When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

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Ron Scott
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When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by Ron Scott » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:53 am

Most of the discussion on risk tolerance focuses on the individual. We can take “psychological profiles” offered by the investment houses et al, and wonder how we would react to a downturn, etc.

But unless you’re single or have a spouse with the same profile this doesn’t work.

No?

stan1
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by stan1 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:57 am

Everything in a relationship is about communication and negotiation, yes? Most relationships without that fail. Some spouses don't care. Some don't want to understand. Some trust the other spouse to handle it. Some spouses argue and hide money from each other.

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flamesabers
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by flamesabers » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:00 am

Do you manage your finances jointly or separately? If it's the former, you'll probably have to reach some sort of compromise to keep the peace between you and your spouse. If it's the latter, it may not be as critical to have a risk profile that is in sync with your spouse's.

macheta
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by macheta » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:01 am

mine doesn't want to understand

TwstdSista
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by TwstdSista » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:02 am

The husband is more conservative than I am. And he dislikes retirement accounts, while I love them. We compromise by saving outside of retirement accounts first and just so long as those goals are met, I can funnel as much as I want into our tax deferred/advantaged accounts.

The main thing is that we communicated what each of us needed and/or desired.

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BL
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by BL » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:04 am

I think it is important to work out a compromise. Sometimes that helps the conservative partner become less conservative, and the aggressive partner less so, which may actually be a good thing. Sometimes it works for the individual accounts to cater the the style of their owner, while having an overall AA about where you want it. No two families work the same.

mhalley
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by mhalley » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:08 am

It’s a pickle. My wife has little knowledge about investing coupled with not willing to learn plus misconceptions about the riskiness of stocks. I ended up making all decisions about the majority of our portfolio, while throwing her a bone with her Roth IRA. So her roth has been invested in socially conscious funds at a higher bond ratio than I would like to give her a feeling of comfort. Since I was the breadwinner, the majority of our portfolio was in outperform taxable account plus 401k and serp.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by RadAudit » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:19 am

BL wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:04 am
Sometimes it works for the individual accounts to cater the the style of their owner,
+1

Accounts in my name are invested IAW my risk tolerance, which is higher than my wife's risk tolerance. Her accounts are invested IAW with her risk tolerance.

I'm guessing my wife will invest all funds IAW her risk tolerance after my death. I'm guessing that will result in the kids and grandkids getting less than what they could of received, after her death, if the funds were invested IAW a more aggressive asset allocation.

Of course, I don't know that for sure; but, that's the way to bet. Can't do much about it. And, it won't be my problem then, anyway.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:49 am

This is why a couple has to work on an IPS Statement together.
There is no better way to maintain path and goal as comprehensively as an IPS Statement mutually agreed upon.

1. So that neither will react to market downturns.
2. So that the IPS Statement will be followed if one passes away or is incapable of good judgement.
3. To support each other if either "freaks out" :shock: , has a "brain fart" :shock: , or is led astray by others or financial news or rumor. :shock:

mahalo,
j :D

warner25
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by warner25 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:41 pm

I've posted about this a few times, as I think it's often overlooked. I think the spouse who handles most of the investments in the marriage often makes decisions according to their own risk tolerance, and that's a real pitfall. The spouse who is usually less interested may take a sudden interest precisely when risk tolerance matters most: when the market is crashing and everyone is screaming about it. Although my wife is usually uninterested in this stuff, I give very serious consideration to any passing comment she makes relating to risk tolerance or comfort with stocks. The last thing I want is a marital crisis in the middle of a financial crisis. Our portfolio is more aggressive than hers would be if we weren't married, she says, but probably more conservative than mine would be.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by RadAudit » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:36 pm

I agree with Sandtrap and warner25. But, macheta and mhalley have valid points.

Sometimes you have to do the best you can with the situation you find yourself to be in. If that means having enough cash or near cash equivalents to weather any downturn for any foreseeable duration, that's what you have to do. If that is more aggressive than what your spouse would like it, so be it. If it's more conservative than what you'd like, adapt.

If you are going to be responsible for the family finances, adopt a prudent man mindset and accept the responsibility. There's virtually nothing you can do about the situation after you're gone. Maybe they'll say you you were a good provider while you were here. Maybe they'll say you should of accumulated more assets. You'll have to attend the wake to find out.
Last edited by RadAudit on Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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fujiters
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by fujiters » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:40 pm

TwstdSista wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:02 am
The husband is more conservative than I am. And he dislikes retirement accounts, while I love them. We compromise by saving outside of retirement accounts first and just so long as those goals are met, I can funnel as much as I want into our tax deferred/advantaged accounts.

The main thing is that we communicated what each of us needed and/or desired.
One can maintain a conservative asset allocation while still taking advantage of tax advantaged accounts. Would he be comfortable funneling more money into them if you were holding something like treasuries there?
“The purpose of the margin of safety is to render the forecast unnecessary.” -Benjamin Graham

TwstdSista
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by TwstdSista » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:45 pm

fujiters wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:40 pm
One can maintain a conservative asset allocation while still taking advantage of tax advantaged accounts. Would he be comfortable funneling more money into them if you were holding something like treasuries there?
Ha! Nope. He hates the "lack of access". Wants it all available to us right now. We didn't contribute at all for a few years while saving for the house and the kid's college. But now we have a very healthy emergency fund and I basically have free reign with retirement funds (to be re-evaluated on a yearly basis....)

It's all good. I miss the years we missed, but he is happy and secure in our current situation. Compromise!

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randomizer
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by randomizer » Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:31 pm

For the time-being, my spouse is basically totally uninterested in anything related to investment. Good saver, at least, which is arguably even more important than risk tolerance.
75:25

delamer
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by delamer » Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:15 pm

Unlike other marital decisions, like number of children (you can’t have 2.5) or where to live (you can’t be in Chicago and Tucson simultaneously), investment decisions can split the difference.

In our case, I preferred to be more aggressive with stocks. So we balanced out my stocks by holding more in cash and less in bonds.

The key is to both be honest.

remomnyc
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by remomnyc » Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:27 pm

We have similar risk tolerances but different asset allocations because we have different goals and the money will be drawn at different times.

ccieemeritus
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by ccieemeritus » Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:28 pm

DW and I have one large single stock holding remaining in a taxable joint account. Everything else (and all new investments) are index funds. I want to sell a substantial amount of the single stock each year and convert to index. DW (eventually) let me sell a batch in 2017 but so far disagrees in 2018.

In our family all major financial decisions follow the 2-man(person) rule*: we don’t buy/sell unless we both agree. Peace in our marriage is more important than executing that trade. Negotiations continue.


* 2-man rule: From the Cold War: missile silos had 2 men and 2 keys out of reach of each other.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by carolinaman » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:30 am

I have moderate risk tolerance and my DW has no risk tolerance. Fortunately, for a long time most of our investment assets was in my 401k and I was able to invest as I saw fit. My DW has a small IRA, some CDs and savings now and they are invested conservatively. For example, her IRA is invested totally in Vanguard's ST Corporate bond fund. I initially had it invested in diversified manner, but she complained the first time it had an annual loss. I invest my IRAs and our joint taxable assets according to my risk tolerance. I share that information with her. She is convinced it will tank at some point but lets me invest as I see fit. Sometimes when there is a downturn and news sources talk about it, she will ask me how we are doing. Fortunately she knew better than to ask me in 2008/2009. In fact, I offered to tell her how we were doing then and she said she did not want to know.

A big problem with a spouse like mine is how will she handle our investments if I die first. I have greatly simplified our AA in recent years and have suggested plans to further simplify upon my death. My daughter is good with financial matters and I share our finances with her in the hopes my wife will allow her to assist in handling finances.

vested1
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by vested1 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:19 am

My wife doesn't know nor care for the most part. She resisted contributing to her 401k at work until about 5 years before her retirement at age 62, when I finally wore her down with gentle persuasion. As a result, her IRA is only 16% of the portfolio, although her pension made saving for retirement less urgent in her opinion. My lump sum retirement along with my 401k is the primary reason for the imbalance in the portfolio, and reminding myself of this fact helps keep things in perspective.

However, we don't look at it as a his or hers situation. I seek her opinion on every critical move I make with the portfolio, which eases my conscience, but is unnecessary as far as she's concerned. Because of that, she doesn't care if withdrawals come from her IRA or mine. To me, it's simply the portfolio. Having been married for 25 years makes the argument moot anyway, since it's all community property, and the possibility of a divorce is non-existent.

If she had any interest I have no doubt that she'd be far more conservative than me at 60/40, preferring to keep everything under the mattress, which would have left us with over 200k less in the portfolio over the past two years in joint retirement. I have written instructions (suggestions) of what to do if I die before her, which is more for my peace of mind than hers.

dbr
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by dbr » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:20 am

stan1 wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:57 am
Everything in a relationship is about communication and negotiation, yes?
Yes. And the question is a relationship problem and not an investing problem. I am not aware of a solution other than the above.

It is true that if one partner isn't interested and trusts the other one, then that is a solution which has its advantages and disadvantages.

lazydavid
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by lazydavid » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:04 am

My wife is significantly more conservative and risk averse than I am. And her tIRA, which is rolled over from a profit sharing account at a former employer, amounts to a bit more than half of our overall portfolio. So I have that invested in a combination of Wellington and Wellesley, which Personal Capital says balances out to 53% US stock, 8% International stock, 37% bonds, and 2% cash/alternatives.

I want us to be 49/21/30 overall, so I make our 401(k)s and taxable account significantly more aggressive than that to counterbalance. Our 401(k)s, for example, are 81% stock, half of that International. Since we are contributing to them continuously, that will somewhat blunt the medium-term drop in our balances when the next correction/recession inevitably comes.

Emergent_Order
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by Emergent_Order » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:58 pm

This was something I spent some time thinking about when creating our investing plans. In a marriage there is usually a division of household tasks. In ours I handle the majority of the investment planning and DW is responsible for more of the day to day bills and purchases. Our risk tolerance is different, but not hugely so. I tend to be more comfortable with equity risk, as long as its in a broadly diversified, low-cost mutual fund.

The way I approached it was crafting an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) and then discussing it with her, when the kids were asleep. I needed to do this anyway, so it was a good excuse to stop procrastinating. I put more detail in the IPS than was strictly necessary, but I wanted to include the rationale for asset allocation, savings goals and retirement projection. I also wanted this to be a truly joint decision, which is less likely to change during the inevitable next downturn (whenever that is). She appreciated the time and thought that went into it. The only change she wanted to discuss was lowering the equity percentage from 70 to 60%, to make her comfortable. I readily agreed, since both of us need to sleep well at night. She said that living through 08/09 and seeing how our portfolio bounced back through a pretty scary time, gave her the confidence to be a little more aggressive. If we had been further apart on our risk tolerances, I would have focused on educating her a bit more on the long term (i.e. > 20 year timeframe) advantages of a more equity-heavy asset allocation.

Best of luck

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Tamarind
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by Tamarind » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:25 pm

Another solution, if you can swing it, is to marry another Boglehead, or at least consider a potential spouse's ability and willingness to understand. If both parties are interested in understanding personal finance, then a compromise is much easier to reach.

For example, fiancee and I decided to split the difference on our desired AAs and use that as our combined plan, and I agreed to drop my REIT tilt when we combine finances. The conversation took 5 minutes.

We've spent much more time amiably bickering about which features are most important to have as we try to pick a custodian for our new joint bank account.

dbr
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by dbr » Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:29 pm

lazydavid wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:04 am
My wife is significantly more conservative and risk averse than I am. And her tIRA, which is rolled over from a profit sharing account at a former employer, amounts to a bit more than half of our overall portfolio. So I have that invested in a combination of Wellington and Wellesley, which Personal Capital says balances out to 53% US stock, 8% International stock, 37% bonds, and 2% cash/alternatives.

I want us to be 49/21/30 overall, so I make our 401(k)s and taxable account significantly more aggressive than that to counterbalance. Our 401(k)s, for example, are 81% stock, half of that International. Since we are contributing to them continuously, that will somewhat blunt the medium-term drop in our balances when the next correction/recession inevitably comes.
So you sabotaged her intent to invest conservatively. Does she know and understand that? I'm not criticizing your investment plan but I am wondering how this is actually a mutually agreeable solution. It is an example of how tricky it is.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by simpleman1 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:54 pm

Ron Scott wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:53 am
Most of the discussion on risk tolerance focuses on the individual. We can take “psychological profiles” offered by the investment houses et al, and wonder how we would react to a downturn, etc.

But unless you’re single or have a spouse with the same profile this doesn’t work.

No?
Thank you very much for your question. My answer is yes, of course you are correct. For us, one spouse in projected to will outlive the other spouse by at least 30 years. Our risk tolerance and investment portfolio is thus based on that assumption.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by lazydavid » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:49 pm

dbr wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:29 pm
So you sabotaged her intent to invest conservatively. Does she know and understand that? I'm not criticizing your investment plan but I am wondering how this is actually a mutually agreeable solution. It is an example of how tricky it is.
No I didn't, and yes she understands what I've done. She's emotionally attached to "her" money and would be most seriously impacted by the balance in that IRA account experiencing a major decline. So I've accommodated that particular irrationality by being more conservative with that account than is our overall target. Most of the rest is "my" money, being that I have a much larger 401k, and the taxable is funded largely from my salary and RSUs. We pool everything, so the "hers/mine" is solely mental accounting. I carry more risk on "my" investments than I would be comfortable with if that was all I had. But I look at it from the overall portfolio perspective, and we're right where we should be.

I've explained to her many times why things are set up the way they are, and what she should expect in a downturn. Our goals are aligned. February's volatility provided a nice opportunity to have a reality check, so we discussed again. She was surprisingly sanguine about "losing" $60k over the course of a couple of days once I explained that her IRA was still up by double that amount over the past two years. No sabotage or underhandedness going on, just an understanding of the way things are, and finding a plan that works within those confines.

dbr
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by dbr » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:23 pm

lazydavid wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:49 pm
dbr wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:29 pm
So you sabotaged her intent to invest conservatively. Does she know and understand that? I'm not criticizing your investment plan but I am wondering how this is actually a mutually agreeable solution. It is an example of how tricky it is.
No I didn't, and yes she understands what I've done. She's emotionally attached to "her" money and would be most seriously impacted by the balance in that IRA account experiencing a major decline. So I've accommodated that particular irrationality by being more conservative with that account than is our overall target. Most of the rest is "my" money, being that I have a much larger 401k, and the taxable is funded largely from my salary and RSUs. We pool everything, so the "hers/mine" is solely mental accounting. I carry more risk on "my" investments than I would be comfortable with if that was all I had. But I look at it from the overall portfolio perspective, and we're right where we should be.

I've explained to her many times why things are set up the way they are, and what she should expect in a downturn. Our goals are aligned. February's volatility provided a nice opportunity to have a reality check, so we discussed again. She was surprisingly sanguine about "losing" $60k over the course of a couple of days once I explained that her IRA was still up by double that amount over the past two years. No sabotage or underhandedness going on, just an understanding of the way things are, and finding a plan that works within those confines.
So a model of one way to work this out.

jalbert
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by jalbert » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:30 pm

Most people have a range of acceptable asset allocations. If ranges are determined for each person instead of a precise allocation, there is significant opportunity for overlap.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by prairieman » Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:47 pm

Both my wife and I took Vanguard's AA risk tolerance test. I came out at 60/40 stocks/bonds, she came out at 50/50. We have our largest account at Vanguard that we run at 50/50 and one not quite as large at Fidelity that we run at 60/40. I figure that she needs to be prepared to take over and manage the accounts herself (in case I go first). I explained how to determine and readjust AA moving forward. To be honest, though, I don't think I had her full attention.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:10 pm

DH is less risk tolerant, and also much less interested in the process. His accounts at Vanguard are all set up for electronic statements, which he ignores, but one of them keeps sending paper statements no matter how many times we tell them to keep everything electronic. He hasn't said a word about any of them for over a year, but of course this month said "hey, I lost $XXK last month!" Mostly in jest. I think.

Kind of like me with needles. I know the lab guy has to draw the blood, but am better off not seeing it. Some people are just like that.

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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:48 pm

very interesting discussion. One thing to add:

Decisions are about tradeoffs. Many have been talking about the tradeoff of growth and safety (one person wants more growth and is ok with the risk and the spouse is not). But since investing boils down to:

1. amount of money you invest
2. amount of time you keep your money invested
3. rate of return on your money over time,

If you make a sacrifice to any one of these 3 variables, you will have to compensate with one or both of the remaining variables.

1. If your want to take less risk, you'll get less return. As a result you may have to keep money invested longer (work longer) and/or invest more money than you would otherwise have had to if you took more risk and earned a higher return.
2. If you want to retire early (less time money's invested), you may have to invest more money and/or take more risk to compensate for the shorter time period of compounding that will take place.
3. If your goal is to invest as little as possible, you may have to keep money invested longer (work longer) and take more risk than you would have had to if you just invested more money.

So if one party is pushing the other to be more conservative in the allocation, then the other party has every right to say, "We can certainly take less risk, but that means we'll need to save more (i.e., cut more spending) or work longer (keep money invested longer) to achieve the same goal. Are you willing to do that?"

There's nothing wrong with this, provided both of you can achieve your goals per your timeframe (this is where an IPS comes in handy) and both spouses are in agreement. Sometimes we take more risk than we need to (underestimate our future returns) or less risk than we need to (overestimate our future returns). Sometimes we misjudge how much we need to save (save too much or save too little).

When both couples don't discuss these tradeoffs you have tension. One wants to retire early and the other maybe doesn't (maybe that person entered the workforce later after raising kids, for instance or s/he's more fulfilled at his/her job than the other, etc.). Or one wants to save less now and spend more now. Or one wants to take more or less risk than the other.

Difficult conversations sometimes, but we must put on our big boy and big girl pants and not only ask the necessary questions, but understand the tradeoffs we're making through our decisions.
"Invest we must." -- Jack Bogle | “The purpose of investing is not to simply optimise returns and make yourself rich. The purpose is not to die poor.” -- William Bernstein

humanities
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Re: When your spouse’s risk tolerance differs from yours

Post by humanities » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:00 pm

My partner and I manage our retirement savings separately. I've been using the "age minus 5 in bonds" formula for my retirement investments, which at my age is a fairly conservative strategy. For a long time, he invested 80% of his retirement savings in bonds and 20% in domestic large-cap stock. When I found out he was doing this, it took me over a year to convince him to increase his stock allocation somewhat and to include international and small-caps. He still invests more conservatively than I do, but I think it's best that I not push him to take on more risk than he's comfortable with.

We agree about the importance of retirement savings (we put away the same percentage), and we both use index funds.

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