Are you married, in an opposite-sex marriage? If so, how do you and your spouse make financial decisions? Who tends to handle the finances more often?
For instance, perhaps you are a woman and you tend to let your husband make big financial decisions. Maybe he pays the bills, puts money aside for taxes, decides what loans to take out and much more. Maybe he even invests your money and saves for retirement. You have very little to do with it and, other than knowing that you have enough money to pay the bills, you don't know much about your family's financial position.
This is not just a stereotype. Recent studies have found that this is true in most marriages, even in the modern era. For instance, a full 56% of married women from 20 years old to 34 years old tended to "defer to their significant others" about financial decisions.
Why this is a problem
You may think this is a problem for many reasons. Maybe it shows that men and women still do not have the equality that they deserve, for instance. Maybe it shows that, for all of the changes in earnings and women's involvement in the workforce, men still make the big financial decisions and thus control their families' futures in many ways.
Let's take a look at one other reason why it's a potential problem: estate planning. If women do not work with their own finances and do not understand the assets they control, are they properly prepared to make a plan to pass those assets on to the next generation?
After all, women live longer, on average, than men. In many cases, it is women who have to make decisions about long-term care, end-of-life planning and estate planning. Their husbands may deal with their finances for decades, but then they pass away first and suddenly leave all of this responsibility behind. That's problematic for someone who has not thought about their financial situation in a long time.
What is the solution?
The solution is for men and women in opposite-sex marriages to work together on their finances. They both need to be involved. They both need to understand the financial picture. They both need to know what assets they own: homes, investments, stock options, life insurance policies, pension plans, bank accounts and much more.
When they do work together, it makes estate planning easier for the whole family. You can't predict the future, but you can plan for it. Make sure both you and your spouse know what steps you need to take.