By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

Whether you have more money than Elvis or aren't sure that you can retire, keeping either spouse in the dark about material financial issues will eventually be a problem. I'm not saying that you'll be headed for divorce court, although money is frequently a root cause of marital disharmony.

In the case where your family has wealth, financial communication is vital to your long term relationship. I've met many wealthy clients who still work because they haven't communicated about how they'd spend their time if 40 plus hours suddenly freed up. As the saying goes, you marry for better or worse, but not necessarily for lunch every day. A conversation about how you'd like to spend your 168 hours per week will go a long way.

A conversation about financial independence is also a good idea. How much can you spend? Should you own a second or third home? Should you help out your children a little, a lot or not at all? And what about the estate plan and financial management after the loss of either spouse?

The loss of the financially aware spouse often leaves the survivor feeling less than empowered even if the deceased knew that there would be plenty of money for the survivor to maintain his or her lifestyle. It is also likely that this survivor will seek out another financial professional to work with - if for no other reason than the former advisor is guilty by association for the survivor’s lack of financial knowledge.

Spend the time to educate the non-aware spouse. This is sometimes difficult if it is one spouse trying to teach another. Patience typically runs short and it is likely that the knowledgeable spouse, with all due respect, is far from an expert in all of the significant areas where your spouse needs knowledge.

These topics are, but not limited to, a deep knowledge of cash flow today and in the future. Managing risk and avoiding, preventing or insuring material risks. Understanding your investment plan and the amount of risk you are taking. Managing and minimizing your income tax burden. Knowledge and awareness of your retirement plans including beneficiary elections. A deep awareness of the estate plan and understanding the provisions and people who will be charged with administering the estate and managing the estate plan now and after death. Understanding the plan for family governance when assets are held in trust for children or grandchildren. The plan for dealing with special needs or children with dependency issues. And whatever else is financially important to either spouse.

For those who aren't sure whether they've got enough to retire, this anxiety manifests itself in many ways. Give each other the gift of knowledge, and eliminate any uncertainty. Even learning that you're not well prepared will give way to better health because at least you'll know what you need to do to reach your desired destination.

This article was published in Gatehouse Media Publications  on March 31, 2017.

John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, MA.  Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.