Dear Penny: I think my husband is gambling away our future on Robinhood – Tampa Bay Times

Posted: September 8, 2020 at 7:58 am

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It might be a good time for a general conversation about your shared savings and retirement goals, the advice columnist writes.

Dear Penny,

My husband became obsessed with the stock market during quarantine. His company stopped its 401(k) match in March, so he stopped contributing. He also stopped making his Roth IRA contribution, which he used to max out.

Instead, hes putting all that money into his Robinhood account and hes always trading on the app.

I left my job in the medical field earlier this year because of worries about COVID-19 and because our kids school had closed. Weve decided not to send the kids back to school at least through the end of 2020, so Im at home getting our three kids through virtual school. Since Im not working, I cant contribute to a retirement account of my own.

I dont know much about the stock market and I have zero interest. My husband has a finance degree, though thats not his profession, so I lack his expertise in this respect. Some of his friends are equally obsessed with Robinhood. Im alarmed because Ive heard them joke about the risky bets theyve made.

He hasnt taken money out of retirement accounts or our savings. He says I shouldnt worry because hes made way more than he would have with his 401(k) and also because were still current on all our bills even without my income.

Is it OK that hes stopped contributing to his 401(k) so he can trade stocks? How do I ask him what hes actually investing in? Im worried that hes gambling money that we need for our retirement.


Dear K.,

Maybe your husband does know more about the stock market than you do. But it sounds like youre the smarter investor.

If your husband is using the fact that hes gotten superior returns since March compared to what hes averaged in his 401(k) over the years, hes giving himself WAY too much credit. Please dont buy in.

As of Sept. 1, the S&P 500 was up 57 percent since its historic crash in March. Those returns simply arent sustainable. Historically, stocks deliver average annual returns of about 10 percent before you account for inflation. Investments in 401(k) plans skew conservative, so youd expect slightly lower returns.

You dont build wealth through huge short-term stock market fluctuations. You build it by consistently investing and staying put over the long haul. Your concern implies that, unlike your husband, you grasp that.

But this question is about so much more than money.

Youre not earning a paycheck right now, but youre very much working. Youve put your career on pause and taken on the difficult work of getting your family through the pandemic.

But has your husband sacrificed? It doesnt sound like it. Instead, hes turning your couch into a casino.

Heres whats even more worrisome, though: Hes unilaterally making decisions that affect your entire family without your consent, despite knowing youre worried. This is not a partnership.

You obviously know that its time for a long-overdue talk with your husband about his decisions. And while Im being hard on him, Id suggest taking a different approach.

Dont lead with Im worried that youre gambling away our future. Its a 100 percent legitimate concern. I just dont think it will start a productive dialogue.

Tell him instead that you want to set aside a couple hours to go over all of your investment and savings accounts. Its harder for him to get defensive if youre simply seeking to understand where your family finances stand. If he resists having an open conversation, consider it a huge red flag.

Focus the discussion on your broader goals, like when you want to retire or whether you want to pay for your kids college. Dont let yourself get sucked into an argument about the returns hes gotten. Those returns are unattainable in the long run. Aim to figure out what you should contribute for retirement based on the modest 6 percent to 7 percent returns financial planners estimate youll average.

One thing Id insist on here is that he prioritize your retirement as well. Youre right that you cant contribute to a retirement account without earned income, but earning spouses can fund an IRA for a non-earning spouse. The regular IRA contribution limits of $6,000 if youre under 50 or $7,000 if youre 50 or older apply.

Once youve resumed funding your retirement accounts sufficiently and youre saving for any other goals, you can split any extra money between the two of you for your individual wants. If he chooses to trade stocks on Robinhood, he can bet to his hearts content.

Dont let him sway you with his stock market expertise. Your future is at stake. Personally, Id trust you to manage my money over your husband any day.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at the Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to

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Dear Penny: I think my husband is gambling away our future on Robinhood - Tampa Bay Times

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September 8th, 2020 at 7:58 am

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