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My Husband Wants to Hide Money in the Mattress. Is He Wrong?

Karin Price Mueller

Q. I'm trying to get my husband to take more risk with investments, but he still has nightmares about the last market downturn. We're only in our early 50s and we need to take some risk, but he'd be happy with our money in a mattress. Suggestions please!

A. It can be hard to decide on an investment plan when spouses have different risk tolerance.

It sounds like your family suffered a decline in net worth during the financial crisis that is still affecting your husband, said Jim McCarthy, a certified financial planner with Directional Wealth Management in Rockaway, N.J..

"He is not alone. And you are not alone in recognizing that in your early 50s you need growth in your investments in order to meet future financial needs," he said. "Also, it is quite common for spouses to have very different feelings about investment risks."

But, McCarthy said, you need to realize that all investments, including cash in the mattress, have risks. Cash loses value over time due to inflation.

McCarthy suggests you start by sitting down to review your financial plan. If you don't have a formal, written financial plan, he recommends you consider contacting a certified financial planner to get one done.

"Part of this plan should be your risk tolerance," McCarthy said. "Your risk tolerance should be based on (a) your ability to take risk — which includes your age, current financial condition, and future goals — and (b) your willingness to deal with investment volatility and potential loss."

He said a certified financial planner can help you balance the risk you are willing to take with the returns you will need to achieve your financial goals. They can also show you the impact of not taking enough risk or of taking too much risk.

He also recommends you review how you were invested during the financial crisis. Were your investments appropriately diversified? How did you respond to the market decline? Did you make adjustments to your investments or did you just hold on? Did you bail out at the bottom in 2009, which is what many individual investors did, only to miss the past four-plus years of market growth?

"Once your financial plan is done and you know what your risk/return profile looks like, your CFP professional can help you choose investments that can help to reduce risk, such as managed volatility strategies, and vehicles that provide downside protection with some upside potential such as fixed index annuities or variable annuities with living benefit riders," McCarthy said.

Lastly, make sure you and your husband come to a mutually acceptable approach. Money is an emotional subject for everyone, McCarthy said.

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