With older married couples, it’s not unusual for the wife to defer to her husband when it comes to overseeing investments and household finances. Only 34% of women said they were most responsible for the financial and retirement planning, compared with 61% of men, according to a study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the Scripps Gerontology Center.
When Swanger meets with couples and encourages wives to take a more active role in the household finances, she has seen “husbands roll their eyes. They think they know best.” Her message to wives: “Don’t be intimidated by your husband. You can handle basic investments, too.”
A study by the Hartford and MIT AgeLab found that couples that share financial decisions generally save more for retirement than couples in which one spouse takes charge of investments. These couples also are most likely to have created a plan that assures the financial security of the surviving spouse.
Consider this suggestion from Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, a Washington, D.C., education and advocacy group: Schedule a “really nice dinner” as a reward for a one- or two-day session in which both spouses get up to speed on all aspects of the household finances, including investments, insurance policies, beneficiary designations and the location of all information.
The collaboration shouldn’t end at dinner, but both spouses should continue to work together on savings and spending issues, Hounsell says. She says she has seen many new widows without a clue of what to do. “You need to have a bird’s eye view of all the details, so that you are prepared to take care of this yourself,” she says.
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