Let’s talk about the elephant in the room

Mortality. Our own mortality. Not something anyone ever wants to discuss. But sooner or later we all have to face it, unless someone out there has some magic potion that guarantees we can live forever. In which case I’m all ears.

A highly unlikely possibility, I’m sorry to say. So without being morbid, I think it’s important to address the issue and speak frankly about it.

Other than wanting a dream retirement, don’t we also save and invest our money so we can leave our families well provided for? So we can rest easy, knowing they’ll be okay once we’re gone. It’s certainly top of my mind.

I recently attended a seminar about women and investing at the Rotman School of Business. Judy Paradi and Paulette Filion, both partners at Strategy Marketing and co-presenters, shared some very interesting statistics:

  • Typically Canadian men die five to seven years before their wives.
  • Boomer men are beginning to die at an unprecedented rate. In fact four times as many women were widowed in 2013 as men1.

Something I know all too well, because my dad died when my brother and I were young boys. I remember vividly how hard my mother worked to keep our family going. It wasn’t easy. My dad didn’t leave much.

But incomes are so much higher today and, in a huge number of households, both the husband and wife are employed and both contribute. In fact 49.8% of women in dual income families work full time and 59.4% work part time2.

You’d think, therefore, that if women are contributing financially, they’d also be participating in the conversations and decisions involving investments. Surprisingly, though, often the opposite is true.

If the statistics I quoted earlier continue to play out, in all likelihood there could come a day when your wife or partner finds herself not only grieving your loss, but also finding out, for the first time, where she stands financially.

It’s a lot to handle, at a very difficult time.

That’s one reason women should be involved. The other reason women should step forward and ask to be included is this: It’s your future too and your goals, objectives, tolerance for risk and opinions matter.

Then there’s the peace of mind, for everyone involved. So here’s my advice: If you’re a man involve your wife. You’ll rest much easier knowing she’s fully informed, in agreement and prepared. To women I’d say, get involved and participate so you can avoid unnecessary and unpleasant surprises down the road.

1 Statistics Canada, Population by marital status and sex, 2013
2 Statistics Canada, General Social Survey, 2010

Alan Friedman is an Investment Advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Toronto. The views of Alan Friedman do not necessarily reflect those of CIBC World Markets Inc. CIBC Wood Gundy is a division of CIBC World Markets Inc., a subsidiary of CIBC and a Member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. If you are currently a CIBC Wood Gundy client, please contact your Investment Advisor.


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