Risking It When Investing
Q: My wife is a risk taker and wants to invest beyond my comfort zone. I know it’s considered better to invest where returns are higher, but that also means a higher risk! Is there a middle ground?
A: Many couples grapple with this dilemma. While the simplest solution is to split your funds and invest as you each see fit, that’s not likely to bring peace or wealth into the relationship. In a marriage, whether accounts are titled separately or jointly, they are considered marital assets (even 401Ks). So, in a healthy relationship, two people work jointly toward financial goals, instead of going it alone.
According to Fidelity’s 2015 Couples Retirement Study, 47% of couples disagree about how much money they’ll need to maintain their lifestyle in their later years. Here are some tips to guide you on the road toward joint investment:
1.) Communication is key
Let your partner know you’re willing to research options together and come up with a plan. Erica Coogan, partner at Moss Adams Wealth Advisors in Seattle, recommends that each partner complete a risk assessment questionnaire and then compare answers.
2.) Remember that planning needs to cover both spouses
Experts advise couples to watch out for the “It’s my money because I worked for it” syndrome. Couples need to work together on a plan for investing (and spending) their money, regardless of who earns it. Apart from resentment, an uneven divide in the ownership of assets can make a mess of cash flow, estate planning and taxes.
3.) Consider transparency
Wherever you stand on risk, consider selecting some investments that are, by nature, transparent. This includes individual stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds. You can also reduce risk by diversifying your portfolio across asset classes. Ask a financial advisor at [credit union] for help in untangling the strands of modern-day investing.
4.) Think about your time horizon
Allowing an investment to compound leads to higher returns. If you’re more risk-averse than your spouse and you’ll need the money within 10 years, don’t hesitate to tell your partner to slow down. Remember that it doesn’t make sense, but is nevertheless true, that your money doubles in seven years if you earn a compounded annual return of 10%. Don’t let a little fumbled math lead to a rash or risky decision.
5.) Keep your goals in sight
Your mutual goals will determine how, and how much, the two of you should invest. When do you want to retire? Do you plan to pay for your kid’s college expenses? Are you hoping to buy a house? Do you dream about starting a business?
Finances are one of the leading causes of separation. The more openly couples communicate about this potentially rocky topic, the less likely they are to panic when there’s a ripple in their plans or the market fluctuates.
Your Turn: Do you and your partner disagree about investments? Let us know how you’ve smoothed that potentially rocky road!
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