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Managing Marriage and Money Issues

5 financial arguments worth fixing before they become problems

4. Risk versus security

Older couples also frequently bicker over what Bethany Palmer calls the "risk versus security" dilemma.

Sometimes it manifests itself with investments: One partner is more risk-tolerant and wants to invest heavily in stocks, while the other spouse is risk-averse and prefers to stick with safer assets like bonds or certificates of deposit.

Beyond investing, couples wrestle over business and entrepreneurial opportunities, second-career options, or even just going back to school, all of which have huge financial implications.

"Age 50 is such a turning point for most people," Palmer notes. "That's when people often start thinking: 'I've always wanted to get my law degree' or 'I really wanted to do this or that my whole life.' "

But since "most of us marry our money opposite," she says, conflicts can arise if a risk-taking spouse wants to do something after age 50 that his or her "security-focused" partner can't tolerate.

The more conservative spouse may be saying: "It's too late" or "You're over 50."

The best answer for this dilemma is to have a plan B and think through best- and worst-case scenarios and then decide whether both parties could live with the outcomes.

For example, if making a high-risk investment or pouring money into a speculative business venture is under consideration, you and your mate should contemplate how you would fare if you lost all your money. That's always a possibility.

The two of you need to be on the same page before making any big move that could be economically risky in the long-term. But other questions, like pursuing a new job opportunity, need not be viewed as such a high-stakes proposition.

Palmer cites an older couple she knows in which the wife, after turning age 50, told her husband that she wanted to become a flight attendant. He wasn't ready to support the idea. But the couple talked through it and ultimately the husband recognized that it was his wife's lifelong dream. She did it for 10 years, loved it, and the couple fared just fine, Palmer says.

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