Couples Who Divide Financial Tasks Enjoy Retirement More

February 14, 2008 ( - Of the four financial planning styles of couples identified by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and the MIT AgeLab, partners who practice a "division of labor" approach to managing household finances reported successes that stood out from the other groups.

According to a press release, the study identified four distinct planning styles:

  • Roughly a third of couples (36%) reported that one spouse is the dominant financial manager, the “Drivers” (17%), and the other is either minimally involved or not involved, the “Passengers” (19%).
  • Just over half (53%) of the respondents said they were part of a couple where both partners are equally involved in all aspects of financial management and make every decision and take every action together, “Joined at the Hip.”
  • A very small percentage of couples (11%) practiced a division-of-labor approach, “Divide and Conquer.”

The press release said “Divide and Conquer” managers were most likely to have prepared a contingency plan to assure the financial security of the surviving spouse (45% versus 32% of “Joined at the Hip,” 27% of “Passengers,” and 8% for “Drivers”). “Divide and Conquer” managers also stood out as super savers (38% of this group had saved at least $750,000 for retirement versus 16% of “Joined at the Hip,” 25% of “Passengers,” and 17% of “Drivers”).

“Divide and Conquer” managers are enjoying retirement more than expected (46% versus 29% of “Joined at the Hip, 23% of “Drivers,” and 18% of “Passengers”).

Maureen Mohyde, director of corporate gerontology at The Hartford noted in the release that couples using the “Divide and Conquer” management style were the most likely to have considered three important questions related to the death of a spouse: how would this impact the monthly income of the remaining spouse; how an expensive illness of the dying spouse would impact the remaining spouse’s assets; and how prepared is the surviving spouse to manage the household finances when one partner dies.

The research showed that “Divide and Conquer” couples are significantly more likely to seek the assistance of a professional financial adviser (72% compared to 59% of those who are “Joined at the Hip,” 44% of the “Drivers,” and 56% of the “Passengers”).

For the study, in November and December of 2007 researchers conducted telephone interviews with 837 pre-retirees and retirees between the ages of 45 and 74 who were married or living with a partner.