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12 investment mistakes couples make

If two heads are better than one, do couples have an advantage when it comes to investing?

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The reality is that it's difficult enough for two people to share a closet, much less money styles, financial priorities and investing strategies.

As a result, there are a number of couple-related investing errors that planners and attorneys see again and again.

1. Too many accounts
With a lot of couples, investment accounts are spread over a number of banks, brokerage houses and financial institutions.

Result: "It's a little out of control," says Karen Altfest, vice president of New York-based L.J. Altfest & Co. "It's too much for most people to handle."

Andrew Tignanelli, CPA, CFP and president of Financial Consulate Inc., in Baltimore, sees this often when only one spouse is managing the investments. "What happens to your spouse if you're not around, and you have money in seven or eight places?" he says.

Investing mistakes couples make
1. Too many accounts 7. No shared goals
2. One spouse deals with advisers 8. Skipping account maintenance
3. Not putting enough aside 9. Commingling inherited assets
4. Too much money tied up in cash 10. Investing without understanding
5. One party isn't getting a voice 11. Don't know how adviser earns money
6. Failing to diversify those investments 12. Not collecting 'free money' at work

When he poses that question to couples, either the light finally dawns or one spouse produces a notebook with directions on where all the money is located, he says.

Still, for a partner who is not used to dealing with investments, going on a financial scavenger hunt is going to be a hassle, says Tignanelli. A better alternative: Consolidate investment accounts in one location, he says.

2. One spouse deals with the money manager and investment advisers
Both parties need to develop and maintain a relationship with any and all the family's financial advisers, says Tignanelli. If something happens to one, the surviving partner will need a working relationship and sense of trust to manage those investments effectively.

If you're the one who normally handles the investing, try inviting your significant other to sit in, says Altfest.

If you're the one who doesn't normally get involved, this can be a good way to get your feet wet.

3. Not putting enough aside for retirement
The goal: 10 percent of your take-home pay, says David Bendix, CPA, CFP and president of the Bendix Financial Group in Garden City, N.Y.

But that amount "will vary depending on people's situations," he says. Another glitch Bendix sees: "They're not starting early enough."

4. Too much money tied up in cash
For long-term goals like retirement, many couples have "too much cash and too much in bonds" or other low-return vehicles, says Bendix.

Everyone has a different risk tolerance, though. Sit down with a financial adviser who can help draft an allocation plan that will meet your comfort level and needs, he says.

Next: "You shouldn't each go off half-cocked."
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