Personal Finance and Marriage: When To Consult a Financial Advisor

Q: My husband and I are wondering if there is such a thing as a “financial advisor/counselor”.

We need someone to literally help us reposition our investments (per the advice we received from a fee-only financial planner we saw a year ago). But we also need that same person to be able to mediate between the two of us and the differences we have over money.

We have differences in how we spend, budget, invest and communicate about our finances.

I am also wondering if it’s a bad time to make changes to our investments. We want to consolidate our scattered accounts that we have with multiple brokerages.

A: I’m sure there is a financial advisor out there who could be the real estate agent’s counterpart; but I wouldn’t count on it. Instead, you and your husband need to sit down with a trusted psychologist/counselor to work through the differences that you have about money. This person doesn’t need to be a specialist. What he or she does need to do is help the two of you talk about your needs, differences and preferences around this subject.

Typically when two people in a relationship have differing views about money, it stems from the way they were raised. Someone who is extremely, and unnecessarily, tight with their cash might have inherited this Depression-era mentality from their parents. They might have seen their parents lose all their wealth (and throw the stability of the family into jeopardy) and taken from that the lesson that they need to hang tight to every last nickel.

On the other hand, if someone spends like there’s no tomorrow that also can have deep roots in childhood. To get the root of the problem, you and your husband need to spend some time examining why you are the way you are with money. And, you have to learn how to compromise.

This conversation can be difficult, which is why I’d suggest working with a professional. If you’re a little more brave, you might try tackling it over a glass of wine in a relaxed environment.

But not having these conversations can lead to all sorts of long-term financial problems. For example, if you and your spouse have differing views on how and when to pay your bills, and you start paying late, this will trash your credit histories and credit scores.

If you don’t put your mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance premium at the forefront of your bills, you could lose your house.

If no one is watching the calendar, and your adjustable-rate mortgage adjusts before you can refinance to a lower fixed-rate mortgage, you might find yourselves suddenly unable to meet your monthly debt obligations.

Being in a relationship means compromising on all sorts of things, including how you handle money. If you can’t find someone to help you sort this out, I hope you’ll take some baby steps to get going in the right direction.

When it comes to allocating resources, budgeting, and choosing investments, you’ll should either go back to your fee-only financial planner (if you liked him/her), or find someone new to help you through this part of the journey.

A good financial planner/investment advisor, will be caring and compassionate, with a good personality and sense of humor. While not a professional counselor, perhaps this individual would have enough common sense to help you and your spouse start this important conversation.

Jan. 27, 2008.


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