You've probably heard the one about the couple that gets lost while driving. The man won't admit they are lost and pull over to ask a stranger for directions—to the increasing exasperation of his wife and traveling companion.
When linguist Deborah Tannen included this anecdote in her pop classic on gender communication issues—"You Just Don't Understand"—which spent four years on the best-seller list and even earned Tannen a seat next to Oprah for a TV chat—she thought it was just a personal tale specific to her life. "The reason I used the example of the maps was because I prefer to read maps, but my husband and father didn't," Tannen said. "I didn't realize how pervasive it was."
So pervasive, in fact, that the now standard lost-couple metaphor could be all a husband and wife need to know regarding how to build a financial plan to last a lifetime. Really? ... Well, let's come back to that.
Gender does play a role in personal finance and investing. Through the major milestones in life—from marriage to buying a home and paying for college and all the way through to building the retirement nest egg and planning an estate—the way each half of a couple thinks and acts as an investor makes a critical difference in generating successful financial outcomes.