A recent UBS Global Wealth Management survey starts out encouragingly enough: Nearly eight in 10 millennial women say they will share responsibility for household finances with their spouses. And they think that approach is overdue: Two-thirds say other married women rely on their spouses too much on the money stuff.
But after the wedding, things don’t turn out that way. Among married millennial women, 54% said they let their spouse take the lead. That was higher than the percentage of Gen X and boomer married women who defer to the mister.
The reasons millennial women give: Nearly six in 10 say it’s to avoid disagreements. The same percentage copped to wanting to be taken care of. Seventy percent defer because they “have no idea where to begin.” Three-quarters believe their spouse knows more.
There is no question this is messy terrain to navigate. There’s the relationship itself. And your relationship to money. And the fact that life is already crazy busy.
Understood. But all of that does not make it smart. Or OK.
In the spirit of pep talks, here are a few reasons millennial women — and Gen Z right behind them — should push themselves to fully engage in family finances.
Are you sure he knows more? When it comes to all sorts of money decisions, research suggests men are more confident than women. Often overconfident.
So men are more likely to think they can pick stocks, while experts would tell you an index fund is a better choice. Men — and male advisers — are more likely to focus on “beating the market,” which is a fool’s errand, than on achieving family financial goals, an approach women align with more.
Even if he’s a talented fiduciary adviser, you still ought to engage. Money decisions will affect you more than him, in all likelihood, because women outlive men.
And let’s go there: divorce. If you spend 20 years in a marriage and don’t engage in financial planning decisions, that’s going to create a lot of stress if you suddenly are on your own. Plus, you’re less likely to be surprised to learn that your husband has lost all your savings in the markets if you’ve been reading the monthly statements.
There won’t be a better time to learn. It doesn’t get easier. The longer you put off learning, the harder it will be. He’s young, too, and it will be easier for him to adjust to sharing and collaborating now, instead of in his 50s.
A sign of other relationship problems? Not wanting to engage to avoid disagreements is more than a money problem. To give voice to what is already likely rattling around your head — avoiding conversations, stepping aside to prevent tension — is not a popular recipe for long-term contentment.
Yes, compromise is always in play. And finding complementary skills is a great way to divide and conquer (especially when there are young children in the picture). But if you’re abdicating money decisions as a defensive measure, might the overall power dynamic in your relationship be skewed? Money passivity could be a symptom of a larger problem worth exploring.
Being taken care of could be costly. It may feel warm and cozy to have someone looking after the finances, but if he screws up, the result could be deep financial stress for your children and for you.