I’ve had six different conversations about death and money this past week. And for me, it’s a clear sign that many people are thinking about it. Talking about death is distressing, and money may not be the first thing on your mind when you lose a partner. But the uncomfortable truth is that we all will, at some stage of our lives, be single and responsible for managing our own money.
My week started by counselling a couple in their 70s. The husband tried all his life to get his wife involved in their finances with no success. She just had no interest. He has a strong balance sheet and felt anxious about not sharing the financial details with his partner. He was worried that she would have no idea how to manage the inheritance should he die before her.
A few days later, I met with Tony and Angela. Angela really did not want to attend the meeting, and it was with great reluctance that she sat down to her first-ever financial planning meeting with her husband. She felt that she had nothing to share and felt inadequate around money conversations. Two hours into the meeting, the energy in the room suddenly shifted. I sensed a lightness in Tony as if a burden was lifted off his shoulders. He was so relieved to finally share the financial responsibility with his wife.
I believe that couples should always be involved in money conversations and that you are doing a disservice to each other by not becoming involved. It does not matter if you’re good with money or if you feel your partner is more equipped to manage it. The important part is to engage in the conversation and to share the responsibility, so you are both prepared, informed and empowered should something happen to either of you. I have witnessed time and again what an empowering process this could be if couples support each other and plan together.
Losing your partner to death can happen at any age. This past weekend I met with two women aged forty and fifty. They both lost their husbands, and both have relinquished the money responsibility to their partners. Giving yourself time to grieve when your partner dies is crucial, but it’s not easy to find the space when you must suddenly learn to enable yourself around money. It took Laura a full year to grieve before she was ready to take ownership of the financial planning process. Antoinette, with two tweens in the household, had little time for mourning. Her immediate priority was to empower herself about finances. She did this for herself but also to be a good role model to her children.
Women often neglect becoming involved in money because of how their partners make them feel. Gillian’s husband used money as a tool to control and wield power over her. She became so resentful that she refused to have anything to do with money in their relationship. Gillian’s story is not unique. I come across stories like these often. Unfortunately, money can be used to bully and belittle and very often, the victim is left feeling that they’re not good, clever or worthy enough around money.
I always say that talking about money takes courage. But often, you also have to leave behind some of the patterns created in your relationship with money, such as believing that you are not worthy or good enough; or giving away your power when it comes to money.
It could just be that these difficult but courageous conversations end up equaling closeness and connection. Because somewhere, somehow, something profound happens. Between the discomfort and the connection, there is learning and a sense of freedom in empowerment.
Always remember, when it comes to your money, be inspired, be brave and be empowered,