Broker Check
Couples and Finance: A One-Sided Approach Doesn't Work

Couples and Finance: A One-Sided Approach Doesn't Work

September 05, 2019

I’m beginning to realize that the way I grew up was maybe a little different from most women.

For generations, almost every woman in my family had a hand in keeping track of household finances, something I’ve come to understand is pretty unusual. And while my husband and I agreed that I would be the one who would keep track of our finances, budget, balance sheets, etc., we also agreed that we would sit down on a regular basis to discuss what was going on in our accounts.

I now know that this is not the norm.

A new report from UBS found that 56% of married women leave investment and long-term financial planning decisions to their husbands, and 85% of women who defer to their husbands believe their spouses know more about financial matters.

It's not just older generations. Millennial women are more likely to leave investment decisions to their husbands than any other age group, based on the report, which included surveys with nearly 1,700 married couples, including heterosexual and same-sex couples.

CNNMoney (Sept. 25, 2019)

It’s a Mindset

I have had many women in my office who feel that since their husbands are the primary wage earners for their household, they should be the ones making the financial decisions. The women don’t think of the work that they do – keeping an entire household running – is worth as much as what the primary breadwinner brings home. 

And that needs to change.

When it comes to women taking more control over their financial education, it’s really not a question of whether or not it should be done…it has to be done. Statistically speaking, women live longer than men which means they need to have a handle on retirement planning. Social security benefits are based on previous working years, so if a woman has stayed home to raise children, her benefits could be drastically reduced. And should a woman need long-term care later in life, that could have a significant impact on the funds that have been set aside for retirement.

Here’s the Problem

The truth is that, when it comes to couples and money, a one-sided approach is an enormous issue.

  • If you are not actively involved in your and/or your family’s financial life, you feel no ownership or responsibility regarding your financial goals. Everyone has worth. Learning how to effectively manage your financial future should be part of that.
  • Both parties should know everything about their financial situation, should an unexpected life event happen. Knowing at least a summary of your financial situation and where investments and policies are located will give you peace of mind.
  • Staying educated on things like your family’s budget, retirement plans, and spending sets a good example for the kids in the family. Because most schools don’t prepare children with financial education resources, these things need to happen at home. Showing them that both Mom and Dad are active participants will help ensure they start off on the right foot.

A Team Effort

I understand that money can be a sensitive topic. Some worry about being judged and some worry about asking financial questions because they don’t know much about the topic. I get it. It’s personal.

Financial planning is not a one-size-fits-all approach; each person brings their own unique set of values, concerns, needs, and goals to the table. And it’s important that both people feel heard.

Discussing your financial future is something that should inspire you; it should be something that both parties feel proud of instead of something that stresses you to the point of avoidance. But that might mean changing how you have the conversation.

And you don’t have to know everything there is to know about finances; when you clearly define your vision for your financial life, the educational piece of the process will naturally fall into place. It will take time and commitment on everyone’s part, but it will come together.

Melissa Thompson is an Investment Advisor Representative holding a ChFC® designation in the Castle Rock, CO and Denver, CO areas who focuses on educating individuals and small businesses about the importance of protecting and growing their financial assets. “My preliminary meeting process is a chance for us to talk about where you are and where you’d like to go. You’ll have the opportunity to make sure that my services fit your unique needs before you commit to moving forward. I look forward to creating life-long relationships with my clients and taking the fear out of financial planning.”