Can you work through the issues analytically, while still addressing the underlying emotional issues?
Sometimes a marriage is faltering due to lack of communication. And sometimes the family finances are the biggest problem for the two spouses. Do both parties have equal knowledge and access to the financial documents and accounts? Is there a large disparity in the earnings that has created a chasm? Could complete disclosure and sharing of financial information open up communications and help to solve other problems, too?
Lack of familiarity with the family finances can cause one party to feel helpless and excluded. They can exhibit bitterness and fear, leading to battles and blaming. Frequently, the spouse who handles the family finances is willing but not able to clearly explain and illustrate the complicated money issues. Sometimes, impatience and frustration ends up foiling any attempt to share the knowledge.
In such a case, while divorce may seem to be looming as a surety, perhaps a thorough compilation of finances by a financial planner who is able to clearly explain and illustrate the math will help. This shouldn’t be your money manager or insurance professional or CPA. This should be a Certified Financial Planner who works by the hour to produce clearly illustrated tables and narrative explanation. Ideally, that CFP would also have training in mediation, thereby giving them the ability to work with sometimes touchy, difficult marital problems.
One of my clients was delighted to learn about the existence of a Post-marital Partition of assets. She had attended my financial planning, divorce preparation class; assuming that she would have to go that route. However, it turns out that she simply wanted to have some control over her own money. After 30 years of marriage, she thought that divorce was the only way to give her a share of the assets and the freedom to act as a financial grownup. I was able to illustrate a logical, mutually agreeable partition, also working with them on budgeting. While they didn’t choose to partition the assets, we worked out a way for the wife to have control over a portion of the assets and be able to make decisions herself.
Often, there is a strict division of duties. One spouse cooks and shops. One spouse makes the money (or most of it) and handles the investments. Over time, however, there becomes an imbalance of power. One spouse has continued to learn more and more about financial issues, while the other has neglected that education. I am able to provide a crash course in Financial Planning 101 for the uneducated spouse, with the course of study specifically tied to his or her own financial picture. This serves to even the playing field and provide a needed boost to their financial IQ.
What if one spouse is the stay-at-home caretaker, while the other has achieved tremendous success professionally? Can the two still communicate on equal footing? Is bitterness going to seep into their relationship from insecurity or lack of planning? I believe that planning, comprehensive style planning, can bring them closer and give the stay-at-home caretaker added responsibilities in the area of finance. This can give them a pride in their contribution both in caretaking and in their newly-found ability to work on the family’s future financial security. Yes, it takes careful one-on-one training of the caretaker to achieve this new skill, but the rewards are huge.
Naturally, numbers alone aren’t going to change attitudes. That is why I work very closely with a PhD Family Therapist named Dr. Mary Anne Knolle. We co-mediate together, with my skill in the comprehensive financial planning being complimented by Mary Anne’s ability to smooth the communications and work on personality differences. She may give the spouses personality tests to help them understand their own strengths and weaknesses and how to make them work together. With understanding of the other spouse’s strengths and weaknesses there is the potential for cooperation and understanding.
If you believe that this method of comprehensive financial planning coupled with communications coaching could bring your marriage back from the brink, give me a call and we’ll discuss your individual situation.
Remember KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
Patricia Barrett CFP CDFA Mediator