Financial Planning for Couples: Find the Right Advisor

by Catherine Tansey

A woman putting a ring on a man's hand

Investing in financial planning advice for couples is one of the most strategic money moves you can make in your partnership. 

Disagreements over financial priorities, miscommunication about how money is spent, and dissimilar saving habits strain relationships. These factors contribute to why money is commonly considered the number one reason couples fight. 

Since communication is vital to any healthy relationship, seeking professional advice to navigate the sometimes sticky topics of debt, savings, and financial goals can be helpful. Whether you’re pursuing financial advice for newlyweds or after financial planning for couples, here’s what you need to know. 

Seeking financial planning for couples? Here’s what to look for:

Someone who gets you — both of you

You want a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) who’s a neutral, third-party with your best financial interest at heart. This will likely mean a fiduciary, but we’ll get more into that later. Regardless of who earns more or carries more debt, the right financial planning for couples will be someone fair and equitable who cares and respects equally you and your partner and helps you plan as a team. 

They’ll help foster honest, productive communication and develop a plan to achieve your financial goals as a couple. 

Related article: What Is a Certified Financial Planner and Why Does It Matter?

Work with a zero-commission advisor

Financial planning for couples will raise a lot of important questions.

“I got into this kind of advising because I don’t want to sell products, or be dependent on selling products. I wanted to be as independent as possible to focus on what the client needs.” – CFP® Inga Timmerman

  • What are our long-term joint goals?
  • How will we pay down our debt?
  • What’s our best approach for building wealth?
  • Are we financially ready to start a family?
  • What do we need to do to save for a mortgage down payment?

Money matters often carry emotional weight, and for a productive financial planning session you have to feel at ease. Simplify the process by working with a zero commission, or fee-only advisor. These professionals charge flat fees or rates for their expertise and advice, rather than earn money through the sale of financial products. 

As CFP® and fee-only advisor Inga Timmerman put it, “I got into this kind of advising because I don’t want to sell products, or be dependent on selling products. I wanted to be as independent as possible to focus on what the client needs.”

Fee-only advisors can appear more expensive than alternatives, but in selecting one, you and your partner can rest assured that you’re receiving the best and more transparent financial planning for couples. 

Let special circumstances guide your search 

Do you or your partner own a small business or are self-employed as a contractor or freelancer? Have the two of you recently paid off debt and are ready to start building wealth? These are examples of special circumstances that can help steer your toward one CFP® versus another. Consider any other unique circumstances or signs you should get a financial advisor like:

  • You have a forthcoming inheritance
  • You want to start a side hustle
  • You’re a higher earner with a salary over $75,000 and healthy disposable income
  • You have ambitious financial goals, like FIRE 

Choose a fiduciary 

Fiduciaries are professionals who have pledged to put their client’s best interest first. Attorneys, CPAs, and board members of public companies are all fiduciaries, and so are some CFP®s.

CFP®s undergo rigorous education and testing and must have at least 6,000 hours of professional experience before they’re eligible to work on their own. Some are true fiduciaries, meaning they’re fee-only advisors who are obliged to help their clients make the best possible decisions. 

Unfortunately it just got a little trickier to tell whether or not your CFP® is a fiduciary, thanks to changes made in March by the CFP® board to it’s advisor website. If you’re seeking financial planning for couples, reach out to trusted sources or a network of pre-vetted fiduciary CFP®s, like My Financial Counsel

A final word 

Lots of people seek financial advice for newlyweds after they’ve been married. This is a healthy financial step for a new marriage, but consider taking action before saying your nuptials. By engaging in financial planning for couples before legally joining your lives, you and your partner have a chance to tackle big questions and get hard conversations out of the way. You’ll also have the opportunity to create a wedding and honeymoon budget and discuss whether or not you’ll be signing a prenup.

Even if you find the search discouraging at first, keep at it. “If you get a good financial planner, they will definitely get you more money than you paid for them,” said Timmerman.

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