UBS study of women investors reveals the “divide and conquer” approach

  • Majority of women worldwide defer long-term financial decisions to their spouse

  • This puts them at risk in a future where women are outliving men

UBS Global Wealth Management today launched the first global Investor Watch report of 2019, this time surveying women investors around the world on their approach to their financial well-being. The report has found that the traditional “divide and conquer” approach to managing finances, where women typically take care of day-to-day expenses and men take care of long-term planning, is leaving women ill-prepared to manage key financial needs during critical moments in their lives, such as divorce or the death of their partner.

The report, which surveyed nearly 3,652 high-net-worth (HNW) married women, widows, and divorcees in nine markets including the U.S., found that women’s deferral of important financial decisions to spouses extended to all generations, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

Among the key findings:

  • Women are acutely aware of their long-term financial needs: The top three financial needs identified by the majority of women globally include retirement planning (76%), long-term care (72%), and insurance (68%)

  • Yet few take the lead in managing their own long-term finances: Only 23% of women globally take charge of long-term financial planning decisions

  • But do control or are highly involved with the short-term needs of their families, taking charge of day-to-day expenses (85%)

  • Women continue to defer to their spouses for important financial decisions: More than half of women globally (58%) defer to their spouse to manage critical, long-term decisions for reasons ranging from “my spouse never encouraged me” to “my spouse knows more” about the topic

  • And millennial women are even more likely to let men lead: Surprisingly, millennial women in the U.S. are even less likely to take charge, with 56% of women age 20-34 deferring to their spouse, as opposed to 54% of women over 51 years of age

  • This behavior can put women at risk financially during critical life moments: This lack of participation stands in contrast to the urgent calls of U.S. widows and divorcees (98%) to push greater financial involvement, and the clear benefits for women who do partner with their spouses such as increased confidence and lower stress levels

"When 58% of women around the world—including the next generation of Millennials—defer to men on important financial decisions, we need to ask why," said Paula Polito, Global Client Strategy Officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. "This dynamic could go on for generations to come, unless both men and women make a commitment to engage in financial decisions together."

The Case for Couples to Work Together on Long-Term Investments

Many women are introduced to the important financial decisions that have been made for them, during critical life moments such as divorce or the death of a spouse. The study found that an overwhelming number of widows and divorcees (74%) discovered negative financial surprises when they were forced to take control.

According to the survey, the benefits for women who share responsibilities for long-term financial planning are clear:

  • 94% of women report higher confidence in their financial future

  • 93% of women report fewer mistakes made with both involved

  • 91% of women report being less stressed about their finances

The Risk of Not Being Involved
“As women around the world live longer, the likelihood of becoming widowed or divorced increases. It’s critically important that women not only understand, but are engaged in key, long-term financial decisions,” says Jane Schwartzberg, Head of Strategic Client Segments at UBS Global Wealth Management.

“Couples must recognize that sharing responsibility across all money decisions actually yields a dramatically better and more sustainable outcome than each partner handling one aspect alone.”

Explore more insights and read the full report.

Jen Coy