Couples money therapy is a joint account or nothing

Two years of pandemic life has reset goals for many; the forced stop being an opportunity for couples to reassess their future. Some have decided to change careers, or even to go back to school; some have decided to end their relationships or that retirement is the way to go.

Any drastic change in life plan should be discussed and tested with your financial planner, but what happens when only half the couple seems engaged in the conversation?

Frequently we meet a couple but find that only one partner, usually the man, speaks; the woman remains mostly passive.

Silent Money Saving Experts

Despite the lifestyle “epiphany” that many have experienced over the past two years, we find that outdated, gender-based attitudes about the finances of heterosexual couples are still prevalent. Frequently we meet a couple but find that only one partner, usually the man, speaks; the woman remains mostly passive.

We have a cultural history where men are the primary breadwinners and women the homemakers. Somewhere in our psyche we seem to equate money with power and believe that the person who brings in the majority of the income (usually the man) should take the lead in making financial decisions.

We now understand that this particular attitude diminishes women’s self-confidence in making financial decisions.

Sounds silly when you say it out loud, doesn’t it? Of course, we can’t take all the blame for this somewhat irrational view, as our parents and grandparents probably handled their finances that way and we learned to follow their example.

However, we now understand that this particular attitude diminishes women’s self-confidence in making financial decisions. Maybe she feels she can’t contribute to the conversation because her financial contribution to the relationship is less than that of her partner; maybe she feels like she doesn’t know enough about their finances and is afraid of appearing naïve; maybe she’s just disinterested.

Men are also subject to traditional gender-based norms in their financial relationships that may not be appropriate or welcome. Men who have taken on the usual financial role in their relationship may actually be as lost as their female partners. But their ‘inner caveman’ feels he must bear the heavy responsibility for the couple’s finances alone.

Benefits of partnership

What a relief it could be for everyone involved if planning and decisions could be shared.

Marriages and partnerships have been decimated during the pandemic; Sadly, we all know someone who has lost a loved one to illness or the end of a relationship. How can we expect someone who has not engaged in the financial process in the past to make decisions about their future at a time when they are most vulnerable?

Men are also subject to traditional gender-based norms in their financial relationships that may not be appropriate or welcome.

Financial planners and clients need to work harder together to commit both partners to a couple, heterosexual or not.

We need to make sure that each person understands the language used, the desired goals, and their journey to achieving those goals. We must give each partner the space and time to express themselves without judgement. If that means asking the more engaged partner to be quiet while the other speaks, then so be it.

The people in the couple are individuals in their own right and we need to make sure that we not only respect each other’s thoughts and needs, but actively encourage them to express themselves.

Rachel Halton, Head of Paraplanning, Informed Choice


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