This Money in the Media Monday we will be discussing how the Coronavirus is changing the conversation about money and potentially traditional money roles going forward. This week’s article is from The New York Times, called “How Covid Has Altered the Conversation About Money.” This topic is very close to home for me as my parents were in a very similar, traditional situation. So, without further ado, let’s get into this week’s article.
The “traditional” role is that the husband in the family would manage the family finances. Women would be aware of the finances only in the way that they did or did not affect the household. I know that this was the way that my parents did their finances and it seems that this is still the way that many households in the US run. Covid might be changing that for the better
Now, that is not to say that a way in which a household does their own finances is wrong, as long as it works for them. However, my issue comes from the lack of awareness and knowledge of those finances by one of the heads of household. Once one half of the partnership is unaware of the finances and cannot step in as needed, there are many potential problems. The extreme of this could be a sign of financial/domestic abuse (If you are in this situation currently, please see the resources in the reference article.)
According to the US Bank Women and Wealth Insights Study from March 2020, women in the position to have $25,000 of investable assets are more likely to have negative connotations around financial planning. There is a 16% difference between the numbers of men and women on this front. These numbers may be even more skewed for those with less assets since women are more likely to be caregivers for children and parents. Additionally, only 52% of women even talk about money with their friends while over 60% of men do the same.
While it may seem easier to just avoid the anxiety and avoid the conversation, now is the time to bring it all out in the open. The pandemic has caused an even steeper divide with over 11.5 million women losing their jobs vs. 9 million men just between February and May of this year. All of these stats may be stacked against women, but they are also becoming the catalyst for changing the conversation.
Changing the Conversation
Women are planners by nature, so for us this is an opportunity to ask the husband or whoever’s managing the finances, what’s our plan? Not just what’s our budget or mortgage, but what’s our plan for life insurance? Where do you want to be buried? That might be the first time they’re asking the questions in a long time.Erika Wasserman
This is the most important conversation that you can have in your relationship. It’s not just about what are the bills and how are they paid. Note: that conversation IS critical and I recommend that everyone use this ICE binder to track that information. On top of the logistics of your household finances, having this conversation will align you and your partner on your long term goals, both those related to and driven by money. Many times I feel that the conversation is focused on the mechanics of finances, but it is equally important to be on the same page as it relates to the life you want to build with your money. One of the couples interviewed for this article had this to say on those talks:
But all of their talks, she said, “brought us to a new level. We didn’t realize how much pressure money has put on us. Covid gave us the ability to say, what do we really need and not need? It has been a blessing for us in disguise.”Tara Beier
Very simply, the takeaway from all of this is to TALK with your partner about where your finances are and where you want them to go, together. Focusing on changing the conversation to working as a team will not only improve your finances, but also your relationship. In the article, Michelle Smith of Source Financial Advisors recommends asking and knowing the answers to the following questions:
1. How are assets titled and what is, and isn’t, in joint accounts? This is especially important for access in case of prolonged illness or death.
2. Where are all the important documents? Do I have access and login information for all accounts, such as savings, investments, retirement, marital assets and trusts?
3. Do I have enough funds in my own name to get through six months of my family’s total overhead expenses, like housing, taxes and personal expenses?
4. Am I the owner or beneficiary of my husband’s life insurance policy? If the policy is owned by a trust, do I know who the trustees are or if I am a beneficiary of the trust?
5. What is my legal or emotional recourse if my husband refuses to share information? (The quick answer: no recourse, unless you file for divorce, which compels financial discovery.)
In addition to these items, I strongly recommend that you use this opportunity to discuss estate planning documents like a power of attorney, will/trust and healthcare directive. Check out my FREE e-book on this for more in depth information on these documents.
There have been so many negatives with the coronavirus pandemic. Creating the very real opportunity to have these open and honest conversations may just be the one positive we’ve been looking for.
Have you had this conversation with your partner? How did it go? What did you learn and what changes did you make? Let me know in the comments below!