(Photo: Shutterstock)

“At some point eight in 10 women will end up alone and solely responsible for their financial well-being.” 

That is one of the opening lines to a new report from UBS which surveyed how women are dealing with that responsibility. The findings suggest they have a long way to go.

Although 82% of the roughly 900 women surveyed believe equal participation in financial decisions is necessary for gender equality, 49% let their spouse take the lead. Sixteen percent take the lead on financial matters and 35% said they participate equally.

Altogether a little over 1,800 investors were surveyed in January and February, split almost equally between men and women, 25 and older with investable assets of at least $250,000 (the minimums were higher for those 31-39 and those 40 and older.) Fifty same-sex female couples were included. Findings from the report also included data from a survey among roughly 880 single men and women conducted in March 2019.

Even 41% of the women who were the primary breadwinners in a household said they defer to their spouses on financial matters, including half of those with a college degree. 

One surprising finding: 54% of millennials surveyed defer to their spouses on financial decisions — far more than the 39% of boomers that do so — despite an overwhelming majority of single millennials (88%) who said they want to participate equally or take the lead in planning their finances for the future.

Women offered multiple reasons for deferring to their spouses on financial matters, which fall under several major categories: lack of confidence, entrenched roles, complacency and keeping the peace. The most common reason, cited by 67% of women: a feeling that their spouse knows more about financial issues.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, could impact these views though it hasn’t yet changed behavior. 

According to the UBS report, 80% of women surveyed said they have or will likely act on their financial concerns as a result of the pandemic, and more than 70% said they have or will  consider reviewing their financial situation. But just 45% report they are currently managing household finances more than their spouse (Seventy-one percent of the men reported doing so.)

Sixty percent or more of women reported said they are taking the lead on homeschooling, caring for the children, cleaning and cooking during the pandemic.

“Even while doing their jobs remotely, for example, most women say they are taking the lead on domestic duties. Men are more likely to say they are taking the lead on yard work and managing the finances,” according to the report.

“Clearly there is an opportunity for change,” the authors note.  “With the lessons of the pandemic fresh in their minds, women have set their intentions. Now it’s time for them to act.”

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: