Sheryl Sandberg’s Husband Died Suddenly. Where Would You Stand Financially if the Same Happened to You?

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, billionaire, and author of the bestselling book, Lean In, is grieving today in a not-so-private way. Her husband, Dave Sandberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, died suddenly on Friday, May 1, while the couple was vacationing in Mexico.

I cannot even imagine what she must be going through right now.

I have given my husband at least ten extra hugs since I heard the news. My heart goes out to her.

Sheryl lives in the public eye. She works hard to empower women in the workplace, and yet she has said in the media that her husband always handled the money—admittedly, something I was disappointed to hear from a woman of her stature.

Given the financial surplus the Sandberg’s likely enjoy, it’s unlikely that Dave’s death will have a significantly negative impact on her financially; but so many others are not so lucky.

And it’s not always death that separates a woman from her man and her financial security…

In my many years of working closely with people and their money, I’ve found that this is usually how the story goes:

So you’re in love. So you really, really love this person you’re with and it seems like he has more of an interest in financial matters than you do, and you don’t really want to fight about money because you know money is still the number one reason that people get divorced, so you just… go with the flow.

You accept it. Without (verbal) protest. And you go along to get along.

And time passes, and as it passes you have a nagging thought that you should empower yourself. You should know where the accounts are and what the plan is. But today never seems like the right day.

But, at least you’re getting along.

And then, sometimes, you stop getting along.

And the inevitable, terrible thing happens and the person who was handling the money stuff in your life dies, or wants a divorce, or in some other way leaves you without enough.

Without enough knowledge. Without enough money. Without enough Information. In some cases, there’s no way for the partner left behind to even find the account numbers or understand the insurance policies or, in some cases, even know the phone number to the financial advisor because the person you empowered to do all the money stuff is gone. And you didn’t get involved.

I’m a stand for couples staying together. In my wealth management practice, it’s essential that both members of the couple are an active and equal part of the financial planning process. In an article I titled, “Planning: It Takes Two”, I tell the story of one couple I worked with and the ultimate reason why you’ve got to come to my table together.

Now, I’m going to remind you of something you already know.

Whether you’re young and in love, or many happy anniversaries in to your married life, one day, something will happen and one of you will go first.

You don’t like to think about it or bring it up or cause it in any way, but you know this inevitability remains, sometimes at the edges of your consciousness, and I suppose it is there to help you remember that one day one or the other of you will be on your own, making tough decisions, handling what the other has always handled for the both of you.

It matters, that when the time comes, and you find yourself on your own with money matters, that you know what to do, how to take care of yourself financially, and how to find counsel when you need it.

Taking on an empowered money mindset that leaves you in the driver’s seat of your financial outcome gives you a much better chance at making it to the finish line of your life with enough money to make the journey joyful.

Here are some things you should know about why you shouldn’t leave financial matters all up to him:

  • Women tend to outlive their husbands by seven years. Seven years at the end of your life, without adequate financial training can be harrowing.
  • Sometimes, it’s more than seven years you need to think about. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a third of married couples are aged a year a part, but for 53%, the husband is older. Seven years plus the age difference between the two of you gives you a number to consider about how long you might live on after your husband passes away.
  • Money is still the number one reason for divorce—and, fights about money are the best indicator for the likelihood of divorce.
  • It is possible to have financial intimacy in your relationship, make financial decisions together, and plan for the reality that comes to every relationship: one or the other of you will live long enough to be a widow or widower.
  • Every day before that end, it is possible to deepen your relationship and enjoy the fullness of your lives together, knowing that together you make and manage the choices and decisions that give you financial intimacy, freedom and fulfillment.

One the best ways I know to create financial intimacy in your relationship is to do the undercover work to understand each other’s money histories and money psychology. I call this stuff your Money Operating System™.

In my TEDx talk, I defined what the Money Operating System™ is, how to know where you got yours, and how it works to control all things financial. This Money Operating System™ will keep you locked in your particular financial cycle until you can see it for what it is and install pre-designed systems that create new and lasting financial results that eventually outperform your original money programming.