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12 investment mistakes couples make

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5. One party isn't getting a voice in investment decisions
Financial advisers see it all the time: One spouse loves the bigger returns often associated with stocks. The other, leery of risk, is more comfortable with a lower return and less in stocks. What often happens: The spouse who manages the investments decides the split.

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But the spouse who's "just along for the ride" has to live with the results, too. "What spouse wants to wake up one day and see this was all decided without them?" says Altfest.

In an era with a 50 percent divorce rate, many husbands and wives aren't thinking about what happens if they have to face retirement with just 50 percent of the money they created together or even only the accounts titled in their own names.

"It's the kind of thing you should be giving thought to," says Altfest.

When Kathleen Miller, CFP, author of "Fair Share Divorce for Women" and president of Miller Advisors Inc. in Kirkland, Wash., counsels couples, she has each partner take a quick quiz that assesses their risk tolerance. The quiz format allows couples to talk about it and "have some fun with it," she says.

In some cases, the goals and tolerance are similar enough that a blended strategy will truly satisfy both people. In others, it can make sense for partners to each keep their own investment accounts with asset allocations that will meet the comfort level of each.

"In my opinion, each party is better to have their own investment strategy with their money," says Miller. "That way, you own your own investment portfolio and the objectives."

Attorney and columnist Jan Warner has seen too many spouses discover bad investments or emptied accounts after the fact. "I think the premise that people should invest together is wrong," he says. Too many times, couples aren't really investing as a team, says Warner. Instead, one partner takes charge, and the other doesn't know what's going on.

Instead, he says, "Both partners need to take an active part in the investment strategy and know what's going on -- not just trust the partner."

But that doesn't mean that you and your partner should operate in a vacuum.

"You still want to see where it fits into the whole," says Miller.

6. Failing to diversify those investments
Different assets will accumulate wealth at different rates. And many are cyclical.

One way to protect your retirement accounts from economic ups and downs: diversify. Talk with your adviser to draft an asset allocation plan you can live with and stick to it, says Miller.

Some talking points for conversation: Look beyond the basic labels of stocks and bonds to analyze what makes your portfolio truly diverse. How are you spreading your money and risk over different categories, like large and small companies, foreign and domestic investments, and various industries?

7. No shared goals
"One household should have one set of goals. Otherwise, it's very difficult," says Altfest. "You shouldn't each go off half-cocked."

She makes sure to ask a couple what their goals are and how they plan to work toward them.

It's also important to distinguish short-term, midterm and long-term goals and invest accordingly, says Bendix.

8. Skipping regular account maintenance
The same people who are religious about regular service for a car they'll keep for four years can be complacent on maintenance for retirement accounts that will last a lifetime.

Sit down together every three months and look at your quarterly statement. Examine account balances annually, and rebalance those investments if necessary, says Miller.

 
 
Next: Beware of institutions that push their own proprietary products.
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