Industries Banking/Finance

Women increasingly contributing to family wealth

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A survey looking at high net worth households points to a trend that is increasingly seen in the Washington, D.C., metro area: the changing role of women in family finances.

The “2014 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth,” released Friday, finds  that 52 percent of the women surveyed entered marriage with financial assets equal to or greater than those of their spouses.

Additionally, one third of women either are the primary income earner in the families or contributing an income equal to their spouses.

The report is based on a nationwide survey of 680 high net-worth individuals with investments of $3 million or more.

The survey results point to a “profound change in the role of women” in the creation of family wealth, says Sam Gottesman, managing director and D.C. market executive for U.S. Trust, the private wealth management division of Bank of America.

Gottesman — who oversees offices in McLean, Washington and Chevy Chase, Md. —  says the trend is especially notable in the Washington area because of high concentration of women lawyers and business owners in the region.

Gottesman says his firm is sensitive to the wealth planning concerns of female clients. One example is the firm’s inclusion of plans for care for aging loved ones in overall wealth strategies.

The U.S. Trust survey finds that 59 percent of respondents have provided substantial support to adult members of their family,  but only 1 percent have plans to handle the long-term care needs of aging parents.

Another family problem noted in the survey is the transfer of wealth from one generation to another. An estimated $15 trillion in family fortunes will pass to a new generation in the next two decades.

Nonetheless, most parents interviewed in the survey, 96 percent, believe their children won’t be mature enough to handle inherited wealth until they are at least 25 years old. In fact, only 38 percent of wealthy parents have fully discussed their financial situation with their adult children.

Gottesman says financial professionals can help facilitate this discussion, helping a new generation understand the responsibilities of wealth.

Unlike their children, most wealthy people (78 percent) created their fortunes rather than inheriting wealth, according to the survey. In fact, half of wealthy individuals grew up in middle-class or lower middle-class households.


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