In Financial Planning, Couples Should Work Together

Men and women need to step into each other’s shoes when making a financial plan

 Financial planner helping a couple with their banking accounts

Think of being more assertive about financial planning as moving purposefully toward each other's future financial stability, Gresham advises. She suggests trading roles so that each spouse or partner gains competency, or at least a conversational familiarity with their significant other's expertise. "Explain to the other, 'Here's what's happening in my role," she says. "You both have to understand the whole picture. If you don't have time or interest to learn it now, do you really think you want to learn it in a crisis, when your partner is ill or dying?"

[See: 6 Ways Retiring Can Be More Affordable.]

Kathleen Gurney, principal of Sarasota, Fla.-based Financial Psychology Corporation, advises women to incorporate money management into their typical definitions of professional success. Integrating asset allocations and investment projections into discussions about personal and family hopes for retirement reframes the usual discussion about financial scorecards as the context for expected activities, lifestyle and family gifts, she adds.

"To take a stand and say, 'My opinion counts,' you have to look at your emotional balance sheet and see what matters to you and what doesn't," she says. "If you were to assert yourself with your advisor, what two things you would want that advisor to know?"

Finally, zeroing in on a couple of investment categories as categories of personal expertise is a good first step for women who have been hesitant to wade into spreadsheets, Gurney and other advisors say. "We feel confident only if we get involved, and only those who get involved with their money are confident," Gurney says.