Women in High-Net-Worth Households Tend to Leave the Financial Decisions to Men

A new study led by Sherman Hanna, a professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University, found that men were more likely to be the spouse with the most knowledge of a different-sex couples’ finances in 2016 than they were in 1992.

According to the authors’ analysis of data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board, in 2016, 56 percent of husbands were designated as most knowledgeable on financial issues, up from 53 percent in 1992 and 49 percent in 1995.

But the most startling statistics is that for different sex, married-couple families who were among the top one percent in net worth, the husband was rated most knowledgable on finances in 90 percent of the households. “Despite the progress women have made in society, there still seems to be a gender gap in who takes care of the finances, especially in wealthy households,” said Dr. Hanna.

The researchers found that among the lowest quartile of household total wealth in the 2016 survey, about half reported the husband as knowing the most. That went up to about 65 percent among those who were in the 75th to 95th percentile in wealth and 90 percent among those in the top one percent of wealthy households.

There may be some reliance on traditional gender roles, the researchers said. In lower-wealth households, where the financial decisions are relatively simple and limited to bill paying and record keeping, men may be more willing to have their wives handle the money. But as wealth increases and, with it, the complexity of the finances, men may push to be the decision-makers, Dr. Hanna said.

The authors point out that financial planners should reach out to women in these high-net-worth households so that they become more educated on financial matters in case they are widowed or divorced.

The full study, “Husbands, Wives, and Financial Knowledge in Wealthy Households,” was published in the journal Financial Planning Review. It may be downloaded here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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