spouse to have their needs to maximize the enjoyment of today addressed as well.

The Work is Worth It (For Us Too!)

This doesn’t happen without work, but after walking hundreds of couples through our process our team knows first-hand that not only is this time well spent, but “work” that can actually be a lot of fun.

Ask any advisor here and they will tell you the initial goal/priority defining conversations we begin with are some of the most rewarding to be a part of. To see conflicts resolved, new dreams born, previously unengaged spouses excited to have newfound clarity and partners and the other spouse able to release some of the previous burdens they carried is simply amazing!

Yes, couples leave these meetings often saying, “that was like therapy!” But they do so with a smile on their face and a confidence in their future that is palpable.

Four Keys to Consider

1. This isn’t about Making It, it’s about Maximizing It

We often see couples hesitant to come engage in the process, and while the main reason is likely their recognition of one of the challenges above, their stated reason is “we’re fine.” This isn’t about just avoiding divorce, an annual family trip and saving a little into your 401k and 529 plans.

This IS about knowing how you both make financial decisions emotionally as well as those you really want to make based on well-thought-out priorities with a plan that balances the necessary trade-offs to reach as many of them as possible.

Without it, the risks of completely failing on one of your goals/dreams is far higher than you realize. Perhaps that’s funding college, maybe it’s damaging your retirement to pay for your kids’ school and maybe it’s just spending a lifetime frustrated to some degree that you and your spouse just aren’t on the same page with financial decisions.

A clearly defined framework helps avoid waste:

  • Wasted money - on poor choices or overcompensating for an improper balance of priorities
  • Wasted Time – whether arguing or trying to make decisions
  • Wasted Heartache – in the form of arguments, stress or worry

2. You’re not Speaking the Same Language

We see a lot of couples that think they are far apart on financial decisions or what they’d like their future to look like that are really just speaking “different languages.” This is one area where a third party can provide a lot of help and get both spouses on the same page and better understand where their spouse is coming from.

3. You Need to Address the Concerns of the Non-CFO Spouse

Great partnerships often divide duties and finances are no different. It is quite common for us to see one spouse not wanting to engage or one spouse that wants to handle things themselves.

Whether this is “working or not” or whether you can handle it alone, there is something you should know … deep down your spouse is worried about it.

One of the most common concerns the non-CFO spouse expresses once they open up is “what happens if something happens to my spouse.”

Defining a plan that they’ve been a part of with a partner they now know and trust is one of the greatest gifts you could give your spouse. No one likes to talk about death and disability, and yes odds are that things will be fine for quite some time, but there is a reason there are two pilots in the cockpit and that is the consequences are too grave if something did happen to one of the pilots – so too with your family and their finances.

4. Don’t Focus on Things You Can’t Control

It may feel more productive to fret about what the market may be doing, but it isn’t. You can’t control it and that time would be far better spent on things you can control like building a plan for any type of market and getting on the same page with your spouse.

I see lots of couples and have lots of conversations every day on these topics and can promise you the guys (sorry the male ego is a problem) that fixate on the market too often make themselves and their spouse miserable, while the couples that make the time to build a joint plan are not only more at peace with their finances, they also accomplish a lot more with their resources.

In Closing:

Sure, some of these conversations can be tough, but they are SO worth it. Both spouses stand to gain so much, from a better understanding of the other spouse to a better understanding of what is truly possible for their family.

The result for the CFO spouse is a greatly reduced emotional burden they almost always carry, and for the non-CFO spouse both a newfound empowerment as well reduced anxiety around what the future holds.

Whether it’s you or someone you know, I couldn’t encourage you any more to move such a conversation to the top of your to-do list.

Below is a great piece on this topic as well … I hope you enjoy.

Have a great weekend,

Tim and team at TEN Capital


When Financial Therapy is the Answer for Married Clients

By Dr. Kristy Archuleta

Program Director of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University

Money is a loaded topic for many married couples. Why? Money comes with baggage; emotionally charged reactions to how one feels, thinks or behaves around money. Money impacts how people relate to one another; it can ruin family relationships and even break up marriages when parties do not see eye to eye, or feel as though they have been treated unfairly.

Typically, people don't think about their deep feelings about money. Nor do they talk with friends and family about their personal attitudes and beliefs about money. They keep them bottled up inside.

So when the topic of money comes up, especially in an advising situation, it can create a variety of reactions from happiness to fear. The topic causes stress and anxiety, and the conversation becomes emotional rather than rational.

When working with married couples, the problem is multiplied. You are now managing two sets of habits, beliefs and emotions. These beliefs may be very different from one another and create tension and conflict in the relationship. My experience has indicated that about one-third of couples who see a financial professional report having marital issues, and research has shown that about one-third of couples who see a marriage therapist report financial problems.1

Or, as I like to say, couples go to their marriage counselor and talk about money and go to their financial professional to talk about their marriage.

Let's look at an example. Ray and Mary are middle-aged and married. Ray constantly worries about his portfolio performance. Ray's anxiety raises when the stock market dips, even a bit. Mary tries to calm Ray by telling him not to worry. However, her assurance that "everything will be okay" does not help Ray relax. They have even fought in front of you about how they believe their assets should be allocated.

When Ray was young, his grandparents lost their home due to lack of retirement planning and high medical bills. As a result, his aging grandparents moved in with Ray's parents. As the oldest child in the family, Ray had to help care for his ill grandparents. He watched his own parents financially struggle to take care of not only Ray and his siblings, but also Ray's grandparents. As a young adult, he vowed that he would never put such responsibility on his own children or grandchildren. As soon as he started earning an income as a teenager, he opened a savings account and earmarked part of that savings for retirement.

From an outsider looking into Ray and Mary's relationship, they appear to have their finances in order and a clear pathway to retirement. However, Ray's worry isn't rational. To him, money is the only form of security that exists. If the money disappears, then in his mind he has failed and will become a financial burden to his children and grandchildren. On the other hand, Mary feels everything is fine because she views their finances from a more rational perspective. Mary's ease with the situation actually causes Ray to have even more anxiety, as he believes that she should understand his feelings and be on his side.

What can be done to help a couple like Ray and Mary? For decades, there were few good answers. Today however, there is something called financial therapy. Financial therapy involves the integration of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, relational and economic aspects that influence financial well-being, and ultimately, quality of life. Financial therapy professionals understand the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of money and utilize this knowledge to help clients achieve their financial goals.

In fact, there is a professional organization dedicated to the practice of financial therapy. The Financial Therapy Association (FTA) is comprised of practitioners and scholars from the fields of mental health (e.g., marriage and family therapists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, life coaches) and financial services (e.g., financial planners, financial counselors, financial educators, financial coaches).*

Here are 4 signs that indicate that a couple might benefit from financial therapy:

  1. The couple argues, but never resolves the issue. All couples argue, of course. If they don't, it probably means they are not talking about issues that need to be discussed. But arguing is worrisome when issues are never resolved, or when the way the couple argues is destructive to one another.
  2. The couple plays the blame game. Blaming one another for what has or has not happened in carrying out a financial plan is not useful. Conflict takes at least two people. When partners blame each other, they fail to look at their own contributions to the problem and what they can do differently in order to help resolve the issue.
  3. One or both partners displays uncontrollable worry, fear, anxiety or depressive symptoms around money. When a psychological issue impedes the clients to make progress in their financial plan, they should be referred to a licensed mental health professional.
  4. Only one partner contributes to the planning process. This could be a sign of a power and control dynamic in which one partner controls the other by not allowing them to participate.

1Aniol, J. C., & Synder, D. K. (1997). Differential assessment of financial and relationship distress: Implications for couples' therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 23(3), 347-352. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.1997.tb01042.x

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial professionals.

Hartford Funds is not responsible for, and does not validate, any information, opinions, assertions, or statements expressed within these articles, or the identity or credentials of the individuals communicating through the site. Some of the articles may contain links to information created and maintained by other, unaffiliated organizations and individuals. Hartford Funds does not control, cannot guarantee, and is not responsible for the completeness, accuracy, timeliness, or the continued availability or existence of this outside information or the information presented herein. This material is intended for use by financial professionals or in conjunction with the advice of a financial professional.

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