Communicating with couples requires special tactics

Sometimes a shift in focus — and body — is necessary to make a point

Jul 31, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

By Liz Skinner

Financial advisers who work with couples should speak to both spouses and be ready to shift the focus to one or the other as discussions change.

It's “interesting and tricky" sitting in front of a couple, said Kathleen Kingsbury, a wealth psychology expert and founder of KBK Wealth Connection, on the InvestmentNews webinar “Women and Investing” yesterday. "It's much more complicated working with a couple than an individual man or woman."

When working with a couple, advisers should ask each spouse to explain what each is looking for from the relationship, she said. Then the adviser should explain that at some point, the adviser "may lean in and talk with the wife more on certain things" or with the husband on other things, but that they will all be working together as a team, Ms. Kingsbury said.

Men often want to get quickly to the numbers or the investments, while women typically want to discuss more of the planning and how they see their future playing out, she said. If the husband becomes impatient with his wife's questions or talking a lot, the adviser should address that directly.

Financial adviser Rick Kahler, president of Kahler Financial Group, said he's found that the husband usually figures out in the end that the more emotional discussion about goals and why they need investments in the first place "is the important stuff."

“In that type of situation, I would actually shift my body toward the woman to let her know I'm in her camp," Mr. Kahler said.

Mr. Kahler recommends that advisers who are married meet with another adviser as if they were clients, and have that office discussion together with their spouse. He said these are talks that couples many times haven't had before, and the results are essential in the planning process.

"Go to a financial planner and have that money discussion with your wife so you understand the value of having an adviser there to facilitate the discussion," he said.

Advisers also should ask the couple questions about their life and goals, and then sit back and let them talk, including discussions between the two. Essentially, Mr. Kahler said, he has learned to shut up and become a "coach" to the couple.

"It sounds so simple, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my professional life," Mr. Kahler said.

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