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UBS Investor Watch Report Reveals Couples Say They Share Financial Decisions, But Not Investing Decisions

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Money is a hot topic because men and women often have differing views about risk tolerance, investing and saving

New York, NY - UBS Wealth Management Americas UBS Wealth Management Americas (WMA) today released its quarterly UBS Investor Watch report (PDF, 865 KB), 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."

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
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 couplesaggressive, 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.




Shared decisions

Separate decisions

Size of Group





Primary Breadwinner

83% Male

48% Male 

66% Male

59% Male 

7% Female

34% Female

18% Female

24% Female





Youngest, most likely to be on 2nd / 3rd marriage or living with significant other

Financial Decisions Divided

Male makes all decisions except day-to-day expenses & large purchases

Female makes all decisions except large purchases & real estate

Equal decision-making except Female pays bills

Smallest differences by gender, most decisions made separately

Real estate decisions are equal

Estate planning decisions are equal

Financial Impact

Female disengaged pre-retirement; worries  more in retirement

Burden on female, as she still does most household chores too

Fewest financial worries

Most likely to argue about finances

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.

We invite you to read the full report.


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.

New York

Gregg Rosenberg


Follow us on Twitter: @UBSAmericas

Notes to Editors

About UBS Wealth Management Americas

UBS Wealth Management Americas provides advice-based relationships through financial advisors who deliver a fully integrated set of products and services specifically designed to address the needs of ultra-high net worth, high net worth and core affluent individuals and families. It includes the Wealth Management U.S. business, the domestic Canadian business and the international business booked in the United States.

About UBS

UBS draws on its 150-year heritage to serve private, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland. Its business strategy is centered on its pre-eminent global wealth management businesses and its universal bank in Switzerland. Together with a client-focused Investment Bank and a strong, well-diversified Global Asset Management business, UBS will drive further growth and expand its premier wealth management franchise.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in 57 countries, with about 35% of its employees working in the Americas, 36% in Switzerland, 17% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 12% in Asia Pacific. UBS employs about 65,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).