It is often said that two can live as cheaply as one. What is certainly true is that two people who begin to live together can cut their individual costs by sharing the cost of living space, utilities, groceries and other everyday expenses.
But when two people marry, they must decide the best way to approach individual finances versus shared finances. While the wisdom of any decision can be argued, and often is by marriage counselors, how a couple decides to handle their joint finances makes a world of difference in how the household is run financially.
Spectrem’s research into investor habits shows that there is growing trend among younger investors to maintain separate finances rather than pool all finances into one account. Such behavior changes the decisions investors make when they meet with their advisor, and also changes the way advisors approach investors when discussing matters with a married couple.
“The question of how a couple will handle their finances is one of the most delicate and important questions they must answer,’’ said Spectrem president George H. Walper Jr. “For advisors, understanding how an investor handles finances at home will greatly determine how they handle investments going forward. It can also go a long way in determining the risk tolerance of an investor.”
There is another question to be asked when discussing household finances. After determining how their combined money is pooled or kept separate, advisors need to know who makes the decisions in the household, or whether decisions are made together. Those two factors create a wide variety of situations which advisors must investigate when dealing with investors.
According to the Spectrem study Financial Behaviors and the Investor’s Mindset, 63 percent of Millionaire investors with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million who are married or have a partner pool all of their money together.
Another 25 percent pool most of their finances but maintain individual accounts. Only 8 percent say most of their finances are handled individually, and only 3 percent are completely financially independent from the person they live with.
But when that information was segmented by age, it revealed that 22 percent of Millennials Millionaires go the individual route, evenly split between those who are completely independent of each other and those who have only occasionally pooled finances. That’s double the overall percentage in those two categories.
Perhaps pooling finances is something that is more common among those couples who have lived together for decades. Or it could be that younger investors are choosing that path as the wise move for a younger couple with less certainty to their financial situation.
Adding to the financial decision-making among Millennials is the fact revealed in the Spectrem study that younger married investors are much more likely than older investors to make financial decisions with their spouse or partner, rather than having one member of the household in charge of the decision-making. While 54 percent of investors overall work jointly in making financial decisions, 76 percent of Millennials do so. Only 52 percent of Baby Boomers make financial decisions together.
(In almost all cases, if decisions are not made jointly, they are made by the husband rather than the wife).
So Millennials are more likely to keep their finances separate, but are also much more likely than others to make decisions jointly rather than have one dominant voice in the household.
However, when asked about the level of agreement between household members in financial matters, Millennials rated theirs at 77.05 on average on a scale of 0-to-100. That is much lower than the Baby Boomers’ rank of 83.50, the highest among all age segments.
Top Takeaways for Advisors
Obviously, the Spectrem research indicates trends and averages, but all investors are different. However, advisors should be advised that younger investors are trending toward separate accounts within the household and joint decision-making, information that could make working with an advisor in that age segment easier from the start.
The Spectrem research indicates men are more likely than women to believe they make the financial decisions in their home. This may not be true. Conversations with investors regarding how decisions are made can assist advisors when it comes time for investors to make decisions about financial products and services the advisor recommends.
©2017 Spectrem Group