12 September 2014
Communication is Key: Talk about Your Nest Egg

In many households, one spouse manages the couple’s long-term retirement savings.  In others, the two spouses keep separate retirement accounts based on their individual investment preferences.

One spouse may be a cautious, conservative, buy-and-hold investor, while the other is more risk-tolerant and seeks higher returns on investments by taking on additional investment risk.

In either case, it’s not unusual for one spouse to have a handle on the household retirement portfolio, while the other spouse doesn’t. But what would happen to your spouse if you became incapacitated? What would he or she do if you were no longer here?

Regular discussions with your spouse about your retirement holdings can help ensure that all assets are available to your husband or wife, even if you’re not.

Talking to your life’s mate about retirement investments after you’re gone is never easy. No one likes to think about being left behind, but regular communications between husband and wife can identify where holdings are kept so the surviving spouse has access to the family accounts you’ve worked so hard to build all these years.

Here are some simple tips to help make sure you and your spouse are protected in retirement with assets that are easily accessible.

Start discussing retirement savings as soon as possible. Spouses should talk openly about all assets under their control, including stock and bond holdings, mutual fund accounts, bank accounts, insurance policies and other financial matters. Retirement planning should be a joint effort with both wife and husband fully informed on where the retirement money is invested.

Teach your spouse financial literacy. Does your spouse know the difference between a stock and a bond? Does your spouse know which accounts should be drawn on first? Second? How much should be drawn from retirement savings each year? Now’s the time to teach the basics, so he or she will be better able to handle matters after you’re gone.  A person who doesn’t know anything about investing can become an easy target for unscrupulous predators eager to access your nest egg.

Choose a trustworthy financial advisor. It’s important to develop a long-term relationship with a financial advisor who can guide you through your changing needs over the course of time.  Make sure your spouse knows who to talk to about retirement in the event that you’re no longer available to manage the family assets.

Design an investment plan both spouses agree on. One spouse may have a higher tolerance for risk than the other. One may prefer buying individual stocks, while the other seeks growth of retirement income through mutual fund or bond investments.  After discussing the many available investment options, spouses should be able to reach a compromise that satisfies both parties – a well-balanced portfolio that meets the investment objectives and preferences of both spouses by including a variety of investment types.

Provide passwords to all online accounts. Years ago, families kept paper records of where retirement assets were invested, along with account numbers, balances and other important information. Today, many of us conduct investment activity online using password-protected accounts. Make sure both spouses have access to all retirement assets by sharing account passwords and complete contact information.

If you keep separate accounts, don’t keep secrets. You and your spouse may choose to maintain separate retirement investment accounts for a number of reasons. A second marriage, for example, may require renaming account beneficiaries based on discussions between spouses.

If you and your spouse do maintain separate retirement accounts, make sure the beneficiary status of those accounts is up-to-date, and that your spouse has access to retirement funds quickly – without a lot of legal expense involved.

Get it in writing. You and your spouse may have discussed individual long-term medical and investment issues, but if you don’t have your wishes documented, those discussions may not have much value in stressful times.  Create a living will that describes your wishes in the event you become incapacitated. Also create a last will and testament and make sure your spouse knows where it’s located.

It’s true, no one likes to talk about life after a spouse is gone or incapacitated, but regular communications with your spouse today will make the transition easier and less stressful.

It’s time to have a financial chat with your spouse. Today.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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