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BLOG: Men worry about the cost of divorce while women fear their partner’s death

Written by: Lydia King
Inflation, energy prices and the higher cost of living top people's list of money worries. But are men and women worrying about the same things, and to the same extent?

How are concerns split between the genders?

While the cost-of-living crisis is front of mind for the majority of the public, our recent wealth survey found that women are much more worried than men about their standards of living taking a hit over 2023 and beyond.

While there are plenty of reasons why this may be the case, a key contributor appears to be that heterosexual couples largely continue to split their responsibilities along traditional gender lines. With women still more likely to manage household budgets, including energy bills and other household costs, it stands to reason that they would be more concerned about the increased cost of living than men.

Our research also revealed that men are more likely to worry about divorce impacting their finances, while women are more concerned about the impact of the death of their partner on their financial situation.

The latter may well be in large part due to men having more responsibility for longer-term financial products, including investments (35% of men, versus 19% of women) and pensions (43% of men, versus 31% of women), with women also tending to think of themselves as less financially literate and confident. Just 16% of women reported that they had received a good education around managing money, for instance.

This could go some way toward explaining that while the average person in the UK spends almost seven hours a month reviewing financial commitments (with the majority planning to dedicate more time to it going forward to navigate the cost-of-living crisis), there is a significant discrepancy in the amount of time men and women spend managing their money. Men dedicate an average of one hour 47 minutes longer than women to the task, with women spending substantially less time on financial products such as pensions and investments specifically.

Are we worrying about the right things?

No matter how much time an individual has available for financial planning, with so many potential worries on the table, it can be hard for people to know where to focus their efforts.

It is therefore critical to distinguish short-term fears from long-term priorities – the former a common obstacle to building robust financial plans for the future. In periods of high inflation and rising interest rates, people fear this will always be the case, expecting to have to build their wealth over the next 50 years in a 10% inflation environment.

While nothing is guaranteed in investment, we often see that clients want to hold on to cash when markets are in a difficult period, instead of putting that cash to work before it loses its value.

Financial advisers must be able to lay out likely long-term scenarios for their clients, using them to help build robust financial plans, and explaining any underlying assumptions which went into these plans – from general economic predictions to more personalised spending habits.

While we advocate for a truly life-long financial plan, we also accept the importance of planning for the worst-case scenario through regular reviews to your will, in the hope of avoiding any of the aforementioned financial distress which can come on top of the grief already felt when losing a partner.

With differences between how men and women are currently approaching their finances evident, it is important that each individual is able to access bespoke financial planning advice tailored to their needs and priorities – giving them the confidence and expertise needed to secure their financial future.

Lydia King is head of wealth planning at Handelsbanken Wealth & Asset Management

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