This month’s column is prompted by a couple of e-mails I’ve received recently from frustrated husbands. “I have been trying to get my wife involved in our financial planning for a few years,” writes Edward T. “I have tried speaking with her and going through our accounts, but she has little interest. I cited one of your columns, and she seemed more receptive. What would you suggest as a starting point?”
And from Robert J.: “I keep pushing articles my wife’s way to get her more interested in finances. I keep her posted on our financial picture, and she smiles but never asks questions. I wish I could get her to go a little deeper.”
As someone who writes a column encouraging women to take control of their finances, I’m also frustrated when I encounter this “eyes-glaze-over syndrome.” I have some suggestions for Edward and Robert, and I also consulted a half-dozen female financial advisers about how they handle this issue in their practices.
First, it’s important to realize that men and women often approach finances differently. “Women tend to be more goal-oriented, and men are more performance-oriented,” says Christine Benz, director of personal finance for Morningstar. So instead of focusing on the numbers, you might have more success discussing your goals, whether you want to buy a house or plan for the kids’ education or your retirement (see Money Smart Women (opens in new tab)).
Research shows that women often don’t feel comfortable talking about money. “One prominent reason why women avoid discussing finances is an overall lack of confidence,” says Leslie Thompson, of Spectrum Management Group in Indianapolis. “But research also shows that women know more than they think they know.”
Anne Chernish, an investment adviser in Ithaca, N.Y., has worked with couples in which the wife has seemed disengaged until she’s forced to make decisions on her own. “Wives pick it up rapidly,” says Chernish. “And they’re very good at detail.”
Start small. In my experience, I’ve noticed that men often tend to think of finance as a hobby while women consider it a chore. So I’d recommend that Edward and Robert make the subject less off-putting by approaching it as you’d approach a major chore such as cleaning out the closets: one closet at a time. Start with a small step—perhaps reviewing just your bank account or automated bill payments—and build on that. If it works to use this column as a conversation starter, go for it.
Sometimes it’s a matter of timing. “Instead of monthly e-mails, try carving out a time once a quarter or even once a year to talk about your goals and how you’re tracking to meet them,” says Judith Ward, vice president and certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price. “Make it a date night if you’re so inclined.”
If your spouse is feeling pressured, shift gears and “focus on how stressful it is for you when your partner is reluctant to participate,” advises Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial Talks Money. “Explain that it makes you feel anxious to think that if something happened to you, your partner would be left trying to figure out all the family finances. Ask what you can do to make the conversation easier.”
“Don’t force the issue,” says Ward. “Your spouse doesn’t need to know all the details; she just needs to know there’s a plan.” Tell her that she and the kids will be taken care of, and show her where to find information about your accounts and financial contacts, she says. “That alone may encourage further conversations.”
The 6 Safest Vanguard Funds to Own in a Bear Market
recession Batten the hatches for continued market tumult without eating high fees with these six Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds.
By Kyle Woodley • Published
In Retirement Planning, What’s Your Retirement Personality?
There are many ways to think about retirement planning, and your personality can influence yours. If your personality and plan match, you have a greater chance of retirement success.
By Samuel V. Gaeta, CFP® • Published
CVS Will Pay “Pink Tax” and Drop Prices on Period Products
CVS is taking a stand against the pink tax, tampon tax, and period poverty in twelve states where tampons and other menstrual products are more expensive.
By Kelley R. Taylor • Last updated
Retirees: Cohousing is Growing. Is it Right for You?
This model of housing is designed to increase interaction. For some retirees, this is a draw. But you should know the details.
By Susan J. Wells • Published
They Lost a Spouse but Bounced Back: 5 Women’s Financial Stories
Women & Money A look at how five widows got their financial lives in order and got to a better, brighter, more empowered place. They did it, and so can you.
By Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™ • Published
Protect Your Retirement Income from Inflation
Making Your Money Last Costs are rising, and the market is bearish, but that doesn’t have to jeopardize your long-term security.
By Sandra Block • Published
Earn More with a CD Ladder
Making Your Money Last With rates crawling up, one way to keep your earnings on track is to spread out your cash.
By Rivan V. Stinson • Published
How Women Can Get What They Want (and Need) from a Financial Adviser
Women & Money Improving women’s experiences with financial professionals starts with honest conversations and some smart questions. And picking the right pro – one who knows how to listen – is critical.
By Ali Swart, CFP®, MBA • Published
Retirees, Take the Off Ramp to a New Career
Making Your Money Last For many seniors, changing careers can be a long and daunting process. But the rewards can be rich.
By Alina Tugend • Published
Abortion and Taxes: What Happens Now Without Roe v. Wade?
Women & Money See how abortion-related medical expense deductions, HSA and FSA payments, employer-provided travel, and charitable contributions will be handled now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
By Rocky Mengle • Last updated