The New York Times recently ran a great article about financial literacy.
Business school professors did a study and found out that when one person handles most of the financial chores in a household, that person gets better at it. That makes intuitive sense. With anything that you practice at or do routinely, you tend to improve.
I would say from my personal experience in working with hundreds of couples and families, one person usually makes most of the decisions.
That turns out to be an issue. One person learns and gets better and is able to complete financial tasks. That’s a good thing for that person. What about for the other?
What happens if the financially literate person dies or the couple divorces? The person who is not as involved might really struggle. He or she wasn’t learning or honing their skills over all the years and might not know how to make good financial decisions.
It’s an issue that doesn’t have an easy answer. My wife and I have been married for a long time. We divide chores and responsibilities like most couples. You probably won’t be terribly surprised to learn that I do both the investing and the day-to-day bill paying. I try to keep her involved. Even though she is smarter than me, this just isn’t her thing. If something happens to me, she’ll have a financial planner that we know and trust, but there will still be a steep learning curve. Most people aren’t in that good of a position.
There’s no sense that both members of a couple should have to do everything. It makes sense to divide things. But we need to figure out a way to make sure that the uninvolved spouse also increases his or her financial literacy too.
My name is Mike Garry, and my company is Yardley Wealth Management. We are a fiduciary, fee-only financial planning, and wealth management firm in Newtown, Pennsylvania. (That’s in Bucks County). If you’d like to talk about this or anything else, please reach out: 267-573-1019, firstname.lastname@example.org or @michaeljgarry
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