Husbands stifle wife-adviser relationships

Men worry about leaving their spouse unprepared when they die, but still may be part of the problem

Dec 17, 2013 @ 11:03 am

By Liz Skinner

Why aren't wives more involved in interactions around their family's finances with their adviser? Turns out the husband is partly culpable — and part of the solution.

For about 58% of couples, men are the primary contact with the financial adviser, according to a Fidelity Investments survey of 808 couples in May. About 42% said they interact jointly with the adviser.

Of the women who essentially ceded financial control to their husbands, 53% said they did so because they trust their partner, and 33% said it was because their partner had a personal relationship with the adviser, the survey found.

“The men have a strong relationship with the adviser today, and therefore the women are not getting involved,” said Jylanne Dunne, senior vice president of practice management and consulting for Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. “Husbands have an opportunity to open up that relationship and include their wives more.”

Men do worry about how their partner would handle the finances if the husband died first.

In the survey, only 43% of men said they were confident in their spouse's ability to assume full responsibility for retirement finances. Women, in fact, appear to be concerned about it themselves.

About 45% of women said they were confident in their own ability to take over full financial responsibility, the Fidelity survey found.

Advisers should require joint participation of both spouses in planning meetings and should specifically explain to men that leaving a wife out of the process will only make it more difficult for her to make financial decisions in the future, particularly if she has to do so alone, Ms. Dunne said.

If advisers have a more equal relationship with both spouses, they also will be more likely to hold onto the assets when either of the partners dies, she said.

In conjunction with the study, Fidelity also created a nine-question financial compatibility quiz that advisers can send to couples and have them fill out before coming in for a meeting. It's designed to help advisers identify differences between the spouses in terms of financial confidence, as well as spending disparities, according to Ms. Dunne.

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