Why Women Shy Away from Family Finances — And Shouldn’t


My path to financial planning was motivated by a friend traumatically becoming a widow at age 30 – four months after the birth of their only child. Her husband’s known heart condition meant minimal life insurance. She struggled to access their bank accounts because he managed everything, including their account passwords. It shook my core to see her financially stressed AND grieving AND caring for a newborn.

I quickly realized the importance of engaging women in financial decisions and redirected my career path to do something about it. 

Like my friend, many women realize the consequences of taking the backseat on family finances too late. They may lack enough cash on hand when something happens to their spouse. Or they might find themselves alone and solely in charge of their finances due to divorce or death. These women often surprise themselves with their capacity to handle the unthinkable, but it does not have to be this way.

If you defer financial decisions to your husband and want to take a more active role in financial decisions – why not start now?

Statistically, eight in 10 women will live longer than their husbands. And we have already seen reports of divorce rates surging due to Covid-19. I know this is dark, BUT hey, it’s on brand for 2020 and it’s in the darkness is that we often find light AND clarity.

Many people have turned inward during the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on home and family. According to a recent survey of U.S. homeowners, more than 75 percent reported at least one home improvement project since March. Has your garden never looked better than it did this summer? Is there a fresh coat of paint on at least one room in your house? 

These Covid times are also an opportunity to look inward as it relates to personal finances, whether by necessity due to lost income or by choice as we often crave transparency in uncertainty. In fact, the pandemic has altered many women’s perspectives on money. More than ever, women want to engage with their husbands or partners as it relates to their family finances.

If you are one of these women – you’re in good company. According to a UBS study completed earlier this year, nearly half of all married women let their husband take the lead on how to invest, protect and pass on their wealth — even women who are the primary breadwinners. The study also found that the pandemic motivated 64% of women to play a more active role in family finances.

There are four general reasons why women don’t manage the finances in their families, as laid out in the study:

  • lack of confidence
  • complacency
  • entrenched roles 
  • keeping the peace.

A lot of married women carry the (often false) belief that their spouse knows more about investing and other long-term decisions. 

The truth is, personal finance concepts can be understood even by the least experienced or least interested. And, unfortunately, women’s lack of financial engagement often puts them at risk. A risk I’ve seen firsthand too many times in the past 10 years.

This is serious stuff, but it can also be fun (nerd alert!) and enlightening. If more women overcome lack of confidence, complacency, traditional roles and uncomfortable money conversations, they will arrive to a tremendous amount of clarity, teamwork and confidence. They will enjoy happier marriages and brighter futures for themselves and their families. They will have a hand at getting their family out of debt!

Over my next few posts I will share best practices for starting the conversation with your spouse, and what to focus on as it relates to short-and long-term financial goals. I hope you’ll join me and look forward to your questions and input along the way. Women shy away from family finances — but we don’t have to!

Previous articleMy Crooked Path to the Family I Always Wanted
Next articleWhy We Will Celebrate the Day of the Dead – Especially This Year
An upstate, NY native (Fayetteville to be exact), I settled on the NH Seacoast in 2011 after living in Portland, ME, Boston, Lake Tahoe, CA and Burlington, VT. I’m a lawyer-turned-financial planner at Charter Oak Capital Management who loves helping singles (by choice, widowed, or divorced) and couples organize their financial lives and plan for the life they imagine. My husband Dan is co-founder of a renewable energy company and we have three girls ages 9, 7 and 2. Our family loves the outdoors and spends a lot of time in Rangeley, Maine -- hiking, skiing and biking. I’m an avid reader, podcast listener, home organizer and gardener. I love all kinds of music and smart comedy (a la Midge Maisel). And in the event I find spare time, I beeline to my hammock or the couch with a book.


  1. Sarah:
    Very well said and equally well written! This was a great read on a very important topic. The truth is – knowing how to manage the family finances is often best left not to the man! But doing it in unison is, of course, the ideal. As you point out, when the unplanned happens its important the partner knows everything about the finances. You have helped us tremendously and will look forward to reading your future posts.

  2. Thanks for this post and sharing your friend’s experience. I look forward to reading your next posts with practical tips to move forward. Thanks!

  3. This is so well written. Hopefully it will encourage more women to become actively involved in their finances. You are a wonderful advocate Sarah!

Comments are closed.