Divide and Conquer? Not with your Wealth Planning

Why Both Spouses’ Participation in an Annual Advisory Review Improves the Longevity of your Family’s Legacy

By Brittney Olinger, CIMA®, CDFA®, and Shannon Reintgen, CFP®, ChFC®


A widow sits with their head in their hands in our office. “My spouse used to handle all this stuff,” they say, while gesturing to the piles of financial statements and legal documents spread across our desk. “I never really met with our previous financial advisor, and I have no idea where to start.”

Often, couples treat finances as a divisible role, with one spouse being deemed more financially knowledgeable and the other leaving the wealth management in their partner’s hands1.

In high-net-worth households, where financial decisions are more complex, involve greater risk, and often entail business ownership, mixed-sex couples defer to the husband for financial decision-making 90% of the time1.

A 2020 McKinsey report found that married women feel shut out of the household wealth discussions. They self-report lower confidence in their own financial decision-making and feel unprepared for their financial future despite having an advisor2.

The average age of a widow in America is 59. By age 75, the percentage of women and men who have experienced the death of a spouse is 58% and 28%, respectively3. When women’s absence from the financial conversation is coupled with a greater life expectancy than their husbands, it is no surprise that women seek new financial advisors 70-80% of the time after experiencing the death of a spouse4,5.

This stressful scenario, while common, is avoidable.

At Koss Olinger, we believe that in order to protect your family’s legacy, both you and your spouse must be active participants in your advisory team relationship. You do not need to track the stock market daily, but you both need to feel comfortable leaning on your advisory team as a source of support and stability if one of you were to pass away.

The death of a spouse is not only a time of emotional turbulence and grieving, but also presents a significant financial risk to the household6. If both spouses do not regularly participate in the advisory conversations, then your financial, estate, and charitable planning can unintentionally be undone.

We encourage, and often insist upon, both spouses joining for annual review meetings to ensure that both of you are clear on your family’s goals and how your financial game plan is set up to achieve them7.

While the team approach to wealth management meetings is the norm at Koss Olinger, this may not be the case at every firm. The next time you hear your friend mention that their spouse handles the financial meetings, encourage them to take an active role and conquer their annual advisory meetings together.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and CFP® (with plaque design) in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

1Hanna, Sherman D., Kyoung T. Kim, Suzanne Lindamood, and Sunwoo T. Lee. “Husbands, wives, and financial knowledge in wealthy households.” Financial Planning Review 4, no. 1 (2021): e1110.
2Baghai, Pooneh, et al. “Women as the next wave of growth in US wealth management.” McKinsey & Company report (2020).
3Gurrentz, B., and Y. Mayol-Garcia. “Marriage, divorce, widowhood remain prevalent among older populations.” US Census (2021).
4Duquesnay, Blair. “Women shall inherit the power of the purse.” Financial Advisor (2019).
5Wojnar, Kristan, and Chuck Meek. “Women’s Views of Wealth and the Planning Process It’s Their Values that Matter, Not Just Their Value.” Advisor Perspectives 5 (2011).
6McKay, Lisa Camner, Itzik Fadlon, Shanthi Ramnath, and Patricia K. Tong. “Financial life after the death of a spouse.” Chicago Fed Letter 438 (2020): 1-5.
7Nevins, Daniel. “Goals-based investing: Integrating traditional and behavioral finance.” The Journal of Wealth Management 6, no. 4 (2004): 8-23.