Men, Women, and Investment Planning

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It appears both sexes aren’t always on the same page

When men and women live together in a marriage or committed partnership, domestic incompatibilities come to light – one leaves the cap off the toothpaste and misplaces car keys; the other may insist there’s just one way to load a dishwasher. We’re not always on the same page when it comes to habits and attitudes, but assuming you have mutual financial goals, you need to share a clear road map for reaching them together. However, you might be surprised to learn just how differently men and women approach the investment planning journey.

“Men are generally much more comfortable operating with loose plans,” says Greg Shiveley, First Vice President of Wells Fargo Advisors’ Strategic Solutions Group. “Women tend to want written, detailed strategies that they can use to measure their progress.”

Shiveley also notes that it’s critical for both members of a couple to understand the other’s needs and goals. “It’s not about adopting his style or her style,” he says. “It’s about creating a plan that reflects each partner’s concerns and objectives.”

Getting to know you

A recent Wells Fargo Advisors study, “Personal Investing Attitudes,” sheds light on how men and women differ when it comes to long-range investment planning.

Men, consider these simple but illuminating findings:

  • Women are more likely than men (97% versus 87%) to feel a need for control over their financial futures.
  • An overwhelming majority of women (96%) believe that having an investment plan relieves stress and anxiety. Men feel the same way but to a lesser degree (83%).

“Women are more likely to say, ‘How do we know if we are saving enough or too much? Are we on track?'” Shiveley says. “Men,” he adds, “tend to believe that a plan is simply about having investment instruments in place and making regular contributions.”

Another difference is that women seem more inclined to consider key life events’ impact on their long-term investing goals:

  • 39% of women respondents say receiving an inheritance could strongly or at least somewhat affect their investing approach, compared with only 18% of men.
  • 37% of women say the death of a loved one would have an impact on their strategy. Only 19% of men say their strategy would be similarly affected.

Let’s work together

Given these marked differences, Shiveley suggests three ways to help couples get their thinking in sync:

  1. Start with equal time. Begin planning by letting your partner lay out his or her concerns and priorities. Simply getting them out in the open is a good first step toward reaching common ground.
  2. Use current financial decisions as a springboard. If your different financial viewpoints have you tiptoeing around each other, Shiveley suggests starting with financial changes that are happening right now, such as dealing with a tax refund, planning for a new school year, or looking at your quarterly 401(k) reports.
  3. Keep it simple. There are plenty of software programs available to help create detailed plans with countless scenarios. To get started, try the simple checklist on’s Retirement Planning page.

Remember, the goal isn’t to create the plan that’s perfect for just one spouse or partner, who then winds up taking over the reins. “Both of you are pulling for the same team,” says Shiveley. “Neither should feel coerced into adopting the other’s approach. Instead, you should both have a clearer sense of the most important objectives for each of you and how you plan to achieve them.”

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