Million Dollar Questions for Couples

Are you engaged or married? See if you can both answer these three questions:

  1. If the chance of getting a disease is 10 percent, how many people out of 1,000 would be expected to get the disease?
  2. If five people all have the winning numbers in the lottery and the prize is $2 million, how much will each of them get?
  3. Let’s say you have $200 in a savings account. The account earns 10 percent interest per year. How much would you have in the account at the end of two years?

What do these questions have to do with marriage? A lot. A recently released study of middle-aged couples found that in cases where both spouses answered the questions correctly, average net worth was $1.7 million. In cases where neither one could answer any of the questions, net worth was $200,000.

A news release about the study’s findings highlighted the importance of choosing “who would be a better family financial decision maker.” However, I disagree with the implication that one spouse should be the family’s financial decision maker. While one may be more knowledgeable about and interested in money matters than the other, both spouses should be involved in the financial decision-making process. One can lead the discussion and make recommendations, but both should be in agreement about the decisions.

What other implications do you see in this research? And if you’re married, how do you and your spouse go about making decisions about spending priorities, investing, and other financial matters?

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