Division of labor often makes quick work of household chores. One spouse cooks while the other cleans the dishes. One tackles the laundry while the other mows the lawn. Generally, one spouse is also in charge of the family finances, which may include paying the bills, shopping for mortgages and insurance policies, and managing the investments.

Splitting chores isn’t usually a problem, until it is. If the spouse who handles the finances becomes incapacitated or dies, the surviving spouse may not be knowledgeable enough to handle the major money decisions.

Financial advisers strive to ensure that both spouses are well-informed and comfortable with their household finances. Working with an adviser, you should create a comprehensive plan unique to your financial situation, considering your short- and long-term goals, and providing guidelines to follow when making investment decisions. Still, there are always the excuses, “He’s just not a numbers person,” or “She isn’t interested in these things.”

While your spouse may not care about the beta of your retirement portfolio, there is a very good chance that he or she is concerned about how much risk you’re taking with your financial future. The truth is that your spouse isn’t indifferent to your family finances. It could be that they approach financial decisions or goals on more general terms. For example, your spouse is passionate about supporting a charity or giving regularly to the church. The details are that you can find the most tax advantageous way to give, whether that is donating a highly appreciated stock or making a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA. The key is to meet your spouse on the level at which he or she operates.

A financial adviser can also help mitigate many of the negative emotions that come with family finances. If a reluctant spouse resents being told what to do with his or her money, creating an overarching financial plan with an adviser can incorporate each spouse’s goals with measurable steps and an achievable timeline. If blame is a common argument when it comes to lack of savings, an adviser can project how your spending and saving patterns will affect your long-term goals. If the ambivalence stems from lack of knowledge or skill, a financial adviser should be able to accommodate the client’s desired level of involvement in the day-to-day decisions.

Since money and finances rank as one of the top issues couples fight about, the “uninterested” spouse needs to be included in the financial planning process. Responsibilities and tasks can still reside with the spouse who has an aptitude for finance, but decisions should be made together and in the best interest of both. Should something happen to the one who pays the bills, the surviving spouse should be able to carry on without difficulty.

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William G. Lako, Jr., CFP®, is an Executive in Residence at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business and a principal at Henssler Financial and a co-host on Atlanta’s longest running, most respected financial talk radio show “Money Talks” airing Saturdays at 10 a.m. on AM 920 The Answer. Mr. Lako is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional.


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