Consider this crucial fact when working with married clients: According to a 2010 Scientific American article, “Why Women Live Longer,” women, on average, outlive men by five to six years. As a result, they are far more likely to lose a spouse than men. 

That means most women will be forced into the financial driver’s seat at some point in their lives. But will they be prepared?

According to our “Couples Retirement Study,” which analyzed the retirement and financial expectations among 808 couples in May 2013, many won’t be. 

Of couples who use a financial advisor, only 42 percent jointly interact with the advisor. In cases where one member of the couple acts as a primary contact, the husband is three times more likely to assume this role than the wife.

To be clear, this is not an issue of capability or lack of interest on the wife’s part -- only 15 percent of those surveyed indicated a lack of interest in interacting with their financial advisor. Rather, their lack of involvement is driven by their trust in their spouse to control the advisor relationship.

While all couples take on different roles in a marriage, financial planning needs to be a joint priority. And, it’s in your best interest as an advisor to get both members of a couple engaged. While our study found that eight in 10 women do not intend to fire their advisor upon their partner’s death, when reality hits and there is no relationship in place, many do. An advisor’s bond with both members of a couple can be key to bridging this gap between intent and reality.

As a trusted advisor, you may be in a position to not only strengthen but grow your relationships with clients by engaging a couple jointly. In fact, many couples reported that they were more comfortable talking to their advisors than each other about many topics, including difficult long-term planning conversations such as death and inheritance.

So how can advisors help to ensure that the wives are prepared to step into the driver’s seat? 

Here are some best practices, uncovered through our research, to ensure that your relationships are solid with both halves of the married couple.

Best Practice #1: Implement A New-Client Policy Requiring Joint Participation