Couples Survey: Secret Bank Accounts, No Retirement Planning

A new report released on Wednesday by Ameriprise Financial found that a majority of Gen X and young Boomer couples have delayed taking action on retirement.

The financial services company surveyed 1,500 U.S. couples within 10 years of retirement, between the ages of 45 and 70. The goal was to understand how couples of a certain income bracket think about money: Nearly three out of four couples surveyed indicated that they had been together for at least 20 years and all couples had at least $100,000 in investible assets.

The study found that a quarter of couples hadn’t yet agreed on how much money they needed to save for retirement or spend on children and grandchildren both now and as part of their estates.

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Meanwhile, two in five couples did not have a financial plan in place, with nearly the same amount admitting that they had yet to figure out how to make the same amount of money as their current paychecks in retirement.

The report also found that 51% of couples had not set up an estate plan, which is a collection of documents that includes a will but adds in additional protections that apply while a person is alive, like a letter of intent, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations.

The advantage of an estate plan, according to Find Law, is that it establishes what the person wants to happen if they become unable to communicate their wishes on their own and require someone to take care of them.

“Our research shows couples trust one another and share the same dreams for retirement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve mutually agreed on how they’ll spend, save, and give away their money when the time comes,” said Marcy Keckler, senior vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise. “Some couples avoid discussing these topics because they feel overwhelmed – especially knowing that unexpected events can happen at any time – but putting it off can lead to challenges down the road.”

Interestingly, some respondents said that they had money saved away that their partner didn’t know about. One in seven of the 3,000 people surveyed said that they had a secret account, and half of them said that the balance in that account was more than $10,000.

Nearly a quarter of respondents with secret accounts had balances of $50,000 or more.

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Still, the survey found that 94% of U.S. couples say they’re honest with each other about finances, and 91% have the same retirement goals— but most have delayed taking action.

Longstanding couples, who had been together for at least 20 years and who comprised 72% of the survey respondents, said that their top three pieces of advice were to communicate openly about financial goals, find healthy ways to resolve financial disagreements, and choose a financial advisor together.

“The sage wisdom from these couples is clear: getting on the same page with your spouse or partner about money and retirement is critical,” Keckler said.

Related: Kevin O’Leary Says ‘Do Not’ Merge Finances, Bank Accounts With Your Spouse: ‘I Forbid It in My Own Family

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