Affluent Couples Disagree on Decision-Maker Role

Who makes the financial decisions in affluent households? Depends on who you ask.
Ask the men – and a full 56% of affluent men, those with investable assets in excess of $500,000 – say husbands make the financial decisions, though only one in five affluent women agree.
On the other hand, ask the women – and most affluent women (61%) say financial decision-making is a joint effort, according to a new Spectrem Perspective report, “Affluent Household Financial Decision- Making.’
“Affluent men and women aren’t seeing eye-to-eye about just who’s making the family’s financial decisions,’ notes Catherine S. McBreen, Managing Director of Spectrem Group, a strategic consulting firm. “Despite this disagreement, most affluent households have all their finances pooled. So regardless of who makes the decisions, the family’s money appears to be working together,” McBreen said. Spectrem’s data indicated that 61% of these households had all their finances combined, versus just 5% that keep them completely separated. The rest has some combination of pooled and separate finances.
The “Why’ Factor
McBreen notes that in most affluent households – and Spectrem says there are 8 million of them – the real determinant factor was age, not gender – with older couples exhibiting a tendency to defer to the male partner’s decisions in such matters. Those households, which were over age 65 also tended to be single-income households.
Nearly three-quarters say these financial decisions put little or no stress on their relationships – unlike numerous studies that have documented the impact of financial stress on relationships. Of course, these are affluent households, and there is surely less stress about foundation issues like paying bills, or making ends meet. McBreen suggests also that talking about these financial decisions is good for a relationship.
As for the implications for financial advisers, McBreen said that women want to be involved in these decisions – and feel that they should be. She also said that duality will take more work on the part of advisers in the future to retain these relationships – many of which are two-income households, and a significant number of which are small business owners.
More about the research is available online at