Marriage, Money & Wealth Management

Couples Share Financial Decisions, but Not Investing Decisions;
Differing views about risk tolerance, investing and saving

April 30, 2014- NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–UBS Wealth Management Americas (WMA) today released its quarterly UBS Investor Watch report, demonstrating the ways high net worth and affluent couples approach financial decision-making. Couples say they are equally involved in the family’s finances. However, while women of all ages are engaged in broad wealth management decisions, they do not take as active a role in investing, which is fundamental to financial security.

Looking at ten core financial decisions, responsibilities often fall along gender lines. The majority of men have responsibility for investing, long-term planning and insurance. Women are more likely to manage day-to-day expenses and charitable donations. Couples most often share decisions about real estate and other large purchases, as well as estate planning and college funding.

“As an industry, we often use the terms “financial decisions” and “investing decisions” interchangeably. But financial decisions do not equal investing,” said Paula Polito, Client Strategy Officer, UBS Wealth Management Americas. “It’s 2014 and women of all ages do not take as active a role as they should in investing. Even in Millennial and Gen X couples, fewer than 1 in 5 women actually make investment decisions. This is alarming because investing is the foundation of financial security.”

Money is the hot topic

Whether or not they share financial decisions, money is a hot topic for couples because men and women often have differing views about investing, particularly when it comes to risk tolerance, expected results of investing and financial priorities.

50% of couples say they have differing risk tolerances, with the majority of women significantly more conservative than men, and also holding more cash. This makes long-term planning and investing particularly challenging for couples. Men are more likely to be tuned into investing, with 51% looking to track or beat the market. Men are also more likely to want to immediately invest money they receive. In addition, 32% of women and 24% of men lie or hide information about money from each other, with women being twice as likely to have purposely hidden making a purchase.

When you look at who shoulders the responsibility for financial decisions, there are four ways couples handle this: The man decides, the woman decides, decisions are shared, or decisions are separate and independent. The way a couple makes financial decisions affects how they invest, how they work with their Financial Advisor, how confident they are about their financial futures, as well as how much they argue about money.

When the man leads financial decisions, couples are satisfied with that choice until retirement

UBS Investor Watch found that the man serves as the financial decision-maker for 40% of couples. He is overwhelmingly the primary breadwinner (83%) and the couples have a more traditional breakdown of household chores as well. The couple takes on the man’s more aggressive risk tolerance and prioritizes investing over saving. Women in these couples choose to be less involved in investing and are very satisfied with this choice until reaching retirement. These women feel the best about their financial situation pre-retirement, but after retirement they actually feel worse, by a significant margin. Retired women who are not financial decision-makers are significantly more worried about their financial futures than other retired women, and also report the highest percentage of disagreements (30% have disagreed) about how much money to spend in retirement.

“Women who choose to leave financial decision-making and the financial advisor relationship in the hands of their husbands should seize the opportunity to take a more active role,” says Jeff Scott, Head of Market Research for UBS Wealth Management Americas. “Women are outliving their spouses and because they never dealt with finances before, they’re less confident about handling them later in life. As a result, they are more concerned about the stability of their financial future and outliving their money in retirement.”

Women who are primary financial decision-makers handle money more like men decisions do not equal investing... investing is the foundation of financial security

While women who serve as the primary decision-maker are only 16% of couples, these women have a more aggressive risk tolerance—and they prioritize investing over savings. While neither women, nor men enjoy shouldering financial responsibilities alone, women have the highest level of dissatisfaction with the distribution of financial roles and seem to feel particularly burdened. That’s likely because they still have the majority of traditional household responsibilities too.

Investing together is good for the relationship

Approximately one in four couples (28%) share financial decision-making equally. These couples make most types of decisions together, although women in these relationships are still more likely to pay the bills. Members of these couples often share the same risk tolerance (64%) and if they don’t, they usually resolve the issue by compromising and choosing a happy medium between the two parties’ opinions. Couples who share financial decisions are most likely to report that their advisor engages with both of them equally (86%). As a result of being on the same page when it comes to investing, couples who share financial decisions argue least about money and are most satisfied with the distribution of financial roles.

“My money,” “Your money,” and sometimes “Our money”

A small proportion of couples (16%)—many times those that are unmarried, have a significant age gap or are on their second or third marriages—seek to avoid financial conflict by maintaining separate banking and/or investment accounts. Of this group, 43% keep all accounts separate, while 57% have “my money,” “your money” and “our money.” Independent couples have stricter rules about the joint account than other couples, establishing a strict budget or allowance to manage the shared accounts. They are also less connected to the joint account, being 1.5 times more likely not to know the password of this account compared to other couples. Perhaps a reflection of the lack of collaboration about financial topics, these couples are more likely to argue about money, as well as lie or hide information about money.

LGBT couples—aggressive, optimistic, but separate investors

LGBT couples are more likely to take a separate-decisions approach when it comes to money. LGBT couples are more likely to disagree about risk tolerance, and when they do, they are more likely to separate their accounts so that each can follow their unique risk tolerance (39% vs. 28% of other couples). They are also considerably more confident and optimistic financially than heterosexual couples. They have a more optimistic view of their own finances and are more confident in their ability to reach financial goals in the future. This data aligns with findings in the special LGBT edition of UBS Investor Watch published in 4Q 2013. LGBT couples differ from heterosexual couples on other dimensions as well. They have a more aggressive risk tolerance (32% somewhat/aggressive vs. 21% of other couples) and are more likely to disagree about risk tolerance.

We invite you to read the full report here:




About UBS Investor Watch
UBS Investor Watch is a quarterly publication analyzing the latest in investor sentiment and behavior. Dedicated to generating insights that help UBS Financial Advisors deliver exceptionally for their clients, UBS Investor Watch is the industry’s definitive guide to what’s on investors’ minds right now.


The survey was fielded from March 27 – April 1, 2014. It was an online, blind survey conducted of investors and clients using an external vendor (Research Now). 2,595 U.S. investors, who identified as being married or living together, responded to our survey. The core sample of 1,260 investors has at least $250,000 in investable assets; 1,046 have at least $1 million in investable assets.

This UBS Investor Watch includes an oversample for Millennials: 405 Millennials identified as being married or living together; respondents, ages 21-29, have at least $75,000 in household income or $50,000 in investable assets; respondents, ages 30-36, have at least $100,000 in household income or $100,000 in investable assets.