A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time…she kissed the frog who turned into a prince…and they lived happily ever after! Is that how your marriage story went or is going? Mine neither! Although I do have to say that after 37 years, my husband and I feel less stressed, happier, and are definitely enjoying life. This seems to confirm the research that finds married couples are very happy for a short time after marriage which then gradually dips as they go into their 40s (which just happens to be the teenage years for their children) and then happiness rises again in their 50s (hmm, often the beginning of empty nester years) and peaks after retirement.
Finances can tie into that ebb and flow of stress/happiness to a degree either directly or indirectly. And the sooner we get a handle on and get on the same page or at least communicate respectfully about money, the sooner we can destress the often taboo topic of money.
No matter where we are in our marriage, still in the newlywed phase, well into a long-term marriage or adventuring into a serious, committed relationship, we can usually benefit from taking an assessment of where we are financially. No one likes the word “quiz” so here is a list of “questions to ponder” that can help you take the pulse of your married financial health.
How did you score? Did you notice the fact at the end saying that most people score in the 7-9 range? Someone rarely completes that 20-question personal finance survey and has NO homework to do, or that they should do. We all usually have room for improvement.
So here’s where the idea of a Money Remodel comes in, how to improve our married financial health. To avoid overwhelm or getting stuck and taking no action, it is best to start with ONE of your “No” answers on the personal finance checkup. No matter how many ”No” answers you may have had, pick one that you are motivated to do something about right now.
Write it Down
To help with any action item you intend to complete in life, it can be most helpful to break it down into smaller steps if necessary AND to write them down. A financial planning calendar can help accomplish both of those success tips.
Naming Important People
No matter which other actions you have decided to tackle on your quest for better financial health, I also encourage you to consider one more. And that is #17 on the survey, naming a Power of Attorney. This refers to naming someone you basically authorize to act as you. It may be as a financial or health care agent during your lifetime or the same concept goes for your personal representative, executor, or successor trustee after you are gone.
Whichever role you are deciding about, I urge you to give it considerable thought and consideration in choosing the best person. This is not a role to take lightly. A Power of Attorney for your finances while you are alive, for example, should be someone who pays attention to detail, will take their financial duties seriously, and has the ability to collaborate with an attorney, accountant, advisor, etc. if necessary. See my Checklist: Name a Power of Attorney
Or naming an executor/personal representative/successor-trustee (responsible for settling your estate) involves even more responsibility and time commitment: dealing with probate if necessary, distributing to beneficiaries, paying ongoing expenses, etc. See my Checklist for an Executor.
In marriage or long-term committed relationships, we are often comfortable with each other in these capacities but choosing someone else as an alternate if one of us is no longer available is much more difficult. It warrants thoughtful consideration. Naming someone out of a feeling of obligation or relying on birth order as a rationale may not be in your best interest. There are also non-family member options (a trust company or a private fiduciary firm, for example) that can be considered as well.
To remodel is to “new, improve” right? So consider taking on at least one Money Remodel step from the 20 Questions to Ponder checkup. It’s sure to “new, improve” your financial life with prince charming!
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.