As Valentine’s Day approaches, the logical part of my brain (99%) yields to the emotional side (1%). Even though I’ve been married for 30 years — to two different individuals, I understand that I need to do something a little different this Thursday to display my love and affection for my wife.
Or do I?
Unlike the tradition celebrated by most couples, my wife insisted from the get-go that Valentine’s Day isn’t a one-day event where you buy a dozen roses, go out to dinner, come home, and fall asleep on the couch. She taught me that if you love, cherish, and respect each other, this needs to be communicated, and your love for each other celebrated, on a daily basis. I’m very fortunate to be able to say after 14 years of marriage that we have a Valentine’s Life.
What does this have to do with retirement income planning? Everything.
Retirement income planning done right is a complex process that ideally needs to begin years before one’s retirement date. It requires planning, managing, and protecting your retirement income. A foundation of respect for each other goes a long way when you engage in this ongoing, quickly-changing endeavor. You need to make many decisions together that will directly impact your financial future collectively as well as individually in the event that you go your separate ways or when one of you leaves this wonderful world.
It’s a well-known fact that many couples have a difficult time arriving at a meeting of the minds when it comes to making financial decisions. It’s been my personal observation that this is especially true in situations where mutual respect is lacking. If you don’t share common values, it’s going to be more challenging to develop and agree on retirement income planning goals, let alone take the steps that are required to implement a plan to achieve those goals.
If you read my bio, you may have noticed that I have several credentials. One of them is MST (Masters of Science in Taxation). I don’t know why, however, I’m pretty certain that clients have mistaken the “S” for an “F” on more than one occasion and thought that I’m a MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). When I look back over the years, my greatest professional challenges have revolved, and continue to revolve, around couples who don’t love, cherish, and respect one another. They probably did when they got married; however, it’s obvious that the flame needs rekindling.
Through the process of retirement income planning, I’ve been successful in helping couples in this situation understand and work through financial issues that they previously weren’t able to tackle without my assistance. I make it clear to married individuals in our first meeting that I owe a fiduciary duty to both of them and I will never take sides. They understand that I’m an independent professional financial advisor who they can trust.
Retirement income planning can be a wonderful tool for bridging communication gaps and bringing couples closer. It forces them to spend time together discussing what’s important to both of them individually and as a couple. When I show spouses the projected financial consequences of their proposed actions, this is typically an eye-opening experience that often results in a newfound respect for the way each person thinks as well as for each other.
Respect, accept, and embrace your differences and start planning. Oh, by the way, I need to finish writing this article so I can buy my wife a Valentine’s Day card!