Financial teamwork: avoid “The Gift that Wasn’t”
Jim had worked hard as a pilot to accumulate enough money to retire. He and Jackie had married seven years ago. It was a second marriage for both of them. Jackie is younger by a dozen years.
Jim wanted to give Jackie a big gift: a studio in which to teach her physical fitness program, a series of video recordings of her teaching students what to do, and a marketing program that would get her videos on several TV stations to attract clients. Jim spent at least fifty thousand dollars of their retirement money on the project.
Jackie made the recordings and they were excellent. However, the man who designed and promised to do their marketing plan failed to carry it out. Jim consulted a lawyer. They filed a lawsuit. Nothing much happened. They learned their consultant had left other clients high and dry. Jim found out it would cost several thousand more dollars of legal expenses to pursue the case in court. Furthermore, it was not clear the marketer had any money for them to recover.
As we reviewed what had happened in this fitness center undertaking, Jackie made clear that Jim had rushed ahead faster than she wanted. She wanted to go slower and take the process of building her business a step at a time. While Jim said he wanted to set up this business as a gift to her, Jackie felt he had another motive: she was to earn money to compensate for what they would be losing when Jim retired. Jim admitted there was truth to what Jackie said. He acknowledged he did move faster than Jackie wanted, and he did want her to earn money to help support them.
The long and the short of it is this: Jim and Jackie did not accomplish their dream of setting Jackie up with a successful physical fitness business because they did not work together. They did not discuss and resolve their differing expectations. They did not take the time and work as a team to vet the marketer they hired. They did not assist each other to set up a pay plan for their marketing campaign rather than pay the marketer in advance. Had they been supporting each other, it would have been easier for them to question and negotiate with the marketer. They could have negotiated making their payments conditional on what he accomplished.
George and Athena had a double income from his dental practice and her work as a physician. They were foresighted in consulting a highly respected financial planner to help them plan how to save and invest for their retirement. However, instead of following the plan each of them went their own way. When we discussing their finances and reviewed their savings for retirement they got a surprise. Both were shocked at how little they had saved. They were nowhere near the goals they had set.
The issues they needed to resolve came out. George felt controlled over money by Athena and her spending. She felt unsupported financially by George and taken advantage of by how much she contributed to pay their family expenses. We talked out these issues and confronted the reality that they needed to start saving rapidly to make up for lost time. They agreed to follow their financial retirement plan without exceptions. Athena and George were fortunate that they still had enough time before retirement to accumulate the funds they needed to retire
The greatest financial plan in the world from the best financial planner does not lead to success when spouses fail to work as a team. Being an outstanding singles tennis player does not automatically mean you will be good at doubles unless you devote yourself to working with your partner.
From my own experience I remember conflicts my wife and I confronted when were adding a sunroom and new kitchen to our home. Our expectations about what we were doing and how much we were willing to spend were different. When we were at cross purposes the contractor made use of our conflicts to advance his goal, which understandably was to make more money by expanding our project.
Once we realized how essential it was for us to agree on what we were doing, we came to a very useful agreement: we would not go forward with our remodeling project until the two of us were in total agreement on each next step we were prepared to take.
The rule worked as we followed it! At times the contractor did not like having to slow down until we were aligned, but the outcome was a highly successful result. We loved our new sunroom and our new kitchen. We felt pleased with the cost of it and with what we had accomplished together. Our marriage was stronger too.