Despite making some progress in recent years, many women still are not equal partners with their significant others in making financial decisions, according to Paula Mogan, financial advisor with Mogan Wealth Management of UBS in Rockland, Mass., who focuses on working with women clients.
To help solve that problem, women should ask their spouses or partners some specific questions to ensure they are equipped to handle financial decisions and plan for their financial future, Mogan said in an interview.
Avoiding these financial conversations can have detrimental effects for women, especially considering that eight in 10 women will be solely responsible for their financial well-being at some point in their lives, UBS said in its report, “Own Your Worth: Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers.” released last year. Half of married women still defer to their husbands on financial decisions and the effects can be devastating, Mogan added.
“A lot of that deference is created by fear” on the woman’s part, “but also women usually are very busy being the caregiver” of the family, and they may cede the financial decisions to the spouse, she said. Eighty-five percent of married women who defer to their spouses when it comes to making financial decisions do so because they believe their spouses know more.
Women who have taken a backseat financially for most of their lives should start getting involved in the decisions by asking to see the family’s total financial plan, Mogan said. “The learning curve can be steep at first, but it is worth the effort,” she said.
If the couple has a financial professional, she should ask to be at the table when the consultations take place and she should ask to see all of the accounts. “Having an unbiased third party to help with the discussions is crucial,” she said. “It is important for women to know what the couple owns and where it is.”
Women should be prepared to determine, with their spouses, what decisions have to be made in the next few years that will require collaboration, and they should find out what resources they have together, Mogan said. The couple should even talk about how divorce or the death of one spouse would impact their finances. Only 55% of women believe these life events would have a major impact on their finances, she said.
Mogan said she recently worked with a couple in which the husband lost his job. “He told his wife they would be fine, but they were not, and the wife had no way of knowing that,” Mogan said. When the wife realized what the situation was, she was shocked. “Luckily, they had real property they could sell for income. She now has vowed she will take a more active role in the finances.”
Once a woman gains the necessary knowledge, she may want to make changes in some of the financial arrangements, she said. “That often raises an interesting dynamic for the couple,” Mogan said. “In some cases, we can find ways to compromise,” Mogan said.
The couple should discuss their retirement plans—where they are going to live, what they will do, and what they want their legacy to look like, she said. “Sometimes the two people involved can have vastly different views about how money should be spent. Once the kids are out of the house these issues come up, if they have not before,” she said.
Follow up discussions are important and the plan should be revisited periodically, Mogan said.