“ It may be advantageous for each partner to be their own financial decision-maker up to a certain amount of money .”
— CHRISTOPHER BRISCOE
many widows “ leave or fire the household advisor when the spouse dies . They ’ ve never felt heard .”
No one should feel left out of the conversation . “ Be inclusive with those who are attending [ every meeting ], so they are comfortable with the process and the decisions ,” says Steven Schacter , a senior vice president and attorney at Forest Hills Financial Group in Chappaqua , N . Y . “ And make it clear that any decision can be modified .”
Separate Buckets , One Point Of Agreement
Once all concerns and points of dispute are in the open , Henderson says , it becomes easier to fashion equitable , mutually agreeable solutions . For example , if one spouse has a high desire for security and the other is more of a risk taker , “ we can pick spots in their portfolio and retirement plan that are safe and secure , and other appropriate spots that are more aggressive ,” he says . “ That way both sets of needs get addressed , without having to say one is right and the other wrong .”
Annuities or other fixed-income instruments might satisfy one partner ’ s need for security and predictability . With that element in place , the other partner becomes free to invest the remaining assets more aggressively .
If that doesn ’ t work , if problems keep escalating , there is a danger that both parties may give up and do nothing . “ That ’ s the worst thing that can happen ,” Henderson says .
But he notes that even the most seemingly intractable differences can usually be resolved by finding at least one point of agreement . “ It could just be that the kids are important as beneficiaries , but you can build from there ,” he says .
Sometimes the division of assets comes down to strict dollar amounts . “ It may be advantageous for each partner to be their own financial decision-maker up to a certain amount of money ,” says Christopher Briscoe , vice president and director of financial planning at Girard , a Univest Wealth division , in King of Prussia , Pa . “ If each partner has their own small spending account , they can make their own decisions with those buckets . Should an expense go beyond their ‘ play ’ accounts , there should be a discussion and a joint decision made on how to proceed .”
Considering The Whole Picture
Still , using separate accounts or buckets of assets to address dissimilar financial styles only goes so far . What do you do about assets held jointly ?
Greg O ’ Donnell , CEO and founder of O ’ Donnell Financial Group in San Rafael , Calif ., suggests looking at the combined assets as a whole . “ It can be challenging , but the right answer is that amount of risk that will allow them to reach their financial goals ,” he says . “ As long as we get that risk level applied to the overall portfolio , we have achieved what ’ s right for each individual and for the aggregate .”
Kimberly Nelson , a financial advisor at Coastal Bridge Advisors in Los Angeles , underscores the importance of the “ why ” behind the “ what .” “ Just last week ,” she says , “ I was meeting with a couple who were discussing what to do with their house . The wife wanted to sell it and move closer to her parents so they could have more family support for their daughters . But the husband loved the home they were in and could not imagine selling .”
Further discussion revealed that the husband had quit his job a year earlier and didn ’ t want to make any big changes till he ’ d secured new employment . The wife , on the other hand , was concerned about the expenses of maintaining their current home .
“ The compromise I was able to help them strike was that they would stay in the home until the summertime , and if he had not found a new position by then , they would rent the house out and move closer to her parents for a period of time ,” Nelson says . “ When they felt ready , they could either move back to the house they owned or sell it . [ This ] was a different solution that both partners could live with .”
MARCH 2023 | FINANCIAL ADVISOR MAGAZINE | 39