Financial Planning

Help newlywed couples confront difficult issues and make them feel secure in their future

By Beatrice Paez |

Once that blissful honeymoon period fades, newlyweds have to adjust to a new rhythm of everyday life. Much of the transition will involve getting used to making financial decisions as a cohesive unit. While you're no marriage counsellor, couples may entrust you with the task of leading discussions about money.

It's not uncommon for recently hitched couples to postpone discussions about money until after the wedding — comparing credit scores is not always high on the list of priorities when assessing wedding caterers.

Some couples might even turn to their financial advisors to navigate delicate issues such as contrasting spending habits and paying off debts.

"Coming into a marriage, [couples] don't often have those in-depth conversations beforehand," says Darcie Crowe, senior investment advisor with Canaccord Genuity in Vancouver. "Talking with clients about their [shared] goals can be vital."

Your responsibility is to foster an open dialogue with both spouses so they can feel secure in their financial future.

Crowe suggests four things you can do to build a long-lasting relationship with newlywed clients:

1. Establish common goals
Have the couple talk through their goals and break down their assets, liabilities and joint income, Crowe says.

As a planner, you can help them get an "overall view of the financial situation, rather than the sum of the parts," she says. The plan they settle on will serve as a benchmark to monitor progress over time, which, she adds, should be revisited at least annually.  

Not all couples want to merge all their finances immediately, Crowe says. Still, you should encourage them to create an emergency fund. That money squirrelled away can save them the headache of figuring out how to cover unforeseen expenses when they come up.

2. Ask questions
Part of your role is to facilitate participation of both partners, especially in situations in which one spouse seems to dominate the discussion while the other is less engaged.

"Very often, it might appear there's a lack of interest," says Crowe. "But it might be a lack of confidence or discomfort."
Draw the less-engaged spouse out by asking questions, addressing them and getting their feedback, she says. It all comes down to making both spouses feel like an active participant.  

3. Practice transparency
Make sure the flow of information you send out reaches both spouses. Even if only one partner is actively responding to your comments, Crowe says, you should address the couple as a unit.

"As soon as you're just channeling communication to one, [the other will] start to feel excluded," she says.

The worst thing you can do is to give the impression that certain details are being withheld, or you prefer working with one spouse over the other. At the same time, your meetings with them are a chance to promote transparency in their own discussions with each other, Crowe says.

4. Broach difficult topics
Happy occasions don't inspire talk of death, wills and powers of attorney. But overcoming any reservations and discussing these issues now is in your clients' best interest. So, your job is to initiate that dialogue and relate the importance of having those documents in place.

"This aspect is overlooked at the beginning because those aren't always the things they want to be thinking about," Crowe says. "It's important to have those [conversations] up front, so the new spouses and potential children are looked after."

Ultimately, having this discussion can send the message that you are committed to attending to your clients' long-term interests.

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