A recent report by RBC Wealth Management looks at how high-net-worth women — key decision makers in managing family finances — approach building, preserving and transferring wealth.

The study comprised 1,752 women and 1,321 men across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. worth $4.4 million on average.

RBC reported that in households whose investable assets exceed $4 million, 98% of women said they were either sole or joint decision makers on daily banking, and 84% were fully or partially responsible for the family’s investment portfolio.

As women’s share of global wealth and earnings increases, they are becoming the world’s largest emerging market, according to one expert.

In accumulating financial knowledge, women and men differ. According to the RBC report, women are comfortable with a general understanding of financial matters rather than delving into details.

In addition, women tend to adopt a consultative approach to advance their understanding of wealth and money. Fifty-five percent said they turned to knowledgeable individuals to build their financial acumen, compared with 47% of men.

In contrast, men prefer autonomy. Sixty-four percent of men said they preferred to conduct their own research, a preference of 50% of women in the study.

Beyond these different approaches to becoming financially knowledgeable, few real differences exist between women and men in their path to learning, the survey found.

Both start their structured financial learning — lessons from family members, instruction from advisors or learning from financial literacy programs — at age 27. Both learn from general discussions with various people, though a majority of women said family conversations were key for them.

Some women use their time differently and are more inclined to delegate to professionals. About a third of female respondents described themselves as self-directed investors, compared with half of male respondents.

Women as Inheritors

Fifty-seven percent of women in the survey had received a transfer of wealth, and most of the others expected one in the future, according to RBS, which noted that the study focused only on linear transfers, from older to younger generations.

The inheritance experience, RBC found, was “often lonely and confusing” because inheritors, regardless of gender, were “generally unprepared, uninformed and unsupported.”

Earlier research showed that many rich families transfer wealth absent context, conversation, guidance or accountability.

A big majority of inheritors in the RBC poll who reported having advance conversations with their benefactors knew in advance the monetary value of the assets they would receive. However, they had little understanding of what the benefactors wanted them to do with the assets or of the structures used to transfer assets or the advisors who would facilitate the process.

Women in the survey were less likely than men to receive information about their inheritance. Thirty-six percent of female inheritors said they had received no professional or family guidance at all.

Moreover, just 29% of women had benefactor guidance about how to use the assets, compared with 37% of men. Yet, 19% of women who expected to receive an inheritance said this was an important part of their preparation, and 21% said some investment education would be the most valuable type of guidance.

Other research has found that in American families, talking about money matters is often difficult.

Upon receiving their inheritance, women had to figure out how to incorporate the assets into their overall wealth and retirement planning.

Fifty-seven percent of women in the RBC survey said they intended to pass on their wealth only upon death or illness. The reason: For 27% of these, it was a sense of not having enough to give away gradually while living, and 31% said they need the money to fund their lifestyle.

The report found that worries about having enough money for retirement was holding back some women from initiating wealth transfer plans.

Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they had a full wealth transfer plan in place, compared with 30% of men, and more than a third of women said they had yet to do any preparation.

A study by Boston College researchers found that inheritances do not improve retirement security much.

Preparing the Next Generation

Many female inheritors are drawing on their own experiences in constructing a strategy for the next generation, according to RBC.

Ninety-two percent of respondents reported that they had begun to educate their children on wealth matters, or intended to do so. They said children should start to learn how to manage family wealth at these ages:

  • Budgeting — age 17
  • Investing — age 20
  • Wealth transfer — age 24

One woman in the survey said families should start introducing finance fundamentals at a much earlier age.

“The most effective way to teach children is to start early and focus on values and vocabulary, like saving, gratification and good choices,” she said. “Families that start teaching their children between the ages of five and nine can succeed if they continuously repeat their financial values.

“By the time they’re 10, you want to start teaching them the actual skills of sharing, saving and philanthropy — and soon, it starts to feel natural.”

RBC said its research showed that women who are knowledgeable about wealth and focused on their family’s long-term financial health are both empowered and empowering.

The study found that not all high-net-worth parents were convinced that a proactive approach to educating their children was working. Only 44% expressed confidence in their heirs’ abilities to grow their wealth.

The next generation had a different view. Both female and male millennials appeared to be growing in confidence and financial sophistication, the study found.

Younger women, in particular, were benefiting from their mothers’ efforts, the research showed, with 51% exhibiting confidence in their wealth knowledge.

— Check out Why Women Make Great Investors on ThinkAdvisor.