You’ve been thinking about working with a CFP® professional.  Perhaps you have immediate issues to address: saving more for retirement or ensuring you are adequately protected against the various risks that life might throw your way.  Or maybe you want to establish a relationship with a financial expert, so when you do hit a financial bump down the road, trustworthy help will be immediately at hand.

But what if the first pothole on your way is your spouse’s reluctance to go with you to the financial planner?  He doesn’t have the time given travel and kids.  She’s not particularly interested or convinced that a professional can really help.  Every conversation about making an appointment as a twosome runs aground with a comment like, “You go, and then tell me about it later…”

What can you do to change your partner’s mind, short of expensive bribes or outright hijacking?  Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to lay the groundwork for a joint visit to a CFP® professional, and make that visit a happy, productive experience.

First, don’t take your partner’s excuse at face value.    

You may need to peel some onions here, gently and without causing tears, to get down to some core issues underlying his or her reluctance.  Not having time or interest is rarely a sufficient reason not to get needed professional advice.  If it were, a lot fewer people would go to dentists or accountants. 

Could “lack of time” be code for “lack of knowledge,” which has your partner feeling intimidated in conversations about money?  Or maybe your spouse assumes his or her presence is not necessary, because you always do the speaking for both of you (ouch!).  Be sensitive to the underlying issues that may make a visit to a financial planner not just a nuisance, but truly a painful experience.  Money can carry powerful emotional valence, and may be a source of shame, fear, or dysfunction which your partner would be uncomfortable revealing to a new advisor.  It’s best to begin the talking at home.

Focus on shared financial goals, and not on the barriers, as the basis for seeing the CFP® professional

As a couple, you presumably have a vision of what you want for your lives:  education for kids, a vacation retreat for friends and family, a meaningful gift to a charitable cause.  Financial goals such as these are positive and motivating; discussing financial hurdles on the road to achieving these goals is not.  Rather than leading with “We’ve got to get our overspending under control” or “We’ll never retire at this rate,” try instead “Let’s talk to an expert who can move us closer to our dreams.”  Focus on the “what” (your mission as a couple) and leave the “how” (the strategizing and tactics) to later discussions with the CFP® professional.

Find the right financial advisor for you, your spouse, and the two of you as a couple. 

Because trust is essential for a strong and productive relationship with a financial professional, particularly for those who otherwise may be reluctant to work with an advisor, make sure that you look for professionals holding CFP® certification, the highest standard of professional practice and ethics in the financial planning profession.   

Enlist your partner’s support in searching for a CFP® professional who will work well with you both, agreeing ahead of time on the characteristics you consider essential for your advisor.  In other words, get your partner to buy into the decision by being part of the selection process.  Don’t rush the process, and plan on visiting two or three different CFP® professionals to get a sense of their different styles and approaches to advising couples, as well as their chemistry with your spouse.  You can search for CFP® professionals in your area by using the “Find a CFP® Professional” tool in the upper right corner on this page

Look for a professional who encourages each partner to share views and thoughts, and who facilitates, rather than directs, a dialogue about your finances.  A good advisor will generally ask couples open-ended questions, and pose them to each partner, rather than letting one or the other provide the “final” answer.   Ask the advisor how he or she works with couples: is it expected or required that both of you be present at planning meetings?  Will communications be sent to both of you, or only a designated individual?  How does the advisor handle conflict or disconnect between partners?  Here are more questions to ask a financial planner.

The old adage says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”  The reason this is true is likely because you, not the horse, is doing all the leading.  The same moral applies when trying to get your partner to accompany you to a financial planning meeting.  Take the lead from your partner, by being sensitive to the sometimes-difficult reasons for his or her hesitation.  Get your partner involved in defining the financial goals you want to work on with the CFP® professional, and let him or her be actively involved in the planner selection process.  

It’s possible that the decision to work with a financial planner will become your partner’s idea, after all.