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Created: April 8, 2019
Modified: July 5, 2023

Key Financial Steps That Couples Need To Take


Marriage is a partnership. There are many demands and expectations that enter into the partnership and therefore equality, respect and trust must be shown by both sides. As you grow the marriage, hopefully, smart investing and sound business decisions have allowed you to grow your financial portfolios as well. Often, one partner takes the lead on the financial decisions and without even realizing, leaves the other partner at a huge disadvantage.

I’ve been in the financial services industry for nearly 30 years and over and over again, I have clients come in after the death of a spouse terribly upset and confused about where to turn next. They don’t know what accounts they have, where to look or even who to contact. According to the Allianz Women, Money and Power Study (2016), 90 percent of women will eventually be solely in charge of household finances. Today, make the time to sit with your partner and discuss your financial status and financial goals along with the following:

Share Passwords

Have all of your passwords to all bank accounts, brokerage accounts, 401(k) accounts in an accessible secure place. By sharing this information now, you will alleviate any anxiety your spouse may feel in the future.

Update Beneficiary Information

Most retirement plans, life insurance plans, annuities and other like accounts allow you to dictate what will become of your assets in the event of your passing.  Each account, therefore, asks you to designate a beneficiary. Review these accounts to ensure beneficiary designations reflect your immediate wishes. And, note that beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and annuities override beneficiary assignments on wills.

Review wills and trusts

A will is a list of instructions which details how you would like your estate to be distributed. If you have young children, a will enables you to name a guardian for your minors.  A trust, on the other hand, is a legal agreement designed so that a person or institution (or trustee) holds and therefore controls assets on behalf of a third party. If you have not created a will, it is important to work with an attorney so that your wishes and desires are met once you are gone.

Know where all the financial accounts are held

A prudent suggestion would be to create a binder that contains every account and account number, along with contact and institution information. You can do this old school by creating a paper folder or many sites allow you to create virtual documentation storage online. As long as you have all the pertinent information in one place, electronic or paper is an individual choice.

Have a must call list

This list could actually be the first page in your binder. Collect the contact information for your financial advisor, attorneys, maybe the HR professional at your company (if you are still employed) or any other professionals that may be of assistance to your spouse once you pass on.

Often, thinking about your mortality is not something we like to talk about, but unfortunately, it is a much-needed conversation to have with your loved one. Preparing and sharing these facts early on will help provide your partner with peace of mind.

Joel Johnson, CFP®
Managing Partner at Johnson Brunetti
Joel Johnson, CFP®
Joel Johnson, the Managing Partner of Johnson Brunetti, has been in the financial services industry since 1989. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Joel and his team have helped thousands of families develop their own individualized retirement plans based on the unique needs of those approaching the second phase of their lives. Starting from humble beginnings but developing a strong work ethic early on, Joel’s grandfather taught him by serving others first and creating value for someone else, you will never have to worry about money. These important life lessons were the driving…
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