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How Women Suffer From Traditional Male-Female Financial Decision-Making

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to managing household income, men and women really diverge on approaches to divvying up financial responsibilities, and that could hurt women in retirement.

A report in UBS Wealth Management's Investor Watch Report looked at affluent U.S. couples and saw men taking longer-term responsibilities for the family's finances, including retirement and stock market investing, while women tend to run shorter-term finances such as paying bills and setting a budget.

UBS studied family money management in 10 areas, including retirement savings, real estate purchases, bill paying, charitable donations, insurance coverage and large purchases such as cars or major appliances.

Couples habitually tell UBS researchers they are "equally involved" in the family money picture -- just in vastly different, gender-specific ways. The study saw couples most often truly sharing decisions about real estate and other large purchases, as well as estate planning and college funding.

But there was a split, and it affected who handled "in-house" financial obligations such as bill-paying and "outside-the-house" responsibilities such as stock market investing.

"As an industry, we often use the terms 'financial decisions' and 'investing decisions' interchangeably, but financial decisions do not equal investing," says Paula Polito, a client strategies officer at UBS. "It's 2014, and women of all ages do not take as active a role as they should in investing. Even in millennial and Gen X couples, fewer than one in five women actually make investment decisions. This is alarming because investing is the foundation of financial security."

Since men tend to die earlier than women, after retirement women tend to have more worries and bigger problems  presumably because they weren't involved directly in investment decisions in all those years before.

"Women in these couples choose to be less involved in investing and are very satisfied with this choice until reaching retirement," the report says. "These women feel the best about their financial situation pre-retirement, but after retirement they actually feel worse, by a significant margin. Retired women who are not financial decision-makers are significantly more worried about their financial futures than other retired women, and also report the highest percentage of disagreements (30% have disagreed) about how much money to spend in retirement.

The solution is obvious: Women should get more involved, early on, with family investment.

"Women who choose to leave financial decision-making and the financial adviser relationship in the hands of their husbands should seize the opportunity to take a more active role," says Jeff Scott, head of market research for UBS. "Women are outliving their spouses and because they never dealt with finances before, they're less confident about handling them later in life. As a result, they are more concerned about the stability of their financial future and outliving their money in retirement."

There's much more in the report here.

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