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I really enjoy Valentine’s Day.  It gives me a good excuse to visit one of those oddly smelling Hallmark stores and peruse the card section.  It also allows pause to reflect on my exceptionally rewarding marriage to Michelle.  We love, respect and support each other.  She makes my bad days better and good days great. Of course, having no children, sans Catherine[i], enables us a longer fiscal leash.  But more importantly, it tightens our bond – infusing a stick together mentality.

But that’s probably the extent of my marital expertise.  I’m a one-and-done with Michelle.  Though I’ll share some financial tidbits that have eased the occasional conjugal friction.  This eliminates, at least for us, the #1 cause of divorce.  After all, what good is a robust household balance sheet if the marriage is in shambles? Consider that wealth increases an average of 16% each year of marriage and divorcees experience a 77% drop in net worth.[ii]  Wanna stay wealthy?  Stay happily married.

Without question, men are still the predominant financial decision makers.  This is driven by a testosterone laden cocktail of interest, aggression and ego.  Notice I didn’t say intelligence.  Men and women’s brains are hardwired differently.   Michelle might not know a junk bond from James Bond but her task figuring abilities are a few step ladders higher than mine.   She has ten times more white brain matter than me.[iii]  She is also blessed with more oxytocin – the ‘tend and befriend’ hormone[iv].  This enables a more holistic & nurturing investing view.  Guys are stuck with a grey matter based, linear prospective.  In other words: I’d lay $100 on the Steeler’s over while she would prefer donating it to the local animal shelter.

There is no secrecy in our finances – that’s poisonous.  We have individual checking accounts but joint savings.  Ditto for credit cards.  While she has some Zsa Zsa Gabor tendencies, she manages to max out her 401k and keep our lights on.  I was raised on hand-me-downs.   But we don’t micromanage & audit each other’s spending. Well, maybe just her closet - I didn’t realize thigh high boots could procreate.  We trust one another’s financial judgement.

We both disdain debt. {note: as of 2018, home equity lines of credit became less advantageous HELOCS} Our cars are aged – though Michelle’s is driveway presentable; you’d haul mulch in mine.  We try to keep a healthy cash inventory on hand – for what if.  She’ll statistically outlive me - so I am trying to do a better job of involving her.  I have compiled a file of account numbers, contacts and log-ins.  I want to make sure the transition for her and husband #2 is smooth.

Women, in general, want financial education; not just being told what to do.  They tend to hold 5% more cash and 4.5% less equities[v] as a show of cautiousness.  Men are more impulsive & over confident.  Similar to drivers; they predominately rate themselves as above average.  They are susceptible to a ‘hot tip’ in the quest for a grand slam.  Women have more loss aversion and are content with singles & doubles.

But both sexes have one financial commonality: the roots of our fiscal identities sprout in childhood {think of your depression era parents & grandparents} and evolve with life’s experiences.  These money complexities make defining our financial values murky.  The key is taking an honest, personal inventory of your monetary psyche – specifically looking for blind spots.  This isn’t easy and you might have to nudge your loved one for a second opinion.  Some embrace the challenge while others shy away.  The key is finding a deeper understanding of what drives our individual money decisions.  If I can’t outline my own money tenets; how can I expect to impose them on my spouse?  Michelle and I aren’t quite there but we’re working on it – 16% at a time.

Fiscal Fitness is a publication of Houlihan Asset Management, LLC for the benefit of its clients and friends.     Houlihan Asset Management.  Wealth Counseling/Asset Management. Copyright 2018


[i] Overindulged, ex-stray cat

[ii] Zagorsky, Marriage and Divorce’s Impact on Wealth, Journal Sociology, 2005

[iii] Zeenat Zaidi, Gender Differences in the Human Brain, 2010

[iv] Maggie Baker, Crazy About Money, 2010

[v] Financial Magazine, May 2015


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