When the complacent CEO gets hacked

By Terry Cutler

When that home phone rings at a time of morning when sleep has moved into deep R.E.M., and the text messages start appearing it could only mean one thing to a CEO; there is a problem with the company security net. This could cost millions.

From best-case scenario to worse, you go over it in your head. Best Case? The security team caught a small breach. It isn’t enough to be overly alarmed, but it does warrant a phone call. Worse? Your monitoring system has spotted what security is calling “highly” suspicious activity over the company network. They are addressing the problem.

When the phone is answered you are told it is the ladder and the situation is expected to get worse.

This could mean even bigger money problems. Nasdaq, Sony, Citibank, whos hacks cost millions. Citibank’s hack attack (http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/devil-details/citi-hack-attack-6-things-you-must-do-now/4769/) in June of 2011 exposed personal information about some 200,000 customers. Since 2005, some 533 million personal records have been exposed, according to the Privacy Clearing House (https://www.privacyrights.org/). Sony’s 2011 hack of its PlayStation now reports that up to 70 million people had their personal data in jeopardy to hackers after a breach in 2011. Sony’s cleanup was estimated at 2 billion dollars.

In the meantime, the overnight customer service representative is reporting more than the usual complaints of unauthorized debits to their credit cards and banks, and your customer service department is overloaded with irate customers.

You’re next move? Admit it: you’ve been hacked.

Three credit card companies are on hold. Enough, you say. You’ve known all along, and on your way to work, the longest drive of your life. The year 2011 has been called the year of the hack, or at least more companies are admitting their security had been breached. Time to minimize the damage. On the drive to the office, you order company representatives to post a notification letter on the website, explaining the situation and assuring customers that the company is working on the problem. Offer credit-rebuilding services and flag unauthorized use of credit cards, and offer free stuff.

As CEO, you are aware of the value of reassuring customers and keeping them as valued customers. It’s the company’s bread and butter. A company’s reputation if founded on how customers are treated, and including them in the problem through notifications will help maintain the established reputation. Your head security consultant meets you at the door. He informs you that the hack is not as bad as first thought. In fact, only a few files were lifted, but the network was breached, and the consultant reminds you that security is not a reactive game, but one with a proactive approach.

What he is saying is budget more money for security – it’s better that way. Or pay the price of a large-scale hack!

The decision is clear, or is it?

Next week: why companies don’t budget for an eventual hack

follow me on twitter @terrypcutler

 

TANSTAAFL – do you agree??

With pardons to others (like me) who prefer correct grammar, TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!

It seems we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and special offers that say FREE this and FREE that – what nonsense! Does anyone seriously think that any business is in business to give things away for nothing? Of course they aren’t – so how does it work?

To illustrate, I am going to use the current plethora of FREE texting offers on smartphones, iPads, iPods, Blackberry, Blueberry and everything else. The first concept is simple – it costs money to transmit text or voice or video or data or pictures – everywhere in the world. Cost for the lines, for the equipment, for the poles, holes, employees, electricity, buildings, property, etc. (plus taxes of course!!) So if the end-user (you and me) isn’t being charged for these – who is being charged – or are we??

Two parts to the answer – the base rate for using the service is increased to everyone to cover these costs – it may only amount to a few cents each month, but it is there somewhere – hidden – but there – either in monthly fees, setup costs, network fees or some other means – OR/AND you and I get hit with dozens of advertising emails and texts and links sent by business subscribers who want us to buy something – so we are paying now in two more ways – one by having to take the time to filter out and delete these annoying missives and two, the cost of the items we buy contains some component to cover the cost of advertising – for print, audio, text, video – all types of advertising.

The same is true for things like Airmiles, loyalty points – the cost is buried in the underlying items – loyalty isn’t free and neither are Airmiles or points – someone, somewhere, somehow is paying – either the merchant who belongs pays some $$ to the promoters (and who do you think pays more in the cost of goods to pay these promoters their $$???) or a percentage of sales (but then the cost of the goods to everyone goes up again!) or the credit card issuer – ever wonder why when you pay with cash you don’t get a discount?? When we pay with cash, the vendor makes a bigger profit that when we use a credit card or debit card (because of merchant charges made by the card issuers) – could it even be possible that the cash-paying customers are subsidising the customers who pay with pieces of plastic???

Good heavens – there is nothing for free – what a jolt to our system!!

Facing divorce. . .Should I sell the house now?

 If you believe that we are facing a “real estate bubble” ,  the decision of what to do with your home   is  challenging.. sell now and wait to buy if/when prices go down?

 What does that mean to you if you’re someone facing divorce today?  Should you consider selling quickly to take advantage of the market now?  Some people believe they should sell now and split the money and each buy something  on you own before prices climb even further.  

Many couples  have to make  tough decisions  about their home sometimes before they have a final separation agreement in place.

Many people are carrying large debt loads and are shocked to see how much they in fact have left over  after paying off all their debts.  In calculating the cost of a new home, you must take into account such things as legal fees, moving costs, utility set up fees,  condo fees, etc

The big expense that buyers overlook, however,  is land transfer tax.  And if you  considering buying in the GTA, there is an additional land transfer tax assessed.  Most realtors and mortgage brokers websites have a land transfer tax calculator. If you can’t  locate one easily, let me know and I’ll do the  calculation for you.

For most couples, the marital home is your  largest asset. You may want to look at all your options and get  financial advice before moving on!

So What Goes in a Full Financial Plan Part 3 of 3

So – now the wrap up of this series.

Financial Planning is intensely personal and clients need to have complete faith and trust in their advisor to make the process work properly, effectively and efficiently. The relationship is the key to success.

It is for this reason, that top planners spend the first meeting just working on laying the foundation for a relationship to grow and blossom – listening is the key of course – the good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth – and good planners and advisors use them in that ratio! This is what as known as a “non-interview”.

I first learned about this concept about three decades ago by reading a book by a fellow named J. Douglas Edwards – “Questions are your answer” – copies are still available in used book stores and on-line – I highly recommend that everyone involved in the financial/estate/retirement planning process, read it – and read it several times. In fact, it is excellent reading for anyone in a sales, marketing and/or management role.

I want to touch on the reporting now – I can hear advisors and planners already saying that if they covered everything I listed in my two previous posts, the final report is going to be 100 pages in length! Well, that depends, doesn’t it ——– on the client.

Some clients are detail-oriented, number crunchers, navel inspectors, etc. – and for those people, a planner can create dozens of reports and many dozens of pages – looks impressive I admit – but of what value to the client?

I learned from studing about and listening to people like Jim Rogers, John Savage, Jack and Gary Kinder, Norman Levine, Charlie Flowers, Don Pooley, Hal Zlotnik, Rick Forchuk, Dick Kuriger, Jim Otar and many others – that simple is best.

In my experience, I have found that the planners who use the longest reports are often trying to impress clients with quantity as opposed to quality. Certainly the attitiudes of the client drive the entire process – including the reporting and some clients do want more details than others – but this is a fine line to follow.

I have found that there needs to be enough detail to illustrate to the client that their goals can be achieved given a certain set of circumstances, what changes they need to make and actions they need to take and I allow the client to determine how that is done. As an example, before I present a plan, it is my normal practice to ask them a few questions first, including: How much time to you want to spend at our next meeting reviewing the plans? Do you want to go over the entire plan in detail, or do you want just a high-level summary and then decide on what sequence to follow before getting deeply involved in the entire report? As part of my interview process, I ask clients very early on to indicate their priorities in dealing with their goals – and regardless of my personal preference or prejudice, I follow the sequence or timing as verbalised by the client – this is critical IMHO.

My preference is to give a high-level overview at the first reporting meeting – typically no more than 3 or 4 pages – I don’t want to frighten them or have them start to think they can’t change anything – spoon feeding in other words. Then the rest is covered over the next two or even three meetings so they aren’t overwhelmed and I use LOTS of pictures and graphs and as few tables of numbers as possible. If they ask for some specific details, of course I can produce them, but I don’t try to bury them.

Last, but not least, as a professional financial planner, it is great to have a plan but unless it is implemented and there is regular follow-up (at a minimum of once every two years) to make adjustments as necessary – the whole thing collapses into a pile of snot with only some wasted money and good intentions left lying on the ground!

Anyway, that wraps up this series – hope you find some of the comments of value or at least thought-provoking – agreement is neither necessary, required or expected! Cheers Ian

So What Goes in a Full Financial Plan – Part 2 of 3

So here we go on part 2 of this 3-part series

Post-employment/work Income PlanningAll sources of potential revenue.

1) Employment pensions:
a) Type – Defined Benefit Plans, Money Purchase Pension Plan (Defined Contribution) Deferred Profit Sharing Plans, Employee Profit Sharing Plans, Employee Share Purchase Plans, Group RSP, etc. – past and present – valuations, statements, benefit formulas – early or late – contribution rates, maximums, etc.
b) Portability, commutability – formulas, etc.
c) Inflation protection – none, partial or fully indexed.
d) Pension choices available – spousal requirements, pension splitting options, etc.
e) Income buy-back availability.
f) Integration with OAS or CPP as applicable.

2) Personal retirement assets:
a) RRSPs, Spousal RSPs, Locked-In Retirement Accounts, Locked-in RSPs, Tax Free Savings Accounts, OPEN – depending on current purpose if in existence.
b) Valuations, statements, reasons for choices of investment holdings.
c) Plans for disposal of other investments/business interests/tax-shelters, etc. to supplement other retirement income assets.
d) CPP and OAS benefits statements – OAS maximization/claw-back minimization and planning.
3) Other Savings/Investments earmarked for other purposes/re-direction possibilities.
4) Review potential for partial employment or other post-retirement income supplements, potential inheritances, etc.

Education Planning – as appropriate For clients and family members as applicable.
1) RESPs, other in-trust holdings earmarked for education:
a) CESG and related possibilities including low-income education benefits for grandchildren/great-grandchildren.
b) Retiring student loans effectively.
c) Potential uses of Tax Free Savings Accounts for children.

Charitable/Philanthropic Intentions Family, living and/or posthumous recognition or benefits, donation planning.

Special needs – challenged or gifted Registered Disability Savings Plans, other government assistance plans, trusts, grants.

Wills, Codicils Inter-vivos/Discretionary Trusts, Alter-Ego/Joint Spousal Trusts, General and
Restricted POAs – including bank accounts, Limited POAs, Enduring POAs,
Representation Agreements (Living Wills), Multi-jurisdictional Wills/Multiple Wills for non-situs assets,
Planned inheritances, tax implications, contingent ownership issues etc.
choices for Executors/Co-Executors/Corporate/Contingent Executors, Guardianship
of the person and financial guardianship, conservatorships.

Marriage Marital regime, prior divorce, financial obligations from previous relationships that
survive death. Discuss domestic partnerships as appropriate.

Special tax-planning issues Restructuring cash flows, taxable inheritance planning. Review previous
personal, corporate, partnership, Limited Partnership financials, trust tax returns for missed items,
trends. Discuss Health and Welfare Trusts or Private Health Services Plans, as appropriate.

Risk tolerance assessment Separated by family member, goal specific – generic asset allocations, generic product
allocations.

Gift planning Family and others – refer back to Charitable/Philanthropic.

Intergenerational Wealth Transfer Tax effective and efficient transfer of wealth – next and/or subsequent generations.

Implementation roadmap Suggested target dates, sequences.

So What Goes in to a Full Financial Plan? Part 1 of 3

I start this series with a bit of trepidation – I have so far, in more than 20 years of doing financial planning, been able to find some sort of universal agreement on what should be covered – but here is my attempt. I fully expect some disagreement – but that is good – it means people are thinking about it seriously! Also, readers should be aware that “financial planning” is NOT about selling products – it is exclusively about helping clients create a roadmap for their lives – financial and otherwise. For brevity, I am covering these issues in point form – obviously the actual discussions drive the ultimate destination and no two clients(even spouses or partners) have exactly the same vision – which keeps life interesting! If anyone would like confirmation of what some of these abbreviations and notes mean to me – just ask!

LifestyleCurrent and future, hobbies, interests, health issues/family history, soft-facts via
non-interview. Potential for changed occupation(s), children? Where do they
see themselves in 5, 10, 15, 20 years??

Cash Flow Actual versus planned, leakage (un-accounted for loss of revenue)/budget/cash flow
Planning.
Income tax assessment/recommendations. Income splitting (CPP and other options).
Debt analysis and review – consolidation, refinance, Line(s) of Credit, Total Debt Service Ratios,
eliminate debt through use of other assets to improve cash flow, TDSR, etc.

Assets and Liabilities Including property assessments, mortgage/loan statements and schedules, details of
co-signing, credit card statements, revolving LOCs, bank accounts, GICs, TFSAs,
RESPs, all Registered Products, notes/mortgages receivable, loans to family
members, ACBs, assessments, valuations, cash flows, etc., stock options,
student loans

Risk Management Risk assessment – lives, property, automobiles and business.
Assessment of risk protection alternatives.

1) For individuals – all family members:
a) As appropriate, discussions about life insurance, disability insurance, critical illness insurance and long-term care insurance.
b) Discuss beneficiary appoints (contingent), previous spouses, blended families.
c) Review of group insurance benefits available – including life, AD & D, STD, LTD,
Medical, Dental, Vision Care, Out-of-country, HSAs, etc.
d) Current and available accident benefits, credit life insurance, disability insurance and critical illness insurance.
e) Potential for expanded benefits through ICBC re automobile injury/death.

2) For business/investment real estate/tax shelters/etc. – all involved family members:
a) Over-head Expense Coverage, Disability Buy-Sell, CII Buy-sell.
b) Grouped Executive Enhanced Benefits Plans.
c) LOC coverage as appropriate.
d) Discussion of Buy-Sell situation, liabilities, potential problems for survivor and deceased family.

3) Contingent Liabilities – all involved family members:
a) Who signed what and are the debts protected and recoverable – including review of alternatives.
b) Can contingency be removed.

4) Residence – owned, rented – reviews as appropriate:
a) Coverage for buildings, contents, scheduled items, deductibles, floaters, exclusions (earthquake), limits.
b) Voluntary medical payments, own damage, personal liability, off premises items, properties.
c) No frills, Basic, Broad Form or Comprehensive coverage.
d) Is building or contents over-insured?
e) If strata – match coverage with Strata Insurance Certificate to ensure no gaps.
f) Loss-payees.
g) Improvements updated on policy – strata and detached residences.
h) Fair Market Value versus Replacement Value updated on policy
i) Scheduled items – basket-clause application for jewelry, collectables, etc.
j) Check coverage for ATVs, boats, etc. extended re damage, theft, destruction and liability.

5) Automobiles – Government and Private insurance as appropriate:
a) Are deductibles appropriate given age of vehicles, use, driver?
b) Waiver of depreciation appropriate
c) BC residents – RoadStar eligibility/benefits.
d) Loss of use
e) Underinsured Motorist limits
f) Uninsured Motorist limits
g) Supplemental Death and Income Benefits
h) Third-party liability
i) After-market upgrades or improvements
j) Change of use
k) Experience of drivers
l) Check coverage re ATV’s, boats, etc. extended as floaters or endorsements
m) For boats – Recreational Boater operator cards, etc.
n) Coverage for personal items such computers, cell-phones, iPads, etc. if vehicle stolen or destroyed.

6) Business/Rental Properties/investments/tax-shelters:
a) Coverage limits for structures, loss payees, flood, fire.
b) Third-Party liability, voluntary medical, own damage.
c) Loss of revenue – business continuation – business financial statements.
d) Recent valuations of all assets used in the business.
e) Business cash flow.
f) Tenant damage as appropriate.
g) Revolving Lines of Credit and terms/agreements/co-signing.
h) Business agreements – shareholder, partnership, operating, financing, royalty, revenue sharing, etc. as appropriate.

Taxation and financial planning – Part 2 of 2

So let’s pick up where we left off last week.

Whether people recognise it or not, wealthy people do pay more total taxes than lower income earners – they like more toys, more vacations, more luxuries – guess what – there are taxes included in all of those items too – but then, to admit that would go against the current 1% versus the 99% protests! The simple fact is, there is no “tax freedom” day – everything we spend goes for taxes or raw materials – everything in between is taxes or becomes taxes in one form or another – but let’s not get depressed about it! How does this impact on financial and insurance/estate planning?

Projecting future tax rates that might apply to retirement income or tax credits that might exist for personal health care is a losing proposition. The same applies to the future impact of estate succession/capital gains or even inheritance taxes (which will come back in the future in one form or another – guaranteed!)

Most software programs in use today around the world for the financial services industry, add compelling statements such as “full income tax T-1 calculation done for each year of your plan” (pardon the Canadian influence – but I are one – and proud of it!!). What rubbish. The only thing that COULD accurately be said is the tax calculations are reasonably accurate for the PREVIOUS tax year – everything else is at best an estimate and at worst, a SWAG.

Canadians want more services paid for by “governments” so the governments have to get more $$ from the tax payers to pay for those services. Remember, there is only ONE taxpayer – that is each person. Businesses don’t actually pay any tax – never have and never will – they are simply conduits to get taxes from tax payers to the various levels of government. Some politicos say we are going to raise taxes on various businesses – how nonsensical! Does anyone seriously believe that the business is going to reduce profits to owners, partners and shareholders to pay the tax? Of course not – they just increase the cost of the item, good or service they sell to…….guess who……. tax payers!! But then, that isn’t nice to admit either! The same applies when businesses are charged royalties for accessing natural resources – the cost of those royalties are simply passed along to the consumer – who is also the tax payer – again! BOHICA!

In financial and insurance/estate planning, all we currently need to address are income taxes – and then only as a best estimate. It is my normal practice to include a large disclaimer relating to tax estimates and then I go further by increasing the projected costs by a further 10%. Why do I do that? I have never met a retiree in need of health care who complained about having too much money available to get the level and quality of care they want. I have never met a widow or widower or orphan or surviving business partner who ever complained about having too much tax-free cash available. And I know all governments are going to need more revenue in the future – and they can only get it from us!

BTW for those readers who may not be familiar with the words SWAG or BOHICA – they come from my past military experiences – SWAG – silly wild ass guess – BOHICA – bend over here it comes again! Cheers.

Taxation and Financial Planning – Part 1 of 2

A topic we all love to hate – but it needs to be examined a bit closer when it comes financial and insurance/estate planning – but no, I am not going to turn this into an course on Income Tax – but rather I am going to present some points for consideration in your planning processes.

I am always amused at various federal and provincial politicians that stand up and brag that “we have removed the burden of taxation from those Canadians with the lowest incomes”. Sounds wonderful and some politicos may actually believe it – but I assure you it is completely false. Other tax goodies such GST/HST tax credits for low income earners, Climate Action credits, planned low income tax credits, etc. are simply political smoke and mirrors. I will clarify something right here – I never have been, am not and never expect to be a member of any federal, provincial or civic/municipal political party or action committee – my comments are completely apolitical. I lump all political parties together when it comes to these games, and frankly I don’t trust any of them to be completely honest – but then I am a cynic or so I have been told!

OK, back to my point – sort of. Every person in Canada who purchases anything is paying taxes to all levels of government in Canada plus additional taxes to foreign governments if the item(s) purchased were made outside Canada or the raw materials came from outside Canada. And this applies to EVERYONE – from the person at the top of Canada’s Wealthiest list to the person who scrapes by begging for handouts or receives social assistance of one type or another. Charities pay taxes too – and this includes religious organisations that, for whatever reason, have been given charitable status – money is being moved around to all levels of government.

Many people “rejoice” when tax-freedom day arrives – somewhere around the middle of the year according to several organisations – I contend this is a complete fallacy – and I’ll tell you why!

Assume I make and sell a widget. When I calculate the price for which I am willing to sell it, I have to look at all the TAX inputs – buying the raw material to make it – I am paying taxes to the seller of the raw materials who is paying taxes on those raw materials to government in the form of royalties, licence fees plus taxes on purchasing the equipment that they used to get the raw materials. I have to calculate in the selling price the amount of money I paid to the manufacturers of the equipment that I use to make my widget and they have included in their price of the equipment all of the taxes they had to pay. I have to calculate the labour costs included in each widget I make and that includes payroll taxes such as CPP, EI, Health Care etc.

Then I have to include the property tax I pay for the building that houses the equipment in which I make the widget – and if I lease the building and land, then I pay a pro-rata share of the taxes my landlord pays. Next I have to package the widget and pay taxes on the materials used in the packaging, then I have to ship it somewhere and pay taxes on that including road and bridge tolls, provincial, federal and local taxes or surcharges, fuel taxes, port taxes, customs duties etc. Finally I get around to paying me – and I have to figure in my tax bill to figure what I need to have left to take of me and my family and pay all of these same types of taxes on everything we consume or use.

Whether people want to recognise it or not, wealthy people do pay more total taxes than lower income earners – they like more toys, more vacations, more luxuries – guess what – there are taxes included in all of those items too – but then, to admit that would go against the current 1% versus the 99% protests! The simple fact is, there is no “tax freedom” day – everything we spend goes for taxes or raw materials – everything in between is taxes or becomes taxes in one form or another – but let’s not get depressed about it! How does this impact on financial and insurance/estate planning?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Effects of Inflation on Financial, Estate and Retirement Planning and product illustrations

After reviewing different options for growth rate assumptions in previous blogs, let’s now examine inflation. From Statistics Canada’s website, the following inflation rates apply for the same 1992 to 2011 period.

1992 1.8 %
1993 1.4 %
1994 0.2 %
1995 1.5 %
1996 1.9 %
1997 0.7 %
1998 0.9 %
1999 2.4 %
2000 3.0 %
2001 0.7 %
2002 3.7 %
2003 2.1 %
2004 2.2 %
2005 2.2 %
2006 1.8 %
2007 2.6 %
2008 1.3 %
2009 1.5 %
2010 2.7 %
2011 2.7 %

Average 1.87 %

Median 1.85 %

CAGR 1.86 %

Inflation has ranged considerably since the 1950s – from mid-double digits (during the period of a strange PET creation called the Anti-inflation Board) to a minus during a recession. Even in this illustrative period it has gone from 0.2% for a low to a high of 3.7% – more than 18 times the lowest rate!! 3.7% is a plan killer – particularly over 20 or 30 years – and remember from a couple of blogs back, this is just the main CPI result – sub-indices for things such as Health Care and Recreation can be and very often are considerably higher – which results in an even larger impact post-retirement than just the basic CPI. But let’s continue the basic thread here.

If I take the Average, Median and CAGR results from one of the previous blogs and subtract these inflation figures, look at what happens.

Net Average 4.98 % $2,640.69 Overstated by 32.20 %

Net Median 8.00 % $4,660.96 Overstated by 133.34 %

Net CAGR 3.52 % $1,997.49

You can see that the Net Average drops from 6.84% to 4.98%; the Net median is reduced from 9.85% to 8.0% and CAGR drops to 3.52% from 5.38%. Putting these inflation-adjusted rates into the usual future-value formula, using the Net Average rate results in the initial $1,000.00 invested growing to $2,640.69, the Net Median gives $4,660.96 while using the Net CAGR provides a total of $1,997.49 after the 20-year period. I will further complicate this discussion by taking the CAGR from the blog adding money to the fund – 5.01% and subtract the 1.86% CAGR for inflation, and now I get a Net CAGR of only 3.15%!!

I am going to ignore the Median calculations in my future comments – and you can obviously see why – that leaves either the Net Average or the Net CAGR.

The CAGR is the actual calculated Compound Annual Growth Rate for the initial $1,000.00 investment over 20 years – it takes into account the actual up and down movements for each year to give the actual end result. The numerical Average does not consider the actual end result of the annual changes to the rates of return – rather just the annual rates themselves. Which, IMHO, is seriously flawed logic. As you can see from the table above, using the Net Average results in projected future values 32.20% HIGHER than actual history would indicate – can you justify an error rate this large to yourself or your clients??

I cannot.

I was told by a statistician many years ago that averages are nothing but the worst of the best and the best of the worst – reviewing these numbers proves that statement to me – and I hope to my readers as well.

Talking to various actuaries (a very interesting group of folks I might add) over many years, particularly pension actuaries, I have been told many times that the real rate of return on money over long periods of time (30 plus years), is typically in the 3.00% to 3.50% range – RROR being return over and above inflation but before taxes – and surprise, surprise, this is what is supported by the actual results over the previous 20 years using the S&P/TSX Total Return Index and applying the Stats Canada CPI and actual calculated Compound Annual Growth Rate!

Next time, I will discuss another favourite hobby-horse – income taxes! Cheers

Now that I’m divorcing …where did the money go?

Figuring out who will pay the bills each month is an important conversation most couples have when they are  first  married.  It seems that who ever takes on that  assignment  keeps  that role  for most of the marriage. However, if you’re not paying the bills, you don’t know where the  money is going.  If one person is making most or all of the money, does that person get to make most or all of the financial decisions?

At a minimum you may want to have regular household meetings complete with  some bookkeeping software  or other spreadsheets so that the person writing the checks and paying the bills  can keep the other one up to speed. It may be very useful to  handing the   family finance controls back and forth at the beginning of each year.

Looking at bills can be a headache, but there’s no better way to get a sense of your family finances.  If you’ve  done that during your marriage and  now find yourself facing divorce, you at least know where the money’s been going.    Coming up with a measurement of  lifestyle  while married is a starting point  for  discussions around what you might require to maintain “similar” lifestyle once your divorced and on your own.