As markets swoon, brokers become couples counselors

Tue Sep 6, 2011 9:01am EDT
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By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With investors falling in and out of love with Wall Street at a rapid pace, some financial advisers are finding themselves playing a new role -- that of marriage counselor.

In general, people don't appear to agree about one of the most critical investment decisions of their married life: How they plan to retire. Advisers say they often find themselves in the middle of financial misunderstandings.

A key reason: Less than half of couples handle their retirement savings jointly, according to a survey of middle-aged couples conducted by Fidelity Investments earlier this year,

"I have definitely been involved with more conversations with couples to make sure they are on the same page," said Brian Ward, a Wells Fargo adviser based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

If couples do talk, it seems they might need a referee. Sixty-two percent of the 648 married couples surveyed said they didn't agree on when they would retire, Fidelity said. Half didn't agree on whether they would continue to work after retirement.

And as financial markets remain in turmoil, couples are getting more anxious as they watch their nest eggs wither.

That's meant an ever-increasing number of advisers are having to ensure their clients still agree on their goals and plans of action.

SEEING EYE-TO-EYE   Continued...

<p>A couple stands at the embankment of the Volga River in Samara, about 1000 km (620 miles) southeast of Moscow May 18, 2007. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>