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The power of joint financial planning as a couple

Whenever I meet with a prospective client who’s either married or in a relationship, I tend to ask whether their spouse or partner will be joining us. More often than not, they reply: “It’s just me. They’re not interested in finance.”

It’s not uncommon for one partner to take the lead when it comes to financial decisions. Sometimes, taking ownership of individual tasks can be beneficial. One partner might do the supermarket shop while the other takes the bins out.

And yet, when it comes to our finances, I’ve noticed that the most successful couples work together. It’s about playing to our strengths (or at least taking ownership of the jobs we can just about tolerate) without dismissing our weaknesses completely.  

Setting goals together and learning together

If one person is responsible for all-things-finance while the other simply goes with the flow, this can cause stress and resentment on both sides. The financially-organised partner can feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, while the financially-disengaged partner can be in for some nasty surprises further down the line.

Let’s imagine a client called Sam hires a financial planner. His spouse, Claire, is too busy with work and family responsibilities to engage in their family’s finances. In the past, the couple discussed retiring early, buying a villa in Spain and helping their future children to buy homes of their own. These are the topics that crop up most often, at least. 

Sam’s financial planner says that their goals are achievable, but only if they send their children to an affordable school and contribute just £3,000 each towards their weddings.

Not wanting to bother Claire, Sam agrees to put the financial plan in place. When the time comes to choose a school for their first child, Claire’s shocked to discover that most of their money is tied up in investments. They don’t have enough cash to cover the fees for their first choice of school. Enter: sleepless nights and lots of arguments. 

This is why, to really thrive in both love and money, you need to set shared goals and create your financial plan together. That way, you can make sure you’re both on the same page, everyone’s desires are met, and no one is caught off-guard. 

Joint financial planning is good for improving both partners’ financial knowledge too. Few people imagine living their life without their partner, but should something happen to them or your relationship, good financial literacy is crucial. 

Building trust and avoiding conflict

If Sam and Claire were my clients, I’d likely have a contingency plan in place to protect them from sudden changes. It may be possible to adjust their financial plan so that they could achieve more of their short-term goals without causing too much damage to their long-term plans. 

The problem is, by this stage, the relationship can already be under strain. Claire no longer trusts Sam to make financial decisions on behalf of their family, while Sam is frustrated that he’s getting all the blame when Claire hadn’t shown an interest before.

Financial disagreements are a leading cause of stress in relationships. By discussing your financial hopes, dreams and aspirations together (and making sure you’re both on the same page when big decisions are made) you can build trust and improve your communication skills. You’re also less likely to encounter conflict. 

Shared responsibility and problem solving

Remember what I said earlier about the supermarket shop and bins? Well, when it comes to managing your finances as a couple, you can apply the same strength of delegation.  

One partner could take ownership of household bills and budgeting - setting up standing orders, looking for more competitive deals, that sort of thing. 

The other partner could take responsibility for long-term planning. They might be the one to arrange meetings with the financial planner, listen to financial podcasts, and explain what they’ve learned to their partner. 

You might also want to choose a leader for less frequent financial obligations such as applying for a mortgage or choosing a new life insurance policy. 

Remember: while one person takes the lead, both need to be engaged. Big financial decisions need to be discussed and problems need to be solved together. When both partners are involved, you can each draw on one another’s strengths and insights. 

Celebrating achievements together

In the grand tapestry of marriage, financial planning is a thread that should be woven together. 

Successful couples understand that shared financial aspirations are just as important as shared life goals. 

There’s something about accomplishing your financial milestones as a team that’s so much better than celebrating alone. It strengthens your emotional connection and creates lasting memories. It can also teach you that there’s always more to discover about each other.

Jane and I meet every 12 weeks to discuss our plans. Initially I resisted this and thought the whole idea was nonsense when an Australian adviser suggested it two years ago. It’s now become something I really look forward to. We take a long lunch, somewhere new, and talk through everything that matters to us.

Each time (and I’ve been married for 9 years) I find out something new about how Jane thinks about money. In essence: it couldn’t be more different to me! 

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