Key findings:

  • 56% of married women leave investment and financial planning decisions to their husbands
  • 85% of married women who stay out of long-term financial decisions believe their spouses know more about financial matters
  • 8 out of 10 women are content with the current distribution of financial responsibilities in their marriages
  • 80% of women will end up alone
  • 98% of divorcees and widows would advise other women to take an active role in finances now
  • Millennial women are more likely to leave investment decisions to their husbands (61%) than older generations (54%) 

April 13, New York, NY—UBS Wealth Management USA today published a whitepaper report that reveals key findings related to why men and women accept financial inequality and its consequences. The report, entitled “Own your worth: How women can break the cycle of abdication and take control of their wealth,” finds that 56% of married women leave investment and financial decisions to their husbands with 85% of them believing that their husbands know more about financial matters and investment topics. The majority of women (80%) are content with the current distribution of financial responsibilities in spite of the overwhelming research that 8 out of 10 women will end up alone, due to divorce or widowhood.

More than half of divorcees and widows discover financial surprises, such as outdated wills and debts, and previous UBS research shows that 85% of couples will need long-term care during their lifetimes, with most women outliving their husbands. This can lead to women's greatest fear of becoming a burden to their children1.

By exploring the underlying reasons for why women and men accept this inequality, UBS hopes to correct this balance. "Own your worth" outlines a three-step action-oriented process for women to break the cycle of abdication and take control of their wealth

Ignoring the warnings: 

59% of widows and divorcees regret not being involved in long-term financial planning while married and nearly all (97%) say they would encourage women to take steps to educate themselves about their finances now with 98% advising them to take an active role in their finances. They take their own advice, and 8 out of 10 women who remarry assume a more active role in financial decisions.

"The twin forces of longer life expectancies and high rates of divorce have produced a sobering likelihood, that more women will end up alone and solely responsible for their financial well-being," said Paula Polito, Global Client Strategy Officer of UBS Global Wealth Management. "What's most concerning is that women are more educated, successful and outspoken than ever, yet 60% continue to abdicate important financial decisions that affect their future."

We've come a long way…or have we?

Despite living in an age of empowerment, the majority of women still waive their participation in long-term financial decisions. The consequences of abdicating responsibility for long-term financial decisions lead many women to struggle after divorce or the death of their spouses.

Family dynamics, societal norms and the belief that financial companies have not historically catered to women were identified as top factors. The report revealed that more than half of married women leave investment and long-term financial planning decisions to their husbands. Of these women, 8 in 10 like this arrangement, even though their the long-term decisions their husbands are making typically have a more lasting impact on the family’s wealth.


In a counterintuitive twist, millennials are the most willing to leave investing and financial planning decisions to their husbands, with 61% more likely to leave major financial decisions to their spouse, more than any previous generation. These numbers point to something deeper in our influences that dates back decades and is still being perpetuated today, according to the report.

Modern family

The report also finds that couples follow the examples set by their parents, with 6 out of 10 women whose mothers did not play an active role in financial planning, reporting the same division of responsibility in their own marriage. Even today, the majority of mothers with children under 21 are OK with their daughters' future spouses taking the lead on financial matters.

Competence vs. confidence

The UBS report acknowledges that together, history and society have conspired to affect women's financial confidence. With 85% of women who give financial planning control to their husbands, believing that their spouses know more about financial matters, and only 55% of women feeling confident about making long-term financial decisions as compared to 79% of men. The report says that women underestimate their own capabilities, while 69% agree that women overestimate what is required to be financially prepared.

Myth vs. reality

The report dispels ten long-held myths surrounding women’s relationships with money and explores why society should be motivated to change despite the many people who are happy with the status quo. See the top five myths below:






“I need to be an expert to be a good investor”


7 in 10 women agree that women overestimate what it takes to be financially savvy


“We share financial decisions equally”’


Women often handle the day-to-day finances, but 56% leave key investment decisions to their husbands


“Women have been on equal ground with men financially for a long time now”


Women often needed a male co-signer to apply for credit until 1974. Women did not gain equal rights to marital property until 1981.


“The breadwinner takes the lead on investment decisions”


63% of male breadwinners take the lead on long-term financial decisions vs. 38% of female breadwinners


“I want things to be different for my daughter”


Among parents with children under 21, 69% of fathers and 52% of mothers are ok with their daughter’s future spouse taking the lead on financial matters

The Women in the World Summit

As part of UBS’s commitment to focus on women's needs, the company announced its participation as a Leadership Sponsor of Tina Brown’s 2018 Women in the World Summit in New York City on April 12 – 14, 2018. This three-day event will bring together powerful women and men from around the world to focus on the most important issues women face.

Paula Polito will be a part of a distinguished panel at the summit to discuss the findings from the white paper—including why women are not making significant progress when it comes to long-term financial planning—and to talk about what they need to do today to take control of their financial lives.

"I just love that topic of emotional money and our behaviors around money. The more we discuss it and get it out in the open, the less of a taboo it will be. I think that we need to bring this all to light. I’m really excited about it, and just love working with UBS. They’re just a great group of people, and really imaginative and smart" said Tina Brown, host of the Women in the World Summit.


As women’s life expectancies increase and the rates of divorce continue to climb, more women will find themselves solely responsible for their own finances. UBS Wealth Management USA embarked on research to explore their thoughts and feelings, the challenges they faced, lessons they learned and advice they would impart to other women. In addition we examined the financial dynamics of married couples to gauge women’s level of and satisfaction with their financial involvement while in a partnership.

For this publication, UBS surveyed 599 women from September 21 – October 4, 2017 who have either been divorced (272 women) or widowed (315 women) within the last five years. All of these women had at least $250k in investable assets. Another 21 widows and/or divorcees were interviewed face to face.

UBS also surveyed 1,474 married heterosexual couples from February 21 – 26, 2018 (961 women and 513 men) with at least $250k in investable assets. Forty married women and men were interviewed face to face. Data from 107 same-sex married women and 112 same-sex married men were also included.

Notes to editors:

About the Women in the World Summit

The three-day Women in the World Summit, held at New York City’s Lincoln Center, presents powerful female role models whose personal stories illuminate the most pressing international issues. They range from CEOs and world leaders to artists, activists and peacemakers. The Summit’s vivid journalistic narratives, high-impact video and fast-paced staging have made it the premier platform to showcase women of impact, as well as men who champion women. Past participants have included Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Angelina Jolie, Diane von Furstenberg, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Tom Hanks, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand and many more amazing and inspiring women from all over the world.

*National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 66, No. 6, November 27, 2017, provided by WISER (Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement)

About UBS Global Wealth Management

Global Wealth Management provides comprehensive advice, solutions and services to wealthy families and individuals around the world. Clients who work with UBS benefit from a fully integrated set of wealth management capabilities and expertise, including wealth planning, investment management, capital markets, banking, lending and institutional and corporate financial advice. As the world’s largest wealth manager, UBS provides clients with access to a wide range of products and solutions from leading third-party institutions that complement its own offering.

About UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS's strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in 54 countries, with about 34% of its employees working in the Americas, 35% in Switzerland, 18% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 13% in Asia-Pacific. UBS Group AG employs approximately 60,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).


Maya Dillon, UBS Wealth Management USA
Mobile: 917-615-7094