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12 Investment Mistakes Couples Make

Through my years as a financial planner, I’ve worked with a lot of couples and, unfortunately, seen many of the same money mistakes over and over again. Disappointing, yes … but also a sign that good advice for couples could help many families dodge these common investing pitfalls.

In a recent article on Bankrate.com, Dana Dratch touches on 12 investment mistakes that couples frequently make and offers advice from financial and legal professionals. As you listen to the show, I’ll touch on and share my opinions on these topics:

  • Too many accounts. The family financial picture is one big pie and we’ve all got to be on the same page. Adding an excessive number of accounts only adds an excessive amount of confusion.
  • One spouse deals with the adviser. Developing a family financial or investment plan requires both spouses to be up-to-date, well informed, and thoroughly engaged.
  • Not saving enough for retirements. Is 10% really enough? Pension plans are a thing of the past and Social Security is in need of a dire make-over. Retirement is now on your shoulders!
  • Too much in cash. Historically, equities have outperformed cash returns and will continue to do so. Price inflation and income taxes often lead to negative inflation-adjusted returns on cash accounts.
  • One party isn’t getting a voice in investment decisions. So often the aggressor in the relationship steps up and drags the spouse behind. Investing is a process, and when dealing with couples, it’s a process that requires teamwork. Both parties must "buy in" to the plan. We don’t want to wake up one day and find ourselves asking, "What did he/she do?"
  • Failing to diversify. How are you truly spreading out the risk of your overall portfolio? It’s not just a stock and bond game anymore. Are you exposed rationally to global markets and non-traditional asset classes?
  • Common goal. There must be a goal, and that goal must be for both parties involved. For what reason are we saving this money? There must be roadmap of hopes and dreams.
  • Skipping account maintenance. What should require more attention: a 4-year automobile or a lifetime retirement? This doesn’t mean that changes have to be constantly made, only that accounts need to be consistently reviewed. Who is the beneficiary on 401(k) and life insurance?
  • Commingling inherited assets. This is a "his vs. her" inheritance. If both individuals are working towards a common goal, it shouldn’t matter if it’s titled in both names so long as it’s for the long-term benefit of both.
  • Investing in things we don’t understand. Don’t let your adviser play pin the tail on the investor. It’s your money and you need to understand what you’re doing with it.
  • Adviser conflicts of interest. Do your research and be sure you know how your adviser is being paid for helping you. Are they incented to help you … or are they incented to sell you financial products?
  • Maxing out employer retirement contributions. I’ve said it over and over: it’s free money, TAKE IT!

As a financial planner, I’m privileged to help couples work together to reach their shared goals. It’s a wonderful thing — but a wonderful thing that needs to be done the right way. Making sure that your financial lives are happy and healthy will make it that much easier to make sure your home lives are happy and healthy.

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