When is the right time to advise clients as couples or individuals?

  • Ascertain when to see clients as couples or individuals
  • Identify why some clients might want individual help
  • Explain the benefits of joint financial planning
When is the right time to advise clients as couples or individuals?
 Credit: Cottonbro/Pexels

When people find an adviser they trust, they tend to be loyal – even to the point of retaining the adviser through various house moves across the country.

But what happens if the client marries? Does the adviser become the couple’s adviser or remain with the individual? Should advisers maintain individual advice for each client, regardless of relationship status?

A recent debate escalating over various social media platforms saw the vast majority of advisers state they would prefer to advise a couple as a couple, not as distinct individuals.

Why should this be the case? And are there ever exceptions to the rule? What makes advising a couple together so important when it comes to long-term financial decisions?

The Twitter debate

Things got a little heated online, with financial advisers putting forward the case for seeing a couple together.

For David Hearne, chartered financial planner and volunteer fundraiser for charity Surviving Economic Abuse, it is best to advise a couple as a couple.

“It’s important for them, but also important to reduce the risk of financial exclusion and coercive control,” he says. 

Pippa Oldfield, assistant manager at Leeds-based Mazars, tweeted: “If your finances are interlinked in any way (you live together and both your incomes pay for your lifestyle/bills) then the financial planning should take into account your joint position, goals and objectives.

“It’s always a more productive outcome if both partners are involved.”

Joining the Twitter debate was Martin Bamford, managing director at Informed Choice, who wrote: “If you’re a ‘couple’ in life, why would you not be a couple when it comes to money? Money is simply fuel for your goals in life. Share one, share both.”

And Neil Liversidge, principal of West Riding Financial Solutions, tweeted: “[I’d advise] as a couple. I am surprised anyone said anything different.”

But Al Rush, principal of Echelon Wealthcare, was more cautious. He commented: “It depends on the dynamic and the need. If, for instance, it’s a defined benefit transfer – definitely a couple.

“If you’re both young and if the adviser can take into account the other party’s circumstances, there’s no strict requirement to have both as clients.”

He added: “Most IFAs would probably say ‘both’ to have control of both sets of assets under management. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in just knowing what the other partner is thinking and wants, and then working mindfully of that but more closely with one. All situations are different.”

The couple’s advocates

Moving away from social media, what do other specialists think? What are the reasons a joint financial planning meeting would be useful for clients?

Andrew Dixon, head of wealth planning at Kleinwort Hambros, says: “Personally, I generally prefer to advise couples as, overall, I think you achieve better outcomes for the family as you have a greater understanding of what motivates a client.