Happily Ever After -- Financially Speaking
Eight Foolish Tips For Husband and Wife Investing

By Barbara Eisner Bayer (TMF Venus)

For married couples, the only topic more taboo than sex is money. Disagreements over finances rank at the top of all marital problems. For Fools contemplating a future of shared riches, it's essential that investing becomes their marital friend.

It's not about swapping stock market chatter for romantic flatter, or pillow talk for P/E ratios. In order to realize a lifetime of happily ever after (emotionally and financially), every Foolish couple needs an investing game plan. After the honeymoon in Port-au-Prince, it's time to build a Foolish port-au-folio.

In addition to whatever financial portfolio each bride and groom brings to the altar, there's an "emotional portfolio" brimming with messages learned from parents. These can have a profound and often negative effect on our worldview; and if they conflict, a couple could be on an investing collision course. A financial counselor would help; a marriage counselor would be imperative.

Discovering ways to manifest future riches together can bring couples infinitely closer. You'll find some invaluable techniques for changing negative financial thought patterns in The Motley Fool Investment Workbook.

To plan a financial future, couples must discuss and agree upon goals. Have fun choosing them together; reach for the stars -- perhaps some moonlit night under them. Do we want our own home (where and how big); a family (when and how big); retirement (early or late); a car (Mercedes or Mazda)? Once you know the direction you're headed, you can map the course without getting lost, sparing hubby the embarrassment of asking directions.

One of you needs to be the Marriage Portfolio Manager (MPM), who oversees the execution of the plan and monitors progress throughout the years. It's not necessary for both partners to be on top of everything.

There are four choices couples have when handling investments:

  1. One person does it all;
  2. Both parties share it all;
  3. Each party does it all for him/herself;
  4. No party does anything. (The most unFoolish choice of all.)
The person in the family most equipped and interested in handling investing should take the job. Don't assume it's the man's birthright; science and Wall Street have yet to discover an investing chromosome.

Ideally, couples will share responsibility; but if one spouse isn't interested, just whisper words of wisdom: let it be. It's futile to beat your head against the wall, even if it validates having expensive medical insurance. It's important, however, that both partners know where the money is and how it's handled.

Once a couple designs a workable investing plan, the Marriage Portfolio Manager should adequately prepare the spouse for the MPM's potential untimely demise � as if there is a timely demise.

Be ready for the inevitable, even if your spouse has you under implicit instructions not to die. Write out a list noting every investment, insurance policy, bank account, etc., and put it in a place your sweetie can easily access. It's your duty to present information in terms that he or she can understand. Help your honey avoid having to learn harsh lessons during a time of grieving and chaos. To do any less would be unloving.

To assist you in planning a Foolish financial future, I present the Foolish "Ate"-Fold Path for Investing Couples. By following the eight "ates," your financial future will be tastier than a slice of wedding cake.

1. Communicate: This is the most important aspect, not only for successful couple investing, but also for successful relationships. By sharing your feelings, experiences, hopes, and dreams, whether positive or negative, this "ate" opens the gate to recreate.

2. Initiate: Become the leader in developing a healthy investing plan for your family. Don't count on your partner to bring up the subject or you may never begin. If I waited until I desired to understand football, I probably wouldn't accompany my husband to a game until Y3K.

3. Educate: Learning is the essence of continued growth. No matter what your current level of investing expertise, be a sponge and keep absorbing. Share as much knowledge as your spouse is willing to hear. Include your errors alongside your victories, explaining what you learned from them. If you chalk up every mistake to experience, no decision is ever wrong. To err is human, and we need to forgive each other for the inevitable missed investing opportunities of buying too late or selling too soon. Just buy lots of chalk.

4. Invigorate: The more fun you can make investing, the more receptive your partner will be. Sharing your vision of a brighter future will make a brighter future, and your excitement will be contagious.

5. Deliberate: Think about and discuss issues and decisions carefully. Deliberately. You're not always going to agree, so you need to determine what is and what isn't important. If the disagreement is so profoundly basic that both people consider a compromise to be an affront to their values, the disagreement is probably not reconcilable. That being the case, love probably won't conquer all. Oh well. Simply consider establishing separate accounts: "his," "hers," and "ours." This way, there'll be room for different investing styles to flourish and no room for recrimination. Only merciless teasing.

6. Negotiate: If the "glory of love" means you have to "give a little and take a little," spend time couple conferencing in order to arrive at decisions that serve you both. As hard as it is to give up some turf, compromise may be the order of the day.

If both partners have "us" as the first priority, everything is negotiable. After all, there's no 'I' in Us. That's part of the commitment you agree to when you say "I do."

7. Cooperate: Marital bliss doesn't occur during a constant tug-of-war; a hug-of-war is better. No matter what your resistance to the investing process, give it your all, and be your family's Chief Co-Operating Officer.

8. Celebrate: Make all wins special events. If your spouse is resistant to investing, but inches towards cooperation by picking up a business journal, acknowledge and celebrate the progress. Don't neglect small movements in your partner, even if it's merely a willingness to remain open to discussion. Fools of all ages love any excuse to party!

Remember there is no right or wrong path for you and your beloved regarding how you handle investing. Just keep at it -- one day, that frog of a portfolio will turn into a prince. And you'll discover that you can invest happily ever after.

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