Communicating with couples can be a challenging experience. Men and women often think differently about money and finances, says Jeff Woolley, president of Global View Capital Advisors in Burlington, Ont.

Men tend to be more aggressive investors, whereas women are more conservative. In some cases, men prefer to take the lead on financial issues, but that doesn’t mean that women want to take a “back seat.”

As a financial advisor, you have tread carefully when dealing with couples and pay attention to the points of view of both parties, Woolley says. “It is not uncommon to have a better relationship with one partner,” he says. “But be careful not to leave the other out.”

Here are some tips on communicating with couples:

> Know each partner
Try to get to know each partner as much as possible, including their personal likes and dislikes. You will be able to prepare for meetings knowing that what might work for one partner might not work for the other, Woolley says.

“If you are able to identify what each partner wants,” he says, “you might be able to reach a compromise when there is a difference of opinions.”

> Speak to both partners
“When meeting with a couple, focus on both partners,” says Woolley. “Make eye contact with both and ask both partners questions.”

There often is a tendency to focus on the partner who talks the most, but you have to recognize that you are dealing with a couple and not an individual client. Woolley recalls a married woman client who told him: “The last planner I spoke to never looked at me.”

> Involve both partners in decisions
The goals of both husband and wife must be part of the planning process, Woolley says. You must get the buy-in of both partners in the decision-making process, otherwise the couple will not be satisfied.

One way to get through to some couples when there is doubt is to use stories and analogies to clarify concepts and demonstrate the value of certain recommendations. You have to be careful not to appear to be taking sides and should have the ability to foster win/win situations.

> Offer products and services suitable to both partners
The individual circumstances of each spouse might not be the same. For example, one partner might have a defined-benefit employee pension plan, while the other has no pension, but has more complex planning requirements. In such cases, you must ensure that the products and services you offer address the needs of both partners.

As well, you must be able to convince couples that you will be taking care of their needs, such as estate planning, as a unit. Provide them with comfort that you are looking out for them as a family and not just one individual.

> Use client events to engage both spouses
Invite both spouses to client events — which can be as simple as addressing the invitation to both partners.

“If you have an event — such as a golf day — that is appealing to only one spouse, the next event should be all-inclusive,” Woolley says.

You benefit from both spouses being your client and it is you job to show that you appreciate both of them.