Husbands, Wives and Annuities
For nearly the past two weeks I’ve been in Kansas, hunting deer at a friend’s ranch. It’s an annual tradition that goes back to 2011 and reminds me of my days guiding fishing trips in Alaska. My friend Dave is an exceptional human being. I met him while I worked in Alaska and we became friends nearly 20 years ago. When he bought the ranch he called to tell me that I would always have a place to come hunting in Kansas.
Spud is my best friend from my guiding days and he is the best technical trout fisherman I know. He spent almost two decades on the professional side of the fishing business and he also shares a passion for hunting like me. Initially Dave extended the invitation to Spud as well but he doesn’t make it here as regularly as I do. This year, Spud and his dad drove out from Pennsylvania and met me here for a bowhunt.
Spending time with my friends from those days brings up a lot of great memories and makes me appreciate how I got where I am today. This trip in particular gave me a very specific idea based on a lesson I learned while I was guiding fishing trips. I ran this idea past Spud and he’s one of the few people who know exactly what I’m talking about. His dad is an avid listener of the podcast and also thought it was a good idea.
Let me explain how guiding fishing trips in Alaska relates to being a retirement planner. About half the people I took fishing were married couples. On many occasions the wife didn’t really want to go fishing but she played along to support her husband. In a lot of instances, the husband might be overzealous in trying too hard to get his wife to enjoy the fishing. Rather than focusing on his own fishing, and many of them needed a lot of work, he would try to coach his wife from the back of the boat. This only caused increased frustration and anxiety between the two partners.
If the guy wouldn’t listen to me and his wife was at the end of her rope then I had a big opportunity. I’d quietly ask the wife if she wanted to out-fish her husband. When she agreed to give it a shot, I could ignore the know-it-all in the back of the boat and give 100% of my attention to her. Because she lacked the experience, she was more malleable and would do everything I told her to do. By the end of the day, in most cases, she would have caught more fish than her husband and be pretty dang handy with a fly rod.
On a fairly regular basis, I run into a married couple who can’t agree on the same solution for a retirement plan. Often, there is one person per couple who handles the majority of financial management decisions. But when it comes to retirement the decisions usually require bigger commitments so it’s best when both can be involved in the discussions. Typically the person who has the least amount of prior financial knowledge and experience has an easier time understanding the correct path. Since retirement planning requires a transition in asset management strategies, those with prior experience frequently, but not always, have a hard time making the adjustment.
The exact same thing happens when a husband goes through the plan with me when his wife is not present. When he says, “I’ll just explain this all to her”, I know exactly how it will end. It won’t be any different than a guy in the back of the boat telling his wife in the front how to fish in Alaska. The correct message rarely gets through and it is even more unlikely when a disparity in financial experience exists between husband and wife. With either fishing or retirement planning I am really good at each. There are people who know a lot and people who know nothing. I can handle both and it takes experience to recognize the difference.
Fishing and financial advising have a lot more in common than you might think. This is not to say that all fishing trips and retirement plans turn into big arguments between married couples. Quite the contrary, the vast majority of either turn out to be quite pleasant and enjoyable. It all depends on the path you take to get there. I prefer to speak with both sides of a couple so I can gauge the level of interest and understanding of both people.
There are instances where one person wants absolutely nothing to do with it and that’s ok, but it helps me to know who makes the decision. Most often both people in a marriage have at least some say in the matter and it’s important for each to take the appropriate path to the final result. Because solutions are simpler than most people realize, the least experienced in financial matters is usually the one who sees it first. Listen to your spouse, defer to an advisor with the right level of expertise and you’ll likely find an easy financial path ahead.
Enjoy your weekend!