My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with BDO. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bridging the Financial Literacy Gap with your Spouse

We have all heard the expression about affairs of the heart: opposites attract. However, how do these opposites operate when managing a family’s financial affairs? Spouses and common-law partners sometimes come to the relationship with differing levels of financial literacy.

When meeting with couples to discuss their financial affairs, it has always amazed me how one spouse often takes control of that aspect of their lives and the other spouse, in many cases, abdicates that responsibility. Of course, in some families, the financial duties are shared and both spouses have an understanding of the family’s finances, but I would suggest this is the exception rather than the rule.

How do you as the “financial spouse” involve the other spouse in spite of their indifference or reticence? How can you help them overcome their comparative lack of financial literacy? Why would you even want to?

Why your spouse should raise their financial literacy


I will start with the why. Here are three reasons:

  • For the sake of your marriage — it is best to have consensus on financial decisions.
  • You may die first — your spouse needs to be aware of and understand family finances, or it could lead to severe financial consequences. At minimum it could create significant stress for them after you die.
  • Get a new view — it may be useful to have a different perspective on financial issues.

How to improve your spouse’s financial literacy


Here’s how you can involve your spouse in the family’s financial affairs:

  •  Plan, document and communicate
  •  Introduce your spouse to your advisors
  •  Review the budget together
  •  Ask your spouse to pay some bills
  • Share yearly investment reports
  •  Discuss daily financial events

Plan, document, and communicate


An estate organizer is a great tool to plan, document, and communicate with your spouse on key financial issues. It doesn’t help just your spouse — it assists your entire family and your executor on your death.

While this estate organizer is really a future document, you can use it to educate your spouse now. If you have not prepared this document, do so; if you have already prepared it, you should review it with your spouse. Walk through each section. It will provide clarity on your affairs to your spouse and they will at least have some familiarity with this document if your death precedes theirs.

Introduce your spouse to your advisors


Introducing your spouse to your advisors means involving them in meetings. Introductions to your advisors will help your spouse develop a comfort level with the advisors. This will go a long way if you pass away and are not around to continue the relationships. On a current basis, if your spouse attends these meetings, they will begin to gain at least a minimum understanding of your affairs.

Review the budget together


If you create a family budget, you should review it with your spouse. A non-financial spouse will often consider this a form of financial torture, so keep the review brief and hit on points that your spouse is responsible for or will affect them. Seeing that you spent x dollars on restaurants may crystallize your concern about eating out too much to your spouse. Along similar lines, reviewing your interest expense will highlight the need to reduce debt. Any number of issues can be discussed.

Your spouse may surprise you. Sometimes showing the raw numbers in black and white can trigger an interest in financial affairs that – after all – affect them just as much as they affect you.

Ask your spouse to pay some bills


It may help to have your spouse be responsible for paying certain bills. This teaches them how to pay bills, especially online. I am often shocked by how many spouses have no clue about banking and paying bills. By taking an active role in this crucial activity, they can see first-hand the budget issues your family may have. In addition, should you pass away, it is vital your spouse have basic banking and bill paying skills.

Share yearly investment reports


I have always stressed the importance of looking at your investments annually to review your returns, fees and asset allocation. While your spouse may not care about the minutia, they may be interested in your yearly returns.

Discuss daily financial events


When there is a significant financial event – Brexit, an interest rate hike, trade agreement negotiations, or even relevant tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump – you may wish to have discussions with your spouse, so they are aware and understand the potential impact on your day-to-day lives.

Finding the right financial conversation


There are many practical ways to get your spouse involved in the family’s financial affairs. Feel free to discuss them in the comments below.

While there are some people who do not really want their spouse to have too much knowledge of their financial affairs, let’s hope these spouses are few and far between. For everyone else, the benefits of improving your spouse’s financial literacy are significant. I would suggest that you consider implementing some or all of the steps I discuss above to improve your spouse’s financial literacy and your family’s financial and estate planning. Your marriage and finances with be all the better for it. 

The content on this blog has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The blog cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact BDO Canada LLP to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstances. BDO Canada LLP, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information on this blog or for any decision based on it.

Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation.

BDO Canada LLP, a Canadian limited liability partnership, is a member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. 

No comments:

Post a Comment