Changing the financial conversation for women

Advice to help and inspire women to take charge of their financial futures

03 Feb 2020

How can women claim their seat at the financial table, take control of their wealth and, ultimately, break the cycle of abdicating on important investment decisions? These are the questions that Carey Shuffman, head of the Women’s Strategic Client Segment at UBS, and Janet Kelly, Head of Practice Management for BNY Mellon/Pershing, answered in conversation with host Anthony Pastore on a recent episode of UBS On-Air podcast.

Key takeaways

  • In a survey of hundreds of divorced and widowed women, 60% of widows and divorcees wish they had been more involved in their finances while they were part of a couple. Compared to their female counterparts, twice as many men feel confident in their ability to invest for the future.
  • Women who grow up in households where money was freely spoken about are about one-third less likely to abdicate on financial matters, according to UBS research.

Forgoing control and regretting it later

Because of longer life expectancies, high rates of divorce and many women choosing either to not be in a formal partnership or to remain single, eight out of 10 women will wind up solely responsible for their financial futures. Additionally, 59 is now the average age of widowhood in the US. Despite this, UBS’s Own Your Worth research has found that, across all ages and generations, women in heterosexual marriages tend to leave important financial decisions to their husbands. Yet, in a survey of hundreds of divorced and widowed women, 60% of widows and divorcees wish they had been more involved in their finances while they were part of a couple.

An issue with confidence, not competence

Younger generations of women have failed to heed the advice of those who came before them in part due to busy lives and overburdened schedules. But it’s also a matter of mindset: Kelly cites BNY Mellon/Pershing’s “Knowing Women” research, which found that just 48% of the women they surveyed felt knowledgeable enough to take charge of their wealth planning and investing for retirement.

Shuffman believes the problem is not one of competence but confidence. She notes that, compared to their female counterparts, twice as many men in couples feel confident in their ability to invest for the future. One of the reasons for this is that seven in 10 women believe that women overestimate the knowledge that’s needed to do so successfully. In reality, they know more than they think.

Challenging the dominant narrative

Shuffman’s advice for women starts there: own what you know. We must eliminate the taboo of talking about money, which starts with challenging our own thoughts about the subject, she says. So, have a conversation with yourself. Kelly agrees and urges women to think deeply about their values around spending, saving, giving and planning for the future, which they can then discuss with their spouses.

Modeling those conversations for children is also very important, as women who grow up in households where money was freely spoken about are about one-third less likely to abdicate on financial matters, according to UBS research.

Financial planning helps imbue self-assurance

Both women agree that a woman’s greatest asset is her financial plan. It starts with simple exercises, like looking at your assets versus liabilities to calculate your net worth. Learning the basics of investing, such as how to pick stocks, need not be shrouded in mystery. There are plenty of tools to help.

Shuffman recommends the new Own Your Worth financial participation tool, which was launched specifically to help women take a seat at their own financial table.

Stand up for what you need. You’re worth it.

Working with a financial advisor is another great way for any woman to take control of her financial future. However, if the first advisor you meet with doesn’t inspire confidence, Shuffman and Kelly urge you to keep looking. Too many women stick with an advisor they aren’t satisfied with, they explain. Stand up for what you need, they plead—because you’re worth it.

To hear more expert advice and better understand our Own Your Worth research, listen to the podcast.


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