Dear Penny: My Husband Says Stock Market Is a Scam and Refuses to Invest

A couple play tug of war over money.
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Dear Penny,

I’m having trouble convincing my husband that we should start making investments. He thinks the stock market is a scam, but I’ve had several college classes that discussed Wall Street and several of my friends are doing OK with their portfolios. 

It was a struggle to even convince him to move from a traditional savings account to a high-yielding one. I would never bet with money we could not afford. How do I convince my husband that building wealth is a risk but a worthy one?


Dear K.,

Some people don’t invest because they truly are risk-averse. They lose sleep when the stock market has a bad day, let alone when it has a complete meltdown like the one we saw last March. Your husband could fall into this camp, particularly if he’s ever seen someone close to him lose money on a bad investment.

Sometimes it’s sheer laziness. That possibility crossed my mind for your husband. Not wanting to switch to a high-yield savings account seems less about risk and more about the fact that switching bank accounts is a pain.

Often, though, it boils down to this: We’d rather spend our money now instead of decades from now. It sounds like you’re relatively young — and when you’re young and your paychecks are stretched thin, it feels like you have all the time in the world. Investing takes a lot of discipline. So dismissing the entire stock market as a scam can be a convenient excuse for spending all of your money now.

Which do you think best describes your husband? If it’s the first scenario, he needs to understand that the bigger risk is not investing.

Suppose your goal is to retire with $500,000. You could save $1,000 a month for 40 years straight and still not get there. Your money would also be worth way less than $500,000 by that point due to inflation. But by earning average stock market returns of 8%, you could get to $500,000 by investing less than $200 a month for 40 years.

If laziness is the issue, that’s easy. You can budget an amount to automatically transfer and let a robo-adviser invest it for you based on your age, when you want to retire and how much risk you’re willing to take. Pretty much any major brokerage offers robo-investing. You don’t need to actively manage a portfolio.

If your husband is the type who wants to spend every cent today, that’s a bigger challenge. I think you’ll have the best chance of success if you and your husband can get on the same page about your long-term goals.

At the very least, does he acknowledge that he wants to retire someday? If so, does he have any ideas about how he plans to get there without investing?

You could suggest starting small with $50 or $100 a month. Perhaps if you can identify something that would be relatively painless for both of you to cut, you can start there and invest that money instead.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a wealthy person who isn’t invested in the stock market. Yet on some level, I get your husband’s skepticism.

I’m not going to tell you that the financial system is perfect. Of course, there will always be scams. But there are plenty of regulatory agencies protecting investors, including the SEC, which regulates the market, and FINRA, which sets the rules for brokerages. You can avoid scams even further by investing across the stock market using an index fund instead of just a handful of companies. Avoiding dirt-cheap penny stocks will also help you avoid being scammed.

Consistently putting money into an S&P 500 index fund is the most proven way to build wealth over time. If you’d invested at any point in the index’s history and kept your money invested for 20 years, you’d have earned a profit every time.

I’m hoping that your husband’s resistance stems from the fact that he’s unfamiliar with investing. Maybe he’ll come around once he sees your money isn’t vanishing into a slot machine each month.

What I don’t want is for you to shoulder the burden for managing your money alone, and I get the sense that may be happening. At a minimum, the two of you should sit down to review your finances once a month. You can go over your spending and talk about your bigger goals. If he still doesn’t want to invest, press him on it: How exactly does he plan to build a nest egg?

Don’t let him off the hook here. He doesn’t get to put your future at risk over his hard-headed beliefs.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].