In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp tackle a common point of friction for people in relationships: money. They share results from multiple surveys and reports to give you a sense of where you stand compared to other couples in terms of financial communication, preparation, and other criteria.
Tune in to learn more.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on Feb. 7, 2017.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool. Hi, Bro.
Robert Brokamp: Hi, Alison.
Southwick: In this week's episode, we're going to talk about you and your shmoopie, and how you compare to the average couple when it comes to managing your money. We'll also answer your question about Bro's favorite retirement calculators, and also [who his favorite child is]. All that, and more, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.
Southwick: It's time for Answers, Answers and this week's question comes from Andrew on Twitter. Yes, we are on Twitter @AnswersPodcast. Andrew writes: "What are Robert's favorite retirement calculators?"
Brokamp: Well, Andrew, you're probably asking because I often recommend that people use retirement calculators to make sure that they're on track. The thing is no single retirement calculator does a perfect job, so I recommend that you use a few and look for a consensus. If most of them say that you're on track, you're probably okay. If most of them say you're behind, take the hint.
So the first one I'm going to mention comes from a company called CalcXML. They make all kinds of retirement calculators, but the one I'm going to give you has a long URL, and it's special because they let me kind of customize it for them for our Rule Your Retirement subscribers, but you don't have to be a subscriber to use it.
So here's the URL: www.calcxml.com/calculators/retirement-planning?skn=606 and speaking of our Twitter account, maybe we'll tweet that out.
Southwick: Yeah, why don't we go ahead? We'll share that on social media…
Brokamp: There you go ...
Southwick: ... and if you are not on social media and ...
Brokamp: Just hit rewind ...
Southwick: Yeah, hit rewind, or just email us and I'll send it to you as well.
Brokamp: The thing that I like the most about this calculator is they let me break up spending in retirement into three periods. The problem with many retirement calculators is they assume your retirement expenses go up each and every year. The truth is for most people that is not the case. As we retire, and then as we age, our expenses drop. We pay off the mortgage. We don't spend as much on food, and clothing, and transportation, and things like that. Healthcare is the one thing where expenses do go up, but generally our spending goes down.
The problem is when you assume that your spending is going to go up every year in retirement, it overstates how much you need to save by 10% to 20%. That's what I like about this calculator. So if you use another calculator that assumes expenses go up, just know that it's going to say that you need more than you probably do.
Now one drawback to this calculator is it is what's known as a straight-return calculator. You put in what your assumed return from your portfolio is going to be. I would recommend no more than between 4% to 6%, and it assumes you're going to earn that amount each and every year.
Of course, we know that's not really what happens, so a couple of calculators that do something different is that they use historical returns, and a couple of those are www.FIREcalc.com and the other one is www.cFIREsim.com. The "fire" stands for "financial independence retire early." What they do is use all the historical returns from all the way back to 1871 for cash, stocks, bonds, and inflation.
Let's say you tell the calculator, "I want to simulate a 30-year retirement." It says, "OK, what if you retired in 1871? Would you have survived for 30 years? What about 1872? Would you survive? What about 1873?" And then it says basically something like, "In 90% of the historical simulations, you would have been okay." Or "In 20% of the simulations, you would have been okay," which tells you maybe you're not doing something quite right. I like those because it runs through what actually happened in history.
And then a third option is something called Monte Carlo simulation. It's basically they randomize various factors. Inflation. It could be life expectancy. It could be your returns within some logical parameters and it runs through maybe 1,000 simulations and tells you, "Well, 90% of the time you would have been okay." And one of those is the flexible retirement planner at flexibleretirementplanner.com.
A couple of others that I like. The Ultimate Retirement Calculator at financialmentor.com. I like T. Rowe Price's retirement income calculator if you are retired. And another one that I really like if you are retired -- if you are wondering "How much can I take from my portfolio each year and feel reasonably sure it's going to last as long as I do" is a tool created by David Blanchett who is the director of retirement research at Morningstar. It's just a spreadsheet, but you put in various things about yourself and it gives you basically how much you can take out of your portfolio in that year for your retirement, and you can find that at www.davidmblanchett.com/tools. Blanchett is spelled B-L-A-N-C-H-E-T-T.
Southwick: So I'm just going to apologize, now, to everyone who listens to this podcast while they are driving their car, running, walking the dog, mowing the lawn. I think that covers probably 90% of podcast listeners. We're going to go ahead, and we'll post the links to Facebook and Twitter and if you don't have a Twitter account, you can still go look at our Twitter account ...
Brokamp: Or email us and I'll email them back to you.
Southwick: You'll do it? I'll do it!
Brokamp: Alison will email them back to you ...
Southwick: Let's not pretend who keeps the wheels on this wagon.
Brokamp: That is true, although knowing that this is going to happen, I would feel guilty if you would have to respond to all those emails, so I'll jump in.
Southwick: Oh, thank you. You have to take one for the team. One!
Brokamp: One. For once.
Southwick: Ah, February. Did you know, Bro that Feb. 7 is the most trafficked day for sites like Match.com and other ...?
Southwick: February is just all about love ...
Brokamp: So it's people like a week from now, I need a date. I better find someone.
Southwick: I think so.
Brokamp: I better update my profile. Oh wait, did I say that out loud?
Southwick: No. Well, I think people are like, "All right, I spent January getting fit. Now Valentine's is around the corner. I'm ready to put myself on the market." I guess that's what they do. Because Valentine's Day really isn't that big of a deal, right? Like when you're in a relationship, it's not really that big of a deal.
Brokamp: It could be. It was a big deal to me before we had kids. Once we had kids, it made it harder to be a big deal.
Southwick: [Whispers] Your kids!
Rick Engdahl: Especially if your kid's birthday is the 13th.
Southwick: Oh, is it?
Brokamp: We have a kid whose birthday is the 10th, yeah.
Southwick: They ruin everything! Anyway, this week, in the spirit of love, we are going to look at some of the statistics and science around couples and money, so I have dug up a lot of studies, in true Alison form ...
Brokamp: A lot!
Southwick: ... that I'm just going to throw at you guys ...
Brokamp: A lot!
Southwick: I'm going to lob some stats at Bro and then he's going to respond to them, and then we have a show!
Brokamp: There we go.
Southwick: And then we're done for the week.
Brokamp: You'll definitely get your money's worth.
Southwick: This is how the sausage is made. So let's start with something light -- Valentine's Day spending. According to the National Retail Federation, the average man who's shopping for a significant other will spend nearly twice as much as the average woman. They will spend, on average, $133 compared to the woman's $62.
Southwick: Yeah. You guys are so generous.
Brokamp: Yeah! I was just thinking I've got to up on my spending.
Southwick: You want to guess what the top two gifts are for Valentine's Day?
Brokamp: It's got to be flowers and candy.
Southwick: It is! It's flowers and candy.
Brokamp: Do you have a preference? Are you a flowers girl or a candy girl?
Southwick: Ron gives me flowers every year. I'm a flowers girl. But for the most part we celebrate Valentine's Day by going out for a nice dinner. Like that's our thing. We like to go out to eat. But yeah, 50% will be spent on candy and 48% will be spent on flowers. Do you guys already know what you're going to do?
Engdahl: Plan a birthday present for my son.
Brokamp: I have some ideas. I have some ideas. We'll see what happens.
Southwick: Your wife doesn't listen to the show. You can say what those ideas are.
Brokamp: Well, it involves probably going away for the weekend.
Brokamp: But it's hard, because that involves finding people to watch the kids, but we'll see.
Southwick: They're old enough.
Brokamp: Not to be home alone overnight.
Southwick: Well, let's move on to something serious. We all know the trope that the single thing that couples fight about the most is money, right?
Southwick: Not so!
Southwick: So according to an Ameriprise study, they looked at 1,500 couples ranging [in age from 25 to 70], and 88% of them said that they are happy with the way they manage their money and their relationships, and 68% said that they communicate well about their dollars.
Southwick: You don't believe that?
Southwick: That was an "I don't believe that" grumble.
Brokamp: Well, I do think money is a big source of tension. I'm sure money is a big factor behind people who are unhappy and who are getting divorced. Maybe that's more accurate. I also think some people should be talking more about money and should be fighting more about money because they're probably not saving enough for retirement, but that is a topic we'll get into later in the show.
Southwick: Well, 51% of respondents to the TD Love and Money study said that they argue less than every six months about money, and it turns out the older you get, the less you argue about money, which makes sense.
Brokamp: That makes more sense.
Southwick: Once you have more of it, there's less to argue about, I guess. Twenty-four percent of couples age 18 to 34 argue at least once a week about money.
Brokamp: Yeah. I'm not surprised. And some of the research that we looked at for this episode, that I'm not sure we'll reference later, is that basically people who have more money are less likely to get divorced. It definitely does seem like the more money you have, the less chances are for that type of friction.
Southwick: And I did find one Money magazine poll that kind of went against all the other studies. They looked at over 1,000 married couples, ages 25, who had household incomes of over $50,000. They looked at how they managed their finances. And they said that 70% of couples argued about money more than household chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and what's for dinner.
Brokamp: Well, sex and snoring is definitely a bad thing to be doing at the same time, so I'd argue about that, too.
Southwick: The study also got kind of funny, because it trotted out some other steps that were in conflict with other things. They argued that men with higher-earning wives also reported hotter special hug times.
Southwick: That they had a better time. But this is hilariously in conflict with a University of Chicago study. They looked at 4,000 couples in America, and it found that once a woman started to earn more than her husband, divorce rates increased and Cornell found that men who are completely dependent on their girlfriends or wives are five times more likely to cheat than men who earn the same amount as their partners.
Brokamp: Idle hands are the devil's workshop, as it says in Proverbs.
Southwick: So while it's true that these men could have hotter sex lives, like Money proposed, it's just not with their wives.
Southwick: Is that how you can resolve that? No. Now we're going to move on to retirement savings, and we're going to look at the average and the median, because why not?
Southwick: The Economic Policy Institute and the Fed found that nearly half of working families had nothing saved in their retirement accounts, and the median was only $5,000. This was in 2013. So when you look at the average (that was the median $5,000), the average for all families is about $96,000.
Brokamp: Right. However, you slice it, that's not enough for most people, and that's why I say maybe these people should be talking more about money, and if they did have these discussions, they would probably lead to some uncomfortable discussions because it leads to some uncomfortable choices, perhaps. But obviously because people aren't talking money doesn't mean it's because their finances are in good order.
Southwick: When we're talking average saved for retirement, age is probably a pretty huge factor in this.
Southwick: Let me break it down. If you are between the ages of 32 and 37, the average is $31,600. If you are between 38 and 43, the average is $67,300. Between 44 and 49, it's $81,300. If you are between 50 and 55, it's roughly $125,000 and if you are 56 to 61, it's about $164,000 saved up.
Brokamp: Right. And these are as of 2013. The market's done better since then, so people have a little bit more, but you think about as a rough rule of thumb that when you retire, you can take 4% out of your portfolio. If you're going into retirement with even $200,000, that's only $8,000 a year. That's not a lot of money.
Southwick: Ugh! That's rough.
Southwick: When you put it that way, Bro…
Brokamp: [Whispers] Keep on working. Keep on working.
Southwick: [Whispers] Win the lottery! All right, let's move on to financial infidelity.
Southwick: It turns out that 90% of people, when it comes to financial secrets, don't have them.
Southwick: Yeah! Isn't that nice?
Brokamp: I have heard other stats about that, and I might have even mentioned once in a previous episode how there is actually a lot of financial infidelity, so I'm glad to see that this is finding a different result.
Southwick: Yes. So the TD Bank Love and Money report that I mentioned before found that 90% of the people don't keep financial secrets. However, the most common financial secrets were ... do you want to guess?
Brokamp: Well, probably secret purchases, or something like that.
Southwick: The number one is a secret bank account.
Southwick: Significant credit card debt was number two, and a bad credit score was 32%.
Southwick: Fifteen percent of those people keeping a secret never plan to come clean.
Brokamp: I may have mentioned this before, too, but in discussions with some Motley Fool members (more often men than women), the guy will say, "My wife doesn't know about this account," because the wife is not as comfortable with the risk profile of buying a lot of the stocks that he is buying, so he just does it on the side.
Southwick: That's so funny.
Southwick: It's not like, "Oh, this is the account that I use for my mistress to keep her apartment in the city."
Brokamp: Honey, are you investing in Facebook again?
Southwick: So, honey. No, no. I told you to knock before you enter. It's not what it looks like! We're just friends. Let's move on. So it turns out that no one can agree on who's actually making the financial decisions in the family.
Brokamp: Not another great sign for someone's finances.
Southwick: Not another great sign. So BMO Private Bank did a study, and they found ... now here's a lot of numbers, though. Try to stay with me. So two-thirds of married men report making the investment decisions, primarily by themselves. Two-thirds of men saying "I do it on my own." But only 13% of married women agreed with that -- that their partner was the primary decision maker.
Conversely, when married women self-identified as the primary decision maker (which is about 38% of the time), only 5% of the men agreed. This disconnect also extends to making pricey purchases. Sixty-two percent of married men say they were the primary decision maker when it came to major purchases, such as cars and home renovations, but just 9% of women agreed.
Southwick: So it's possible we're not all on the same page with who's making the decisions, but hopefully someone is.
Brokamp: Thinking about it -- when I think of my 401(k) -- I make the decisions on that. But my wife does more of the day-to-day finances, and she looks at that and is more aware of how much is actually in there ...
Southwick: Right ...
Brokamp: ... and we talk about it, so I can see how I would say I make most of the decisions, but she would say it's kind of a group thing. I don't know. We'll see.
Southwick: No, that's very typical, that the woman handles the day-to-day spending and maintenance of the house, and the people, and the feeding, and then the husband does the longer view of looking at retirement stuff. I don't think that's uncommon.
Brokamp: Yeah, but I could see how we would have different ideas about who's making the decisions and who has responsibility for what.
Southwick: Yeah. When it comes to shared accounts -- shared financial accounts -- most couples combine all of their money. This is coming from the TD Bank Love and Money survey. Fifty-four percent have combined all of their money, and 30% have combined most of their accounts. It turns out boomers are most likely to combine all of their accounts, whereas LGBT couples are more likely to keep it totally separate. We're totally combined.
Brokamp: Yeah. My wife has her own business, so some of that stuff is in her own name. Like she has her business account, and her business credit card.
Southwick: So would you have said that you have most of your money?
Brokamp: I would have said we have combined everything, but then thinking about it, I realized that that's actually not true.
Southwick: All right. So here's the last major one I'm going to trot out here. From the TD Bank Love Study, 62% of people talk about money with their partner at least once a week.
Southwick: I know! I find that hard to believe, too. Like it makes you wonder what these conversations are that they're having. It's like, "Hey ..."
Brokamp: Money, good thing!
Southwick: We got it.
Brokamp: Did you go to work today and earn money? Good!
Southwick: Check! Glad we talked about money. Yes, so 62% of people said they talk about money with their partner at least once a week, but here's what I think is more important. To the people they talked to, the more often they said they talked about money, they had a higher level of happiness with their significant other. So 78% who talk at least once a week said they are happy, compared to just 50% who talk less than every month.
So even if you are not having an in-depth talk about your money, apparently it still helps. Which is, I think, the bottom line of all of this research, is that the more you talk, the better you are going to be. Both happy and probably money wise.
Brokamp: Yes, I totally agree.
Southwick: So the point is that communication is key and to help us, and to help you guys have better communication with your shmoopie, we're actually going to have a show in a couple of weeks with our special guest, Olivia Mellan, and she's going to talk more about resolving money conflicts, talking about money, all that good stuff.
Brokamp: Two very interesting things that she will likely bring up is number one, she thinks you should have at least one talk once a year and that you should have some of your finances separate, which I found very surprising, so just to tee that up a little bit.
Southwick: As we just talked about, it's important for couples to communicate well and one of the things that Bro has written on many times -- many times? -- is the Fooly-Wed game. Did you create this with Dayana?
Brokamp: It's so funny. I was trying to remember, because this comes from like early 2000, and I think it was a group effort with Dayana and maybe with the help of a fellow by the name of David Braze, who used to write the Retiree Report for The Motley Fool in the early days. But, yes, I think I had a hand in it, but I don't remember at this point.
Southwick: So the idea of the Fooly-Wed game -- and you can read the whole article on Fool.com. Just Google Fooly-Wed game ...
Brokamp: It will turn up.
Southwick: With a "Y" -- it will pop up. The idea is here's some questions for each of you to go away, answer, and come back, share, and compare.
Southwick: So what we decided to do was to have our spouses go away and answer some of the questions, and we would answer them, too, and share and compare.
Brokamp: And my wife emailed her answers to you and Ron emailed his answers to me.
Brokamp: So we don't know what our spouses answered.
Southwick: No, we don't. Should we just get into it?
Brokamp: Let's do it.
Southwick: The first question is how often you talk about the family finances.
Brokamp: Ron's answer was: "I try to discuss these once a month, but I generally don't have Alison's full attention. It's more often I just announce family finance facts to everyone (anyone who's willing to listen)."
Southwick: Not true. I listen. I put that we talk at least about once a week about investing and where the money is. Usually we'll talk while we're walking to work, or we'll do it over coffee in the morning. Well, all right. Apparently I need to be a better listener.
Elizabeth, your wife, said, "Ugh! It depends on what you mean by 'talk about it'. Our kids would say we mention money all the time. I would say once a month for most stuff, one every three or four are bigger conversations."
Brokamp: Yeah, that's probably right. Earlier in our marriage it was more formal. And we've gotten away from that, and I'd like to get back into a more formal discussion about it.
Southwick: Do you still do the State of the Family Finances report?
Brokamp: We haven't done that in a while, but we have to do that. In fact, we just this weekend had a discussion about college expenses and how we really have to see where we are right now. Yeah!
Southwick: Next question. How much is too much to spend without consulting your partner? I said $200.
Brokamp: Ron said $500.
Southwick: What? What is he buying?
Brokamp: Well, he didn't provide a list, but he said $500.
Southwick: Maybe he should provide an itemized list. All right, Bro, what do you think?
Brokamp: I actually was thinking between $300 to $500, too, but it depends on what it is. If it's furniture, it's probably lower. If it's something for the kids, it's probably higher.
Southwick: Well, your wife put "$300, generally, but if you include gifts, I spend more than that."
Southwick: Your wife's email was very conversational. I've never really met her or talked to her, but I can hear her voice in my head. So you guys are roughly on the same page.
Brokamp: Yes, I would say so.
Southwick: The next question. You get $1,000 back as a tax refund. What would you spend it on?
Brokamp: What would you spend it on?
Southwick: So generally speaking, I would probably set aside $100 to go buy some sort of asymmetrical or otherwise intriguing sweater at Marshalls, and then the rest just goes into the kitty and it just gets doled out to get spent on everything. Everyday stuff.
Brokamp: Ron said you would probably save most of it ...
Southwick: Yes, that's true.
Brokamp: ... but if you spent any of it, it would be on clothes or something for herself.
Southwick: Yes! That's true. What would you spend your tax refund on?
Brokamp: It would go to college savings. That's our number one priority right now.
Southwick: So your wife wrote that you would save it. If you had to spend it, you'd use it on a trip, preferably hiking or camping in a Christmas lodge. What's a Christmas lodge?
Brokamp: I don't know, but as soon as I find one, I'm spending money on it.
Southwick: The next question is what would your partner spend it on? So $1,000 back in a tax refund.
Brokamp: I think it would be something for the house. We're in a new house since last August, and we're still trying to fill it up a little bit.
Southwick: She said "Books, our kids, or a family vacation."
Southwick: Maybe you can align Christmas lodge with that family vacation.
Brokamp: That's true and I could definitely see the books. She is a huge reader. Not that she's a huge person. She just reads a lot.
Southwick: I think Ron would save it. He would allocate it all across our budget. Like he wouldn't do anything fun with it at all.
Brokamp: And that's what he said. He'd put it to the new house savings account, or maybe your daughter's college fund.
Southwick: Yeah. He doesn't have fun with money very often. If your main squeeze was a superhero, which superhero would he or she be? Do you want to guess what your wife thought you would be?
Brokamp: Well, the only thing that comes to mind for me personally is Batman, because when I was a kid I loved Batman.
Southwick: Well, your wife said "Superman, of course!"
Brokamp: Really! Oh, is that because ...?
Southwick: "But get him to tell you about his stint as Captain Planet or as the dead body in a play. I suffered through that whole play just to watch his back slumped over. That's when I knew it was love."
Brokamp: Yes, I did appear as Captain Planet in various Washington, D.C. events, including at the White House back in the '90s.
Southwick: What? Why?
Brokamp: Well, Captain Planet was a Turner Broadcasting cartoon…
Southwick: Yes ...
Brokamp: My roommate at the time had a friend who worked at Turner Broadcasting and they said, "Do you know anyone who would be willing to wear some sort of outrageous costume at the White House?" And he said, "I know just the guy."
Southwick: I had no idea.
Brokamp: I'll have to bring in some pictures. It was a pretty cool costume.
Southwick: Yes, you'll have to bring in some pictures. And then apparently you were also a dead body in a play. That must have been a hit to your ego that you were cast as a dead body.
Brokamp: Well, it was because the play was happening at the school where we taught, because it had a great theatre, and I got to know the people who worked in the play. The guy who was supposed to play the dead body got arrested and went to jail, so they needed someone last minute to sit in a wheelchair and act like a dead body. They asked if I'd do it, and there you go.
Southwick: So if my main squeeze was a superhero, I made up my own superhero. This wasn't a pre-existing one. Sorry, maybe I didn't obey the rules, but I made up the superhero of Renaissance Man!
Brokamp: Dun, dun, dun!
Southwick: Because Ron is equally artistic, analytic, thoughtful, silly, and he's just all-around perfect.
Brokamp: Oh! Isn't that nice?
Southwick: Oh, it's true. He can do anything.
Southwick: He can do anything.
Brokamp: Well, this is funny. He said he would be a Jedi Knight, because he was coming up with innovative ways to use the Force.
Southwick: So then we asked our significant others what superhero they would be. What superhero do you think your wife would be?
Brokamp: I actually think if there were a superhero called Supermom. She is just made to be a mom, and she's awesome at it.
Southwick: So she said, "He'll say Wonder Woman, but I always wanted to be Isis. Does anyone remember Isis?" Rick does. Who's Isis?
Engdahl: There was a Captain Marvel and Isis hour on TV.
Engdahl: She didn't quite spin around like Wonder Woman, but she said, "Oh, mighty Isis!" and she got the power of the Egyptian goddess and could pretty much do all the stuff Wonder Woman could do.
Southwick: I think you've got a fun thing you can surprise your wife with in the future.
Brokamp: I know it.
Engdahl: We know Bro's next Halloween costume.
Southwick: Yeah! Isis!
Brokamp: Do they still make Underoos? Maybe I'll find some Isis Underoos.
Southwick: And as far as what superhero I would be, again, I made up my own, and it's Pioneer Woman, because I can sew, I bake bread, I grow my own vegetables. I could milk a goat if it came to it. But I don't think it ever will.
Brokamp: He said you'd be the avatar of probably an Airbender.
Southwick: I've been watching a lot of that show lately.
Brokamp: I guess so.
Southwick: That's pretty funny. I don't know if I would be an Airbender. We don't really need to go into this discussion. Let's not go there. So there you go. Those are just a few questions from the Fooly-Wed game to help get a money conversation going with your shmoopie, and like I said, you can find it online by just googling Fooly-Wed game and it should pop up.
Southwick: That's the show! I want to thank our own shmoopies for letting us put them through that exercise. I think we married well.
Brokamp: We did.
Southwick: I think we did. Our email is Answers@Fool.com. The show is edited…
Southwick: ... romantically by Rick Engdahl. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody.