Do you know the size of your partner’s paycheck? According to a recent study from Fidelity, less than half (43 percent) of respondents were able to correctly identify how much money their significant other makes. And of that group, 10 percent missed the mark by $25,000 or more.
The reason they’re in the dark? While many people are uncomfortable talking about money, today’s work environment often means it’s simply more difficult to calculate how much we earn, according to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments.
“Since the recession, many workers had to adjust their career paths, embracing a new work model, such as taking on more project and consulting work to replace former full-time roles in a traditional 9-to-5 setting,” she says. “With less predictable streams of income, knowing what your other half makes can be a surprisingly tricky task.” What’s more, if your salary is affected by how well your company performs, earnings can change from year to year.
But it’s still important to have those financial discussions—even if they’re difficult. “The more a couple knows about their household’s current financial state, the better they can plan for the future, and make any necessary adjustments along the way to meet important financial milestones, like saving for a home, saving for a child’s college education or down the road—where and how they want to live in retirement,” Robinson says. In fact, when the study participants were asked how much they’ll need to save to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement, almost half had “no idea”—and 47 percent disagreed with their partners about how much they would need.
Not sure how to start the conversation? Ken Weber, the president of Weber Asset Management and author of Dear Investor, What the Hell are You Doing?, who wasn’t affiliated with the study, suggests something like this: “I think this is a good time for us to sit down and put things on paper so we can understand our full financial picture.” He says meeting together with a financial professional who is held to a fiduciary standard (meaning he or she must do what is in the best interest of the client) can also be helpful.
All the hard work will be worth it: The Fidelity research found that couples who have a retirement plan in place are more aligned and feel better prepared for what’s ahead, so a tough conversation now could save you a lot of anxiety in the long run. “Many people are simply uncomfortable talking about money and don’t make it a priority,” Robinson says. “Knowing where you stand financially today allows you to make informed decisions as a couple when adjustments are needed.”