Three Cs can help couples align their financial interests to help make things better, not worse
Women in America are earning more money today than ever before and a growing number are making more than their male counterparts. That’s the good news – not because it’s a contest, but because it’s progress that can help couples build a better financial life together.
The problem is, despite good intentions, many couples simply are not talking with each other as much as they should about money matters, according to Fidelity’s 2013 Couples Retirement Study. Surprisingly, despite the increasing strength of women in the workforce, many revert back to more traditional roles in the household when it comes to important family decisions with their male partners.
If matters of the heart involve partnership, why shouldn’t the same rules apply to money matters that impact your quality of your life together? While it’s unlikely two people in a relationship will ever claim the same exact income or divide the household chores right down the middle, balance is certainly attainable in the conversation about money.
We polled more than 800 couples, aged 25 and older, and learned this disconnect might be the result of lack of confidence among some women. That can ultimately translate into a big problem in retirement, particularly for women, who tend to live longer than their male partners and will likely need to assume sole responsibility for their finances at some point.
Perhaps women have become so focused on shattering the glass ceiling in their careers that they’ve imposed a glass ceiling on their financial futures. Couples together can overcome this obstacle by espousing the Three Cs.
It’s important to have meaningful, ongoing conversations about money. That doesn’t always happen, according to the survey, which found that while 81 percent say they are a unified financial entity, just 45 percent of couples agree day-to-day financial decisions are made jointly.
As much time as you spend posting pictures of your children’s soccer games on Facebook, consider spending as much time (or more) talking about a 529 plan for your kids. I know, I know, many of us like spending time on Facebook, but your finances and future are important so make sure those conversations are honest and you both agree on the basics.
The outcome of those discussions should yield a plan for consistent teamwork and create the opportunity to reach shared financial goals. You might not agree on splitting the check evenly when going out to an expensive dinner with friends, but you should agree on how to sustain your current lifestyle in retirement. Most couples don’t share that perspective: in fact, one in three couples disagreed as to their ideal vision for retirement. See the infographic below to learn what couples want to do in retirement.
From here, it’s about discipline. This will lead to confidence. You’re talking to each other now about what matters most to both of you, a shared vision for financial stability. This creates a structure and a framework that requires frequent attention and care. Above all else, understand each other’s roles in the partnership.
If you’re already able to check all three Cs off as “complete,” you’re in good shape, and among the lucky few who are comfortably in agreement with each other about who is accountable for items on the household balance sheet. If not, and you want to find out where you stand as a couple, take this quick nine-question quiz (How Financially Compatible Are You?) on your mobile device or desktop computer. Then, let us know on Facebook how you faired.
This article was contributed by Lauren Brouhard. Lauren is a senior vice president at Fidelity Investments.