Who’s In Charge Of Your Finances?



I recently had a conversation with some colleagues at work about who handles the finances in their households.  I was surprised to hear that for the most part, the men in the group handled the long-term investments.  The women mainly handled the day-to-day bills.  


Keep in mind my “sample size” was not large.  There were roughly five of us talking.  But honestly, this is not unlike the household that I grew up in.  My mom handled the day-to-day bills while my dad handled the investments.  My wife grew up similarly with the exception being her father hired a financial advisor to handle their investments.


Financial Decisions

household-financesA study by MainStay Investments discovered there is a huge perception gap between married couples when it comes to handling the household finances.  81% of the married women surveyed said that they share equal responsibility for financial planning decisions with their spouses.  In contrast, only 44% of husbands surveyed agreed with that statement.  The majority of married men surveyed (56%), said they made most of the household financial decisions on their own.


“Married couples often believe they are on the same page when it comes to financial goals but it’s apparent that they are often carrying different play books altogether,” said Mike Coffey, managing director of MainStay Investments.



household-financesA 2014 UBS Wealth Management Americas reported when it came to investing, men made the decisions ALONE exactly half the time.  Meanwhile, just 13% of women solely made investing decisions.  The remaining 37% of couples shared the decisions.  Even more shocking, among younger women, just 15% of millennials and 18% of Generation X-ers solely made investment decisions.


One reason for these stats is that men tend to come into a marriage with more assets. A 2014 Wells Fargo study of millennials found that males had both a higher median household income ($83,000 vs. $63,000 for women) and higher median assets that were available for investing ($59,000 vs. $31,000 for women).


So now the question is should women defer to men when it comes to investments?  The research says no.  


Women Are Better Investors

household-financesWomen actually tend to be better investors than men.  A study done by Brad Barber and Terrance Oden demonstrated that men are overconfident in their ability to meet or beat the market.  Men, often times, take on too much risk as well.  The research shows that men’s investment returns suffer because men tend to trade their stocks too often.  Men, on average, traded 45% more often than women, which reduced their net returns on average by 2.65%.


There is clear evidence that women are better investors.  But, are there any other benefits to women being involved in the finances?  Yes!!!  


household-financesDo you know how most children learn?  They learn through learning and observation.  Surveys of families, however, have found that parents talk to 8-14 year old girls less often about money than they do so with boys.  In turn, teenage boys end up believing they will earn more when they get older.  In order to counteract this, parents need to talk to all of their children about finances, and if possible, demonstrate mom’s ability to take charge of finances to serve as a role model and empower daughters.


Knowledge Is Power

Finally, most women will outlive their husbands, and at some point, they could be the primary household money manager.  Women live 5% longer than men, and 700,000 women lose their husbands each year in the United States and will be widowed for 14 years, according to Widow’s Hope.  This is why it is so important to include your spouse now in all financial decisions in order to ensure both spouses are equipped in case anything should happen.


household-financesMy wife’s mother passed away five years ago.  Her mother solely handled the day-to-day expenses, so when she passed, her family was left with a ton of questions.  My wife spent months trying to clean up her family’s finances.  She seemed to keep stumbling upon different accounts and way too many credit cards that had been opened over the years that all needed to be closed out.


Finances in Our Household

I have to admit, when my wife and I first got married, since she was consumed with trying to help her family get their finances in order, our household finances took a backseat to her.  Since I am a super nerd when it comes to personal finances, my wife had no problem letting me nerd out.


household-financesWhile I still mainly make investment decisions, I do include my wife in the decision-making and sharing.  She cautioned me against buying Chipotle last November, and I should have listened.  But I did take her advice when the market dipped, and we bought an ETF.


I encourage everyone to make sure that their spouse has a list of passwords and knows all the accounts that you have as a couple.  Quick side note: this is why I love Personal Capital so much because it aggregates all the data into one place.


So with all that said, who makes the financial/investment decisions in your family?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. I make all the investment decisions, and I always have throughout our 15 year marriage. My husband is proud of the investing I’ve done but has no real interest in learning about investing. I do make sure to review the net worth statement with him every quarter when I pull it together, and I have a written investment policy statement to help guide him should something happen to me. He’s also under instruction to call Vanguard and let them help him if I’m not able to for whatever reason.

    As someone who had their husband almost pass away when I was 31, I want to echo what you mentioned about it being important for both spouses to know everything-both financially and non-financial. When he was ill and in the hospital/rehabilitation for a month, I didn’t know how to do things like start the lawnmower, or what day the garbage goes out. “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” is my philosophy now. Since you never know what life will throw at you, if you’re part of a couple or partnership you need to share information with one another so you’re both on the same page.
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…Four Financial Lessons from School Book FairsMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing from your real world experience. While unfortunate what you and your husband went through I think everyone can really glean from your insights. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  2. Interestiby post Mustard Seed Money. I can say this divide can be dangerous. In our household a separation of monthly finances creates efficiency issues in our household. We do have savings and common goals. But having a separation of financial responsibilities leads to missed savings opportunities. We still have Verizon Wireless and cable tv. My wife has no interest in trying cheaper options because I pay those bills. Similarly I’ll admit I’ve occassionally been a little lax about leaving lights on and forgetting to turnoff the heat because those aren’t my bills. It is the wrong attitude. In the end it is our . But I do not see it changing while we still have two kids under 4. The main goal for each of us is to find better jobs. But this is definitely a conversation to have down the road.
    Dividend Seedling recently posted…When to Have the Personal Finance Conversation with Your SpouseMy Profile

    • Wow that’s really interesting insight. I have some friends that split up their bills. I never thought about the lack of motivation to lower their spouses bill. Thanks for the really interesting insight!!!

  3. I do all the financial management except budgeting in the house. It comes down to I enjoy paying bills and investing while my wife does not. I would still gladly share. My wife does run the budgeting portion of the operation, leading and organizing monthly reviews.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Problems with Reaching for YieldMy Profile

    • I hear ya FTF. My wife loves the day to day stuff but hates thinking about investments. I love everything about investing while I rather not deal with the day to day. So we try to play to each other’s strengths while including each other in as much as possible 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. My parents are the same way. My mom handles everyday finances, while my dad handles the long-term investing. I always found that strange, but I guess it is more common than I thought. It seems to me that the two go hand in hand and you’d want the same person handling each one.

    You include a great point that women tend to live longer than men. In our household, I have always handled all of our everyday finances as well as the investing. I’ve tried to get my wife involved before so she would know what to do if I weren’t around, but she doesn’t have any interest. At the very least, I need to write down all of our accounts and passwords to keep in a safe place so she would know where all our money is and how to access it.
    Go Finance Yourself! recently posted…How to Become a Millionaire: It’s easier than you thinkMy Profile

    • Dave Ramsey in one of his courses talks about having a legacy box with all of your important documents in there in case something happens to either one of you.

      I know it was a huge pain when my wife’s mother passed away and they were left scrambling b/c they couldn’t find her will or any other important docs.

      They ended up having to go to court to probate everything which sucked up a ton of time 🙁

  5. I would definitely say I drive the finances in our house, but I don’t think that’s necessarily surprising. Regardless if someone is a male or female, if they’ve been blogging about personal finances for nearly five years they likely have taken the lead on their family finances. I do want to pull my wife in a bit more as we don’t have regular finance checkups as often as we could/should.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…7 Ways to Get Over Your Fear of NetworkingMy Profile

    • I know I should probably have monthly updates with my wife but I reason at times she has access to Personal Capital. If she’s interested she will look things up. I just asked her when she last looked. She laughed and said I don’t know the last time you made me look at it. Clearly we need to sit down again 🙂

  6. Interesting piece. Especially that there are still so many that are not involved (or not much) in these things. The man doing all the financial stuff might be something a bit old-fashioned but is apparently still very common.

    All the financial stuff s equally divided with us. We also found out that when it comes down on investing, we complement each other with how we make decisions. You said woman are more cautious, and that is exactly how we experience it as well. I’m a bit more risk averse, and Mr. Divnomics tends towards taking more risk. So together we found a nice balance in between.

    • Thanks for sharing!!! That’s great to hear that you have found the perfect investing compliment between the two of you.

      I have heard of couples where the husband is super aggressive and the wife is ultra conservative.

      This causes a lot of fights and can definitely take a toll on a marriage.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!!!

  7. The statistic about 81% of married women believing they share equal responsibility but only 44% of married men saying the same thing is pretty crazy. How can people be that far off of the same page?! That’s not even a disagreement over what should be done. It’s a disagreement over how decisions are actually made. And if you don’t know that there is a disconnect, you don’t know that it needs to be corrected.

    I tend to take the lead on finances in our household, because like you I tend to nerd out on this stuff. That said, most of what we do is automated and I make sure to include my wife in the decision-making process when setting up the automated processes. I want to make sure that she knows everything that is going on in case anything happens to me so that she can pick up and keep going without too much of a learning curve.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Your Instinctive Thinking Is Losing You MoneyMy Profile

    • When I saw that stat I was floored and we wonder why marriages in the US fail at almost a 50% rate.

      Clearly the communication is not there!!!!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  8. Those are some interesting stats. Growing up, I saw my Dad handle all the personal finance items including day to day bills and investments. He had the finance background and my mom didn’t, but they always were on the same page. When I met my wife I thought it was interesting to find out her mom handled all the finances, day to day bills and was primarily responsible for investments too (although her dad was involved with this as well). It started this way for them when he was busy going back to school for his MBA.

    For us, it is mostly me on the bill payments and investments but it is important to keep my wife up to speed so she could take over if need be.
    The Green Swan recently posted…Should We Self-Insure?My Profile

    • Isn’t it funny how the way we are raised influences the way that we see money. I have a friend who’s MIL handled all the family’s investments and his wife assumed that she would have to handle their household finances when they got married.

      Made for a bit of contention early on in their marriage but they figured out the right balance for them 🙂

    • Thanks Mr. Defined Sight. You have a great wife if she’s willing to handle that off to you. Especially with a finance background. Working as an accountant, there are too many of us that would never trust our spouse 100% to fully handle the finances.

      I think I might be jaded from all the creative accounting things that I have seen 🙂

  9. Very interesting stats considering as you said, women tend to outlive their husbands. Personally, I think managing the family’s investment should be a team effort because it impacts everyone.

    Interesting statistic with men trading more than women. I’ve heard that a lot as well! Guess we’re pretty hot headed haha.
    Andrew recently posted…6 Easy Ways To Become More EfficientMy Profile

    • I definitely agree that it should be a team effort. My grandpa’s have all passed away but I had a great aunt that lived until 101 but she was widowed at 43. A grandma that is turning 95, my grandpa passed away almost 25 years ago now and another one that is turning 88 and her husband passed away almost 30 years ago.

      So I have definitely seen directly why it’s needed to share in the financial responsibility.

  10. I’ve always taken the lead when it came to daily finances, then later when we started investing. Mr. Mt really has no interest. But because I love talking about it, planning, and dreaming, we probably chat about it together a few times a month. We do all our big planning together. I just end up gathering the info before and implementing our plans.
    Ms. Montana recently posted…Our St. Nicholas TraditionMy Profile

    • Your husband sounds a bit like my wife. When my wife and I go on walks around the neighborhood. I seem to talk about things that interest me. Which inevitably is investing and the financial bridges to get to our dreams. I think most of the time she nods and smiles.

      That’s part of the reason I love being in the PF community. I can bounce things off of like minded people 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. In our house, I take care of both dsy2day and investments. Since we have a plan in place to be FI one day, we do speak more often on the subject and we regularly align our goals.
    There is one worry: what if something happens to me… I need to work on that.

    • Thanks for sharing ambertree!!! I think it’s a huge fear that a lot of people don’t like to confront.

      There are still times that I wonder if I have properly organized everything in case something happens.

      But I guess you put together the best plan and then go from there 🙂

  12. My mom handled the daily and investing side of the finances when I was growing up (and still does). I don’t know if this had an impact or not, but I’ve always had an interest in money and finance. I take care of the monthly budget/bills and the investing in the IRAs. My husband takes care of his 401k. But, we always make the investing decisions together and agree before making any changes.

    The huge difference in perceived financial decision making equality in the study you mention is fascinating. I would love to find out why this is such a huge discrepancy (my guess is the main issue is communication).
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…10 Perfect Gifts for Men Under $15My Profile

    • I think you’re right. I don’t think that people communicate nearly as well as they think they do with their spouses.

      I have to admit I thought I was a great listener and communicator before I got married.

      Boy was I wrong and my wife lets me know 🙂

  13. We always discuss the main financial goals and approaches with each other (e.g. why and how much shall we save each month, pay towards mortgage or invest etc.), but the actual day to day investment decisions (e.g. which stocks shall we buy this month) are almost always solely made by me. I don’t believe it really matters whether the man or the woman makes such decisions, it’s more important that all aspects of the family life is covered by the two of you. I’m more into family finance, but would be lost in many other things that my wife handles better.
    Roadrunner recently posted…November Financial OverviewMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Roadrunner!!! I tend to agree that if you and your wife have come up with a plan together. It doesn’t matter who executes as long as the plan doesn’t deviate 🙂

  14. Nice article, MSM!

    I’ve learned it’s best to defer to Lady Libre in all aspects of life, financial or otherwise, mainly because she’s much smarter than I am. It helps that she’s an economist when it comes to financial stuff. And it also makes me feel warm and fuzzy when she acts like she listens to my opinions about money and anything else. 🙂

    Actually, we share in all major decision-making, and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Thanks for the great read, and cheers.
    FinanciaLibre recently posted…Save $1,000 A Month And Have A Better LifeMy Profile

    • Thanks Financial Libre for the kind words.

      I’m like you in that I married a much smarter woman 🙂

      We too share in major decisions or at least she makes me think I do.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

    • Thanks for sharing Jessica. Chipotle is so delicious and as a shareholder I definitely encourage your bf to visit as often 🙂 JK

      I definitely agree that learning finances at an earlier age would have been super beneficial. Instead of money in a savings account I definitely would have been buying some stocks.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  15. My husband and I have very different investment styles, so he focuses on retirement funds and I focus on real estate investing. We also tend this way, because I have a background in engineering and construction and he is in accounting. Go figure. 🙂

    But the mix also allows us to create passive income to do extended travel early, while keeping funds for later on. That helps us each meet our individual goals.
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…From the Sunday “Scaries” to the Sunday SolacesMy Profile

    • That’s really interesting I’ve never heard of a split like that between a couple.

      Sounds like you have found a great investment mix for both of you 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. I invest like a woman so I’m good with Mrs. DivHut. She is very involved in many of my stock picking and has the same mentality as I do when it comes to risk and earning a passive income stream. VFC was all her doing several years ago and it’s one of our best investments so far. Thanks for sharing.
    DivHut recently posted…Dividend Income Update November 2016My Profile

    • That’s awesome to hear. It’s not often that you hear people say that they invest like a woman 🙂

      Sounds like Mrs. DivHunt picked an awesome stock.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  17. I handle the finances for both personal and our businesses. And actually I have two sisters that also take the lead on their family’s finances as well. I think it has a lot to do with how we were raised. My husband and I talk finances a lot. More about the larger picture and where we want to be down the road. Although he is the one that handles most of the research/purchases when it comes to insurance, aside from healthcare. Interesting read. 🙂

    • Thanks Kelsey!!! That’s really interesting that you and your sisters take the lead on your household finances. That’s awesome to hear and it sounds like you and your husband are on the same page.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  18. Interesting post, MSM. I would say that manage most of the household finances, particularly long term investment/retirement stuff. I think it has more to do with the fact that I find that stuff interesting and enjoyable. We do, however, review our financial goals and investments together on a regular basis. And we’re both on the same page when it comes to long-term goals and overall investment strategy. I think we go over our finances enough that, should anything happen to me, she’d be able to pick up where I left off without too much of a hiccup.

    • Thanks for sharing SRGO!!! I’ve found that most personal finance bloggers handle the money in their household 🙂

      This makes sense if we’re passionate to talk about in our spare time on the web, I’m sure we want control at home.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  19. The research is interesting because it seemed to be focused on the rich world. A lot of research has come out of expanded studies throughout the world that show that in poorer countries it is usually the women who handle everything and they tend to be more responsible with the money than men there too. Micro finance companies have used this research to start lending exclusively to women or lending to women in groups. The theory with the groups is, say if 5 women are all responsible for a loan and one doesn’t pay, the other 4 will put a lot of social pressure on the non payer to work it out and come up with the funds.

    My household is split like you described with me handling the long term funds and my wife our discretionary spending. This however is more due to my area of expertise but I would enjoy it if she was more knowledgeable in the long term investments area.

    • Thanks for sharing Alex. That’s incredibly interesting information about micro lending. I had some exposure when I was getting my Masters but I didn’t get to spend as much time learning as I should have.

      I really appreciate it!!!

  20. Thank you for bringing up some of the inequities between married partners. It is absolutely true that many women will live longer than their partners and need to know where all the accounts are and how to access them. In our evolution towards a paperless society, it’s more difficult now for widows and widowers to follow the paper trail. Just last week, an employee called me up to see if he could still file a life insurance police for his wife who died over 5 years ago. He ‘forgot’ that he had bought her life insurance through work.

    In terms of our strategy, Mr. Need2Save and I review our budget regularly together and we both use Mint, Personal Capital, and SigFig (I know – such nerds we are) to track our accounts. We both know where to find the passwords to each, if needed and we discuss all major investment decisions together. I know we are probably in the minority, but we have both participated equally for the most part during our marriage.

    I wonder if the stats say anything about marriage later in life, vs. those that marry at younger ages with respect to investment decision making?
    Mrs. Need2Save recently posted…Want Something New? Sell Something Old!My Profile

    • Hi Mrs. Need2Save!!! Thanks for sharing your perspective and it’s great to hear that you and Mr. Need2Save are so dedicated towards reviewing your budgets 🙂 If I could get my wife to log into mint or personal capital I consider that a win, let alone logging into all three.

      I’ll have to look into the stats that you brought up. In my research I didn’t come across anything but then again I wasn’t specifically thinking of your excellent question 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  21. Wow, most of the research is pretty accurate in my case. I handle most of the investments in the household and my wife handles all the bills. She had absolutely no interest in learning nor managing personal finance. I tried to convince her multiple times, but I guess I didn’t do that good of a job. In a way, it’s good for me as I like to be in control of my finances.
    – Leo
    Leo T. Ly @ isaved5k.com recently posted…Freedom 48 Investment Toolkit: Foreign Market Investment BasicsMy Profile

    • Sounds like your wife and my wife are pretty similar in those respects. I have sat down and tried to teach her but her eyes glaze over. So I figure as long as she has the password to the accounts and she understands dollar cost averaging and index funds she should be all set.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

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