The voice of experience: take more control and avoid regrets

Make the time and take control. That’s the advice of 98% of widows and divorced women from a recent survey of 1,700 couples from financial firm UBS.

The report, Own Your Worth, explores the myths and realities of women and money. In one clear message is those who did not have a role in managing the family finances regret not having been more involved.

Eight in 10 women will end up alone and, therefore, in charge of their own finances. But suddenly having to take that responsibility is complicated and made more difficult after losing a spouse or going through a divorce. And it can bring unwelcome surprises.

In the survey, 59% of widows and divorcees reported wishing that they had been more involved in long-term financial decisions Fifty six percent of them discovered financial surprises like having less than they thought or finding debts they did not realize they had.

As a result, 98% of these women advise other women to take a more active role.

The study reviews a number of myths that act to prevent or dissuade women from being more involved in family finances. While many women believe they share decisions equally, the study revealed that, in reality, 56% of survey respondents leave key investment decisions to their husbands. Many may not realize what they’re missing – eight in 10 women report being satisfied with their role in financial decisions even when they take a backseat. Some women defer to their husbands because of the perception that they do not have sufficient expertise but seven in 10 women surveyed agreed that women overestimate what it takes to be financially savvy. And in some cases, it simply comes down to dividing the household work. In those cases, many couples have assigned primary responsibility of the long-term financial decisions to the husband and women may feel there just isn’t the time to be involved. But the study found that when husbands share more equally in childcare and housekeeping, wives are more likely to be involved in the finances.

The continuing trend of women’s under involvement in financial management, what the study refers to as a “cycle of abdication,” is compromising the long-term well-being of many. What can you do to protect yourself? Make sure you and your partner approach your financial plan as a team. One of you might still do more of the week by week activities – paying bills, reviewing bank or portfolio balances, etc. – but you both remain up-to-date and involved. To be engaged and informed about the household finances doesn’t take much.  In fact, you will be in far better shape than many if all you do are these 3 things:

  1. Regularly discuss your goals and review your assets and debts.  Perhaps quarterly, but at a minimum, once per year.
  2. Go together to meet with your financial professionals. Both of you must be a part of these important meetings
  3. Review and agree on financial priorities. You may have together goals and goals that matter to each of you individually, but come to a consensus on what matters most.

Work together on your finances and you will provide for the best future whatever may develop in the meantime.  As the plan single philosophy says, it’s not about planning apart from one another, but for each other.  That if something should happen and you find yourself single again, financially, you will be ok.  It’s also the advice of 98% of women who have been divorced or widowed.

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