The divorce rate for 50-plus couples has doubled since the 1990s. That has left many who relied on their spouses to handle all of the family finances, with some unpleasant surprises.
With all of today’s changes in traditional gender-based roles, it is surprising to learn that a majority of married women—more than 50%—still leave the big decisions regarding investments and financial planning to their male spouses, as reported in Bloomberg’s article, “Rise of ‘Gray’ Divorce Forces Financial Reckoning After 50.”
The study shows that it’s not just older women taking the more traditional gender roles of their parents: about 61% of millennial women said they leave investment decisions to their husbands. This contrasts with 54% for baby boomer women. UBS surveyed more than 600 women who have either been divorced or widowed within the last five years, along with 1,500 couples. Respondents needed to have at least $250,000 in investable assets to take part in the study.
The difference between attitudes toward making major financial decisions between married women and women who were divorced or widowed is remarkable. Almost 60% of widows and divorcees regret not taking part in long-term financial planning, when they were part of a couple.
About 85% of married women who weren’t active in making long-term financial decisions said that their spouse knows more about financial issues than they do. A total of 80% of women said they were okay with how financial responsibilities were split in their relationship.
Almost all of them would counsel other women to get more involved early on and stop the cycle of financial abdication. Of those women who were divorced or widowed women in the survey who remarried, 80% were more active in the financial decision-making in their current relationship.
More than half of divorcees and widows only learned about financial issues, after the marriage ended. Sometimes, the surprises were good, like learning about a 401(k) account that was previously undisclosed. But most of the surprises are not: credit card debt, outdated wills and secret spending issues.
Widows and divorcees were surprised about how little they knew about the family finances. Almost all of those surveyed said that in any new marriage or relationship, they would demand full financial transparency.
Reference: Bloomberg (April 15, 2018) “Rise of ‘Gray’ Divorce Forces Financial Reckoning After 50”