Women, men, money and mismatches

Women, men, money and mismatches

New research indicates that many partners in a couple are unaware of how much money the other partner earns and many have a significant knowledge gap on managing their finances and saving for retirement.

According to the Fidelity Investments 2015 Couples Retirement Study, 43% of couples couldn’t correctly identify how much their spouse makes. And that’s even though most couples (72%) said they communicate exceptionally or very well about financial matters.

Other critical misunderstandings and knowledge gaps about money revealed by the survey include:


  • 36% of couples disagreed on the amount of the household's investible assets.

  • When asked how much they will need to save to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement, nearly half (48%) said they have "no idea"—and 47% are in disagreement about the amount needed.

  • Couples aren't on the same page when it comes to describing their expected lifestyle in retirement—with one in three disagreeing about how comfortable that lifestyle would be.

  • Half of couples surveyed disagree on their exact retirement age.

The data is important because it highlights that couples need to take more time to engage in conversations about their finances together. The survey results suggest couples who have taken time to develop a detailed retirement plan are more aligned and feel better prepared than those who have not.

Another study by Fidelity reveals that even among family and friends, eight in 10 women confess they have refrained at some point from talking about their finances with those they are close to. The number one reason given for avoiding these discussions is that the subject is "too personal."

While the subject may be uncomfortable, questions about finances needs to be raised and differences need to be addressed. According to data from FinaMetrica, when it comes to investing, women are generally less tolerant of financial risk than their male partners. In the US, in 67% of U.S. couples, men have a higher tolerance for financial risk than their female partners. Where there is a material difference in their risk tolerance levels, in 83% of cases it is the man who is the risk taker.

This data highlights that the needs and risk appetites of both partners need to be separately assessed by advisors before a suitable financial plan for the couple can be finalised.

It's also not unusual, for example, for females in couples to be several years younger than their male partners. This presents a significant challenge about how to communicate and advise a couple when the female not only has a lower tolerance for risk but she needs her investments to last longer. Financial advisors can’t ignore this.

Nor should advisors apply the man’s risk tolerance in determining a financial plan or superimpose their own preferences on the couple, which is dangerous and unethical but not uncommon.

Open discussions between couples lead to longer-term understanding and satisfaction as each partner becomes empowered by their involvement with decisions about their future. These conversations will also help engender trust in the advisor, as he or she actively seeks and takes the couple’s input in the development of their financial plan which caters to each individual’s needs.





Posted: 15/07/2015 5:15:34 PM by Paul Resnik