Many Couples Don't See Eye to Eye on Long-Term Money Matters

Many Couples Don't See Eye to Eye on Long-Term Money Matters

Couples with children are twice as likely to have finances affect their relationship
Parents saving money

With the coronavirus pandemic displaying how sudden events can throw an entire family's finances into disarray, it becomes ever more important for couples to plan for their future together.

In Fidelity Investments' latest Couples & Money Study, the financial services company found that 57% of respondents are joint decision-makers on their retirement and long-term financial goals.

However, other findings don't quite match up, as the report also revealed that 51% of non-retired couples disagree on the amount they need to save to reach their goals for retirement. Additionally, 22% of women have little or no involvement at all in retirement planning, while 40% of respondents in same-sex couples have only one primary retirement decision-maker (versus 27% of opposite-sex couples).

Many couples disagree on financial matters, despite great communication in other areas

Fidelity's survey results indicate that the majority of respondents believe they communicate at least very well with their partner (71%) and talk about their finances at least once a month (61%). Despite that, the report showed that:

  • 44% of respondents argue about money at least occasionally
  • 39% of respondents couldn't correctly identify their partner's salary
  • 18% of respondents identify money as their greatest relationship challenge

Other survey participants believe they're savvier than their partner at building strategies for:

  • Paying down debt (58%)
  • Investing (53%)
  • Creating a financial plan (53%)

A different survey from Wells Fargo showed that younger women are more likely to be the primary breadwinner in their families compared to older women. But despite taking the initiative in this aspect of family finances, women are still hesitant in taking the reins in other aspects: More female respondents in the Fidelity survey rated their partner better at understanding of investing matters than did male respondents (56% versus 34%, respectively).

Disagreements especially abound in long-term financial planning

Even though nearly half of respondents are confident in their and their partner's ability to manage day-to-day finances and short-term money goals, only 4 in 10 are just as confident in their ability to save for retirement.

The disputes don't end there, as Fidelity also found that many couples also disagreed on:

  • The age they expect to retire at (48%)
  • How much risk they are comfortable with taking on in investing matters (40%)
  • Whether they are spenders or savers (34%)
  • Their family's next big savings goal (34%)

With another survey from the American Institute of CPAs noting that 47% of cohabiting or married couples experience intimacy issues in their relationship due to financial tension, adding a financial professional into the mix can help mitigate these couples' financial disagreements.

The Couples & Money report discovered that couples who work with an advisor are less concerned about common money stressors than those that don't, including:

  • Having enough money saved for retirement (35% versus 54%)
  • Being able to pay for health care costs in retirement (41% versus 49%)
  • Building up emergency savings (20% versus 36%)

Almost half of all couples (47%) that currently work with a financial professional agree that they hired their advisor together. Despite this united front, less than 4 in 10 couples (38%) interact with their advisor together, with more men taking on the lead role (33% of men compared to 20% of women).

For comparison, those in same-sex pairings are more likely to do things independently. Fewer same-sex couples working with a financial advisor hired them together (42% versus 48% in opposite-sex relationships), while a greater percentage of them admit that one partner takes the lead in their talks with their advisor (28% versus 25% in opposite-sex relationships).

Methodology: In conjunction with Fidelity Investments, Ipsos gathered data from 1,713 couples (3,426 individuals) using KnowledgePanel from March 25-April 22, 2021. Respondents needed to meet the following qualifications:

  • Are at least 25 years old
  • Married or in a long-term committed relationship and living with their respective partner
  • Have a minimum household income of $75,000 or have at least $100,000 in investable assets