It’s well known that money matters can make or break a marriage and that financial disputes are a leading cause of divorce, but according to Millionaire Corner research, husbands and wives often have very conflicting views of who’s making financial decisions for the family.
The majority of husbands – nearly 55 percent – say they are the ones making financial decisions, according to a survey of 969 married investors conducted by Millionaire Corner in January. While none identify their wives as being in charge of the family finances, 45 percent say financial decisions are made jointly.
Wives are unlikely to take credit for making financial decisions – only 4 percent say they handle the family finances – but women overwhelmingly describe the process as a cooperative effort. More than 82 percent of wives say the financial decisions are made jointly, while 14 percent give their husbands the credit.
But, our research shows that both sexes have a highly filtered view of reality. Most husbands say that their wives think that the man of the house is in charge of the finances. Sixty percent of men indicate their wives would say their husbands are making financial decisions for both of them. Women are operating under the impression that their husbands see them as part of a financial team. Nearly 75 percent of women report that their husbands feel decisions are made jointly.
These differing perceptions raise all sorts of questions about who really wears the “financial pants” in a relationship. “It’s possible that men have an inflated view of their contributions,” said Catherine McBreen, president of Millionaire Corner, “and that women underestimate the importance of their role in financial decision making. In any case, it’s clear the Mars/Venus divide extends to money matters, as well as matters of the heart.”
Younger couples appear to be diverging from gender stereotypes when it comes to who’s making financial decisions, according to our survey, while older married folks hold more traditional views of money and marriage. Generation X and Y investors are less likely than their older peers to identify the husband as the family’s financial decision maker. Fewer than one-fourth of investors age 40 and younger say financial decisions are made by the husband, while more than one-third of investors age 60 and older – early baby boomers and retirees – say the husband handles the family finances.
Less affluent investors – who generally represent a younger demographic – are most likely to describe making financial decisions as a joint effort in their marriage. More than 70 percent of survey participants with investable assets between $100,000 and $500,000 say that husband and wife work together to decide money matters. In contrast, about 60 percent of investors with $500,000 or more say making financial decisions is a shared activity.