24 February 2020

The division of financial labour in the home: summary report

10 min read

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Becky O'Connor

Personal Finance Specialist

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When it comes to domestic jobs, we all have our preferences – as well as things that tend to fall to us regardless, whether that’s because of a perceived greater ability to perform the task, more experience or more understanding.

This division of labour can happen without us even realising.

In 2019, YouGov on behalf of Royal London undertook to find out to what extent divisions of labour go beyond walking the dog, ironing and cooking and apply to money management within the household.

This was not an exercise in gender stereotyping, but a way to understand whether men and women fall into, or choose, certain financial jobs and whether the balance of responsibility for different types of financial undertakings changes over time, as couples journey through life together, and whether any generational shifts can be observed.

We summarise some of these findings below.

(You can find our press release on the publication of the findings here).

Who is in charge of which money chores?

Overall 43% of UK adults  living with a partner said it was mostly them who took responsibility for the day-to-day budgeting in the household, and 38% said they shared responsibility equally.

However, More than half of women (55%) living with a partner say they have the most responsibility for day to day budgeting and spending, compared with less than one in three men who live with a partner (31%):

Who, if anyone in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility when it comes to each of the following? (Please select one option on each row) Day-to-day budgeting and spending (e.g. grocery shopping, everyday expenses etc.)

  Male Female
Mostly Me 31% 55%
Mostly my partner/spouse 22% 7%
Mostly someone else in my household 1% -
We share responsibility  42% 35%
We manage our own individually 3% 2%
Don't know 1% 1%

Women are also more likely to say they take the lion's share of responsibility for short term savings goals, such as Christmas, birthdays, and home improvements - 46% of women who live with a partner compared to 28% of men:

Who, if anyone, in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility when it comes to each of the following? (Please select one option on each row) Saving for short-term goals (e.g. birthdays, Christmas, home improvements etc.)

  Male Female
Mostly me 28% 46%
Mostly my partner/spouse 17% 6%
Mostly someone in my household 0% -
We share responsibility equally 44% 41%
We manage our own individually 8% 5%
Don't know 2% 2%

 

On long-term financial planning, respondents felt the level of responsibility is more evenly split between men and women, although men are more likely to say they have the most responsibility (40% say “mostly me” compared to 33% of women):

Who, if anyone, in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility when it comes to each of the following? (Please select one option on each row) Long term financial planning (e.g. saving for a house, childcare or contingency for unplanned life events such as illness, accidents, redundancy etc.)

  Male Female
Mostly me 40% 33%
Mostly my partner/spouse 11% 15%
Mostly someone else in my household 0% -
We share responsibility 42% 45%
We mange our own individually 5% 3%
Don't know 2% 3%

When it comes to investments and pensions, men are more likely to say they take charge of setting up and running things for investment: 35% of men compared to 15% of women say they take most responsibility for investments. For pensions, 36% of men compared with 17% of women say they mostly take responsibility.

Who, if anyone, in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility for setting up and managing each of the following financial service products in your household? (Please select one option on each row)

Investments Male Female
Mostly me 35% 15%
Mostly my partner/spouse 4% 12%
We share responsibility 21% 21%
We manage our own individually 7% 7%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 32% 44%
Pensions Male Female
Mostly me 36% 17%
Mostly my partner/spouse 3% 13%
We share responsibility 28% 26%
We manage our own individually 18% 28%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 13% 14%

 

There is some evidence that auto-enrolment may be behind a shift towards more younger women taking charge of their own pension savings, as more younger women than older women with a partner said they have the most responsibility, despite a higher percentage of men overall saying that they have most responsibility. Women under 45 are more likely than women aged 45 or over to say that they and their partner manage their pensions individually.

It’s worth noting that both men and women are least likely to have investment products compared to other types of financial product mentioned in the survey, including such as savings accounts or pensions, with 32 per cent of men and 44 per cent of women responding that this question was “not applicable – I/ we don’t have this”.

In general, men say they take more responsibility for setting up and managing all financial products, to greater or lesser extents, including mortgages, life insurance, credit cards and loans. The one product for which men overwhelmingly take charge is car insurance, with 54% of men saying it is “mostly me”, compared to 29% of women.

Who, if anyone, in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility for setting up and managing each of the following financial service products in your household? (Please select one option on each row)

Current Account Male Female
Mostly me 35% 32%
Mostly my partner/spouse 8% 8%
We share responsibility 36% 33%
We manage our own individually 19% 27%
Savings Account Male Female
Mostly me 36% 33%
Mostly my partner/spouse 9% 9%
We share responsibility 31% 29%
We manage our own individually 14% 19%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 8% 8%
Credit Cards Male Female
Mostly me 37% 27%
Mostly my partner/spouse 6% 11%
We share responsibility 27% 26%
We manage our own individually 14% 19%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 14% 16%
Loans Male Female
Mostly me 23% 14%
Mostly my partner/spouse 3% 9%
We share responsibility 16% 13%
We manage our own individually 5% 6%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 52% 57%
Car Insurance Male Female
Mostly me 54% 29%
Mostly my partner/spouse 9% 27%
We share responsibility 18% 22%
We manage our own individually 8% 13%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 9% 8%
House Insurance Male Female
Mostly me 53% 41%
Mostly my partner/spouse 12% 21%
We share responsibility 23% 25%
We manage our own individually 1% 0%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 11% 11%
Life Insurance Male Female
Mostly me 28% %
Mostly my partner/spouse 6% %
We share responsibility 22% %
We manage our own individually 6% %
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 37% %
Mortgage Male Female
Mostly me 21% 16%
Mostly my partner/spouse 5% 9%
We share responsibility 20% 19%
We manage our own individually 1% 1%
Not applicable - I/we don't have this 52% 54%

 

Does age matter?

Generally speaking, the gender divide around money chores is consistent across all age groups, suggesting that the balance is not shifting one way or the other through the generations.

If anything, older generations are more likely to say they share responsibility equally for most financial products including investments and pensions than younger couples, suggesting that a couple is more likely to manage their finances together rather than on an individual basis as the years go by.

Although in addition to their pensions (see below), younger couples are more likely to manage current accounts individually rather than jointly. This may be because they do not yet have many shared outgoings in the form of mortgages or other bills.

Who, if anyone, in your household would you say has the MOST responsibility for setting up and managing each of the following financial service products in your household? (Please select one option on each row)

  18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
We share responsibility equally 21% 18% 32% 33% 42%
We manage our own individually 37% 42% 25% 20% 16%

Perception of ability

When it comes to giving the other partner credit for being “better” at managing the finances, the most popular answer to the question “who would you say is better at managing the finances?” was “we are both equally capable”, with 40% of men and 41% of women giving this answer.

However men are more likely to give credit to their partner for being better at it than women: 20% of men said their partner was better at financial management, compared with 14% of women being prepared to give the credit to their other half.

Younger people are also more likely to consider themselves better at managing money than their partner. 44% of 25 to 34 year olds think they are better at the finances than their partner, compared to 33% of those aged 55 and over.

Those aged 55 and over are far more likely to say that they and their partner are both equally capable (47%) than the 25 to 34 year old age group (32% said they were both equally capable)

 

Happiness

Happiness with the division of financial chores also improves with age. Across the board, more than half of respondents said they were “very happy” with the division of financial labour – 58% of men are very happy compared with 54% of women.

However on this measure, the figures suggest that experience counts. 68% of men and 65% of women aged 55 and over said they were “very happy”, compared with 40% of 18 – 34-year old men and 37% of 18-34-year old women.

Confidence

On understanding finances, men demonstrate higher levels of confidence: 47% of men v 38% of women are “very confident” understanding finances. Women (50%) were more likely to say they are “fairly confident” compared to 43% of men. 

When it comes to long term planning, 31% of men are very confident compared to 25% of women. But both are more likely to say they are fairly confident on this one, with 50% of men and 46% of women choosing this response.

Women express greater levels of confidence around budgeting and day-to-day spending (90%) in comparison to confidence levels with other financial products, but still roughly the same levels of confidence as men (92%).

Confidence for both men and women across all areas improves with age, suggesting experience is the greatest teacher. But generally, there is more confidence than lack of confidence among men and women of all ages.

Pensions

One area where there does appear to have been a change through the ages is in pensions. Younger adults living with a partner

in couples are more likely than older people in couples aged 55+ to say they manage their pensions individually.

33% of 25 to 34-year olds manage their own pensions individually, compared to 19 per cent of those aged over 55.

Arguments about money

Spending levels is the financial issue most likely to cause arguments in a couple.

Younger couples are more likely to argue about spending levels than older couples: 42% of 18-34 women (37% of 18-34 men) say they argue sometimes, often or very often argue with their partner/spouse about spending levels compared to 17% of women (and men) aged 55 and over.

In Summary:

There is evidence in subtle shifts in behaviour between the generations.

For example, the responses suggest that younger women are taking more control of areas of financial management, such as long term planning, than older generations of women.

They are more likely to manage their own pensions and current accounts.

Yet there are patterns that persist for men and women across the age groups, which could be down to either learned roles or natural preferences.

The levels of happiness and confidence expressed in the survey were encouraging, suggesting that finances are not always a source of angst and difficulty in relationships.

Younger couples were more likely to say that money had caused arguments, however perhaps this is to be expected of partners who are more likely to be getting used to living with shared responsibilities.