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More Women Seeking Financial Autonomy

Jackie Bennion, Deputy Editor, 29 July 2019

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A study of UK women shows that financial behaviour is changing, with one in three choosing not to share assets with their partners.

A new report from asset house Wealthnet, co-founded by former Goldman Sachs partner Charlotte Ransom in 2015, highlights that women are taking more personal control over their wealth and suggests that the industry is missing an opportunity to serve them better and bridge the male-female wealth divide.

Polling close to 4,000 UK respondents aged 16+ in May, the study found that one in three women do not share any finances with a partner. Those aged 16 to 34 were the most likely (31 per cent) to keep assets separate, compared with 26 per cent of those aged 55 and over. Having a financial buffer in the event of a split was a strong motivator among younger women to control their finances, mirroring the fact that 42 per cent of UK marriages end in divorce. Almost half of women holding assets separately cited financial independence and security as the reason.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that on average UK women are now marrying at the age of 35, giving them a decade or more of earning and managing their own salary. Wealthnet's study found that the desire for financial control and independence was more acute among UK women than men.

Earning power also played an important role. Almost a third earning £45,000 or more do not share long-term savings with a partner. This compares with just 18 per cent for those earning £45,000 or less.

Societal attitudes and economic forces are fast redefining how women “accumulate, manage and grow their assets,” Charlotte Ransom, CEO of Netwealth said. “As a result, the traditional approach to managing finances jointly is being overturned by a new generation of financially more autonomous females.”

She warns that wealth management needs to recognise and relate to the financial firepower of women so that female clients can “retain a real sense of ownership and control over their wealth.”

There's been a lot of noise on how to capture and retain female wealth suited to their risk tolerances and investment goals, particularly as more than half of UK millionaires are forecast to be female by 2025, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. A number of financial institutions have recently got behind the WealthiHer Network, including JPMorgan, Barclays private bank, HSBC, and asset managers Brewin Dolphin and Close Brothers to gain more insight into female investment behaviour. The network released the UK’s largest study into the female wealth experience in April, which highlighted the diversity of approaches needed to encourage more women to invest.

With more women entering marriage later in life, spending years earning their own incomes and controlling their own finances, it’s not surprising that many are opting to stay in the driving seat and “turning their back on a ‘what’s mine is yours’ approach” Ransom said, adding that it needs more than a change in attitude.

“Investing is a crucial area of personal finance that is often still perceived to be a ‘man’s game’. By failing to participate, women are crucially missing out on the opportunity to grow their investments year-on-year to help close the wealth gap.”

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