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It's time for a revolution in how advisers work with couples

Advisers could increase client loyalty, retain more assets and continue to work with the next generation by rethinking approach to couples

Nov 11, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

By Kathleen Burns Kingsbury

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The financial services industry needs a couples revolution. This revolution would result in a real shift in how the advisory field views and work with couples. No longer would it be commonplace for advisers to meet with just one partner to discuss the family finances.

Instead, all advisers would require joint couples meetings where they would assist partners in resolving financial differences, making financial decisions together, and empower them to talk openly with their children about money.

The byproduct of this revolution would be healthier couples and stronger families. Advisers would benefit as well as they would increase client loyalty, retain more assets and be the next generation's logical choice as their trusted adviser.

My fear is that without a couples revolution, well-intended advisers will continue to collude with the idea that it is okay for intimate partners to discuss all aspects of their lives together, except money. Our society's money taboo has a crippling effect on our clients and the industry as evidenced by:

• 80% of spouses admitting to hiding financial purchase from their partners due to their fear it may result in a financial conflict;

• 70% of families failing to successfully pass down wealth over three generations;

• 69% of parents feeling better equipped to talk to their teens about sex than investing;

• 50% of baby boomers reporting that they have never talked to their children about money;

• Only 38% of couples meet jointly with their adviser.

These numbers tell a troubling story. Parents and families are struggling to talk openly about money, make sound joint financial decisions and raise money-savvy children. And as an adviser, you are perfectly positioned to lead the revolution. If you dare to stand out in the crowd, differentiate your practice and help families build and pass down wealth successfully, then consider these three action steps:

1. Review your book of business and ask yourself the question, "Do I see my couple clients jointly?" If the answer for some couples is “no,” understand your motivations for doing so. Identify the roadblocks then make an action plan to overcome them with the end goal of meeting with all your couple clients jointly.

2. Assist your couple clients in breaking their family's money silence. Teach partners how to identify their thoughts and beliefs about money that influence their financial habits and behaviors. These thoughts and beliefs make up a person's money mindset. Once partners can share and discuss their money mindsets, they are better equipped to understand financial differences and use each other's strengths to make sound financial decisions for their family. They also are better prepared to communicate their shared family values with the next generation and work as a team to raise financial intelligent children.

3. Break the money silence at home. As an adviser, you are a member of the same society as your clients, the one that frowns upon talking openly about finances. Take time to examine your strengths and challenges in this area and take action towards breaking the money silence in your life. This will give you an appreciation for what you are asking your clients to do in your office, and also set a wonderful example for them.

These steps are not quick or easy. But if each one of us joins the revolution and takes action, eventually there will be a radical shift in the financial services industry and how it advises couples.

Just imagine if the couples revolution was successful and you now worked in a field where:

• 70% of widows stayed with their couple adviser upon the death of their spouse;

• 90% of advisers retained assets during difficult times of family transition;

• The next generation was adequately prepared to receive and manage wealth and wonder why their parents had such trouble talking about money in the first place.

Yes, this revolution would change the industry, your business and the lives of couples and families for the better.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, and the author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Couples.

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