Couples with a financial advisor are more honest with each other about their finances than those without, and couples should choose that advisor together, according to Marcy Keckler, senior vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise Financial.

“The financial picture for couples is over-archingly positive when it comes to how well they communicate and how transparent they are,” Keckler said in an interview. “There is a vast opportunity for advisors to work with couples” in planning for and carrying out retirement.

Keckler’s comments were based on the Ameriprise Couples, Money & Retirement study released today, which showed that 95% of American investors in committed relationships trust their spouses or partners on money matters and 93% share similar goals.

The research included more than 1,500 American couples with $100,000 or more in investable assets, with a focus on people who were in the decade before or after retirement. The study was designed to explore couples’ feelings about and experiences with retirement. Three-fourths of the couples had been together two decades or more.

The important lesson for advisors is that they need to start working with both members of a couple from the time they are prospects and beyond, Keckler said. “Advisors need to engage both people in a couple. If they work with one person more closely than the other, the advisors may not have the strength of relationships they need with the other person in the couple,” Keckler said.

For those who have advisors, 97% gave credit to their advisors for helping them in concrete ways, the survey said.

The survey also found that 72% of the couples were providing support for adult family members, either children or parents. The advisor needs to understand these financial challenges and help the couple avoid endangering their own financial futures by supporting loved ones, Keckler said. Fourteen percent of the couples said they are not on the same page about how much they should provide in support.

Another point of contention for one quarter of the participants was how much money they will need to save for retirement. A similar percentage say they have different estimates of how much money they will spend on hobbies and travel in retirement, and how much they will spend on their lifestyles in general.

The survey also showed couples plan to retire at the same time, but those participants who were actually in retirement said it frequently did not work out that way.

Among the respondents who have already retired, 87% say they did so at the right time, and 83% of their spouses or partners agreed. But that’s not to say they exited the workforce simultaneously, Ameriprise said.

“Only 11% retired at the same time, and nearly two-thirds (62%) staggered their retirements by at least a year. This reality may come as a surprise to those who have yet to retire. More than a quarter of pre-retirees (26%) plan to retire together, while only 39% are expecting to retire more than a year apart,” the company said.

“A lesson to those facing retirement is that they should plan to be flexible in retirement dates because often job or health factors change the plans,” Keckler said.

The top tips from the couples who had been together for a long time for how to live and retire together successfully were to communicate openly about financial goals; to find healthy ways to resolve financial disagreements; and to choose a financial advisor together, the survey said.

The couples had some specific concerns about their finances, including the impact of inflation, high healthcare costs, and potential tax increases.

Although the survey was mostly positive, Keckler noted that some couples still have some issues they need to address.

Fifty-two percent have not done an estate plan, 40% have not done a comprehensive financial plan, and 39% said they have not figured out how they will recreate their paychecks in retirement. “This presents another opportunity for advisors to help client couples,” Keckler said.

It is often conducive to good couple relations for each partner to have a separate financial account that he or she can draw from, however, both people should know about the accounts, Keckler said.

“A surprising fact is that in 14% of the couples one partner has a financial account the other does not know about,” said Keckler. Half said the balance is more than $10,000, while nearly a quarter said it is $50,000 or more.  “An advisor could help a couple like that be more transparent with each other.”

"Our research shows couples trust one another and share the same dreams for retirement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve mutually agreed on how they’ll spend, save, and give away their money when the time comes,” Keckler said. . “Some couples avoid discussing these topics because they feel overwhelmed—especially knowing that unexpected events can happen at any time—but putting it off can lead to challenges down the road.”

“The sage wisdom from these couples is clear: Getting on the same page with your spouse or partner about money and retirement is critical,” Keckler added. “Fortunately, couples don’t have to go at it alone—a qualified financial advisor can help break big decisions into smaller, more manageable conversations that will help both partners feel confident as they work together toward building wealth and enjoying their retirement years.”