End of Year Strategies: Coordinate Your Financial Plans

December 7, 2016
DMD Staff

Talk over your goals to make sure they’re shared.

Earlier this year, we ran a column on what type of investor you are. That column introduced the concept of the solo artist (making most investing decisions alone), the power duo (working almost exclusively with a partner, which could be a financial planner or a life partner) and the ensemble band (a team of people assembled for investment decisions). Most investors fall under the latter two categories, even if they are the primary breadwinner, as dentists often are.

For the true solo artist, this column may be slightly less germane. But for the main two categories, one key end-of-year strategy is to make sure you’re on the same page with the other members of the team.

As you look back on your financial year and plan for 2016, have you done so in a vacuum? Or have you consulted the other affected parties? If it’s the former, great; keep up the good work. If it’s the latter, your financial plans are at greater risk. Further, frustration or feelings of resentment can creep in to your key relationships. Studies consistently show that the biggest factor in most marital strife is financial issues. Here are a few ways to communicate better with those who will affect, be affected by, and share in your decision-making.

The Inertia of Avoidance

At any stage of life, money can be a difficult issue for people to talk about with others, even within their own family. Address the issue head-on by committing to communicating with your partner and family members. Like other forms of inertia, avoidance can become engrained. But it only takes one action on your part to get the objects in question—in this case, you and your partner—into motion.

Start with the basics: Are you and your partner on the same page in understanding your financial situation? Are their goals the same as yours, or at least complementary to yours? Not all family members or partners have to be in complete agreement on every line item in a budget or every financial decision, but having any potential issues out in the open will help you avoid conflicts, festering resentment, and overall uncertainty about your financial past. Such discussions can not only be productive, but they can also get you thinking about your own spending habits and goals. That’s a win-win.

Schedule Some Regular Time

This may sound unnecessary, but it really works. Schedule some time each week or month to get together with your partner to discuss financial issues, including the budget versus the actual spending for the previous month, any “unanticipated” items that impacted the budget, and any new situations arising that could affect the budget and savings goals in the future. Once or twice a year, schedule a longer session to go over larger goals and review life priorities. End of year may not be the best time, given other priorities, but it may be helpful just to get something on the calendar for the dead days of February. If that seems too late to set a financial plan for 2017, consider that the alternative of not setting a plan at all is infinitely counterproductive.

In part 2, we’ll look at a few outside the box strategies for enhancing your communications.