Stories | November 5, 2013

Who has more power when couples talk money?

The UK government examined household financial decision making with a particular focus on retirement planning.

Do men or women have more power when couples discuss money? The findings of this study might provoke some interestinconversations around the family dinner table.

1. “Alpha” females are more common
Women more often are the “alpha” partner in financial decision making, the research finds. They tend to raise the topic and carry out research that informs financial decisions.

2. Together at crunch time?
Men’s reported involvement varied, although most felt that they had an integral role at the final stage of financial decision making.

3. Money doesn’t equal power
Income doesn’t appear to influence how partners divide up their tasks. If one partner earns significantly more than the other, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have more influence on the decision-making process or what’s eventually decided.

4. The future is uncertain
Decision making about retirement is tricky – no matter which partner is in the lead (or if they take an equal load). Reasons include the lack of “immediate gain” when saving for retirement, making it difficult for momentum to build in the same way as some other financial decisions.

A separate analysis – this time using the European Union Survey on Income and Living Conditions from 2010 – gives further insights. Released in October 2013 out of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, finds:

5. We divide and conquer
When one half of a couple stays at home, joint decision making about money is less frequent. The authors write that the situation makes specialisation easier.

6. Different nationalities do different things
Cultures come into play as well. The European study finds that in eastern European countries, women are much more likely to make financial decisions on their own. But they write “a person’s gender is quite clearly the most important factor in determining which household decisions the person will make on his or her own”.

eZonomics team
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