Get Your Spouse to the Table (and I don’t mean the dining kind)

Like many financial professionals, I want couples to be at the financial planning table together. But the reality is one spouse is often the driver of financial matters in the relationship. And often, time and schedule challenges make it easier to rely on the “catch-up conversations,” which may not end up happening.

Talking about financial matters and what could happen if a loved one dies is difficult. But even more difficult is what might happen if you don’t. A client of mine remembers asking her husband one night what she should do if he died. “It was just a passing conversation. Like, ‘Should I pay off the mortgage?’” she said. “We never sat down and had a big talk. I knew we had life insurance, but I didn’t know what to do with it.”

When her husband died in 2008, she was still not sure what to do.

“I realized too late that I should have been involved in the planning,” my client told me. “You just don’t think this will happen when your husband is 49.”

I see it as part of my role to help change this. But couples shouldn’t wait for a financial advisor to begin doing the work. You can:

  • Get the hard conversation out of the way and discuss what you would want if the unfortunate were to happen.
  • Use free tools like the LIFE Foundation’s Human Life Value Calculator or its Life Insurance Needs Calculator to estimate your needs.
  • Stay fresh on family financial matters by creating an action plan and meet monthly.

When everyone is equally informed, it can make a big difference during a very difficult time in someone’s life.

Peter Lewis, ChFC, is owner of The Lewis Group, an affiliate of the Massachusetts Life Insurance Company’s General Agency, Sapient Financial. You can contact him at peterlewis@finsvcs.com

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