Should married women and men be equally involved in long-term financial decisions? Your answer is likely a resounding yes! The problem is, although everyone agrees a joint financial approach is best for spouses, it’s rarely happening in reality.
According to the 2021 “Own Your Worth” report from UBS, the world’s largest global wealth manager, nearly 100% of women and men believe women should be more involved in long-term financial decisions, such as investing, financial planning and estate planning. What’s more, women and men overwhelmingly believe that unless women are equally involved in these decisions, there will never be true gender equality.
Despite these strong beliefs, in heterosexual marriages, men continue to manage most of the finances. Seven in 10 men say they take the lead on long-term financial decisions, often believing they know more about long-term finances than their spouse. But there’s good news: Among men who take the lead, nine in 10 wish their spouse was more involved in long-term financial decisions.
Both women and men agree that making long-term financial decisions together would increase their confidence in the future, minimize financial mistakes and reduce anxiety about money. Currently, only about 20% of couples make long-term financial decisions together.
Surprisingly, this is even more common in younger couples. Prior to marriage, 88% of millennial women plan to share long-term financial decisions equally or take the lead. But after marriage, only 15% of millennial women make these decisions together. Fifty-one percent defer to their spouses — more than any other generation.
The importance of equal spousal participation is something that became clear the moment that John had an unexpected heart attack at age 34.
“It dawned on me while I was sitting on a hospital gurney thinking I was going to die that my wife doesn’t know where most of our investments are,” he said. “I’m using my last breaths to tell her exactly where the funding is.”
Fortunately, John survived and he and his wife, Chris, learned an important lesson. They now communicate regularly about finances and have everything documented in writing. This gives them both confidence in the future no matter what happens.
John and Chris’s story is part of “Real life, real stories,” an Own Your Worth video series found at UBS.com/women which shows how real people manage money, what’s at stake and lessons learned.
“Participation is the key to change,” says Carey Shuffman, Head of the Women’s Segment at UBS. “It’s critical for women to take their seat at the ‘money table’ so they can actively design the life and legacy they want. Men can be instrumental allies in removing barriers so active participation is possible.”
Male allyship is a priority for both Michael and George, two men featured in one of the videos.
“It’s a 50/50 partnership, but we split up the work and hold each other accountable,” said Michael, a millennial husband, about his equal financial partnership with his wife, Michelle.
George, a retired Baby Boomer and husband to Bonnie, agrees. “With us discussing all the financial decisions that we made, it helped us to make the best decisions because two heads are always better than one. My wife has a good handle on all the finances, so when I’m gone I have peace of mind she will do the right thing.”
First steps for equal financial involvement
Every couple’s situation is unique, but the most important thing is to get started together. Schedule regular conversations about where your finances are currently and your vision for the future. Be open, honest and value each other’s opinions. To help share long-term financial decisions equally, ask each other some questions:
- What do you want to accomplish in your life?
- Who are the people that matter most to you?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- What are your main concerns?
- How do you plan to achieve your life’s vision?
“When couples participate equally in long-term decisions, they feel greater confidence in achieving their goals, greater satisfaction in their financial situations and less stress about money, so this is a very powerful step in any marriage,” said Shuffman. “The importance of participation in long-term financial decisions doesn’t just apply to women in couples — women who are not in a partnership can ask these questions of themselves, or speak with other trusted loves ones, peers, or a financial professional, to help them get started.”