Women control family purse strings no matter who the breadwinner is: BMO survey

OTTAWA – Men still make the most money in the average household, but it’s women who control the purse strings.

While that’s been acknowledged informally for some time in Canada, a new survey by the Bank of Montreal suggests there is no reason to doubt the truism.

In a report tied to Mother’s Day, the bank says a recent survey of about 1,500 people shows that in 82 per cent of Canadian households, women are either the primary decision-maker or have equal responsibility for financial decisions.

“We can still say women earn less than men over their entire career … but they do make around 80 per cent of the decisions around spending,” said Tina Di Vito, head of BMO’s retirement division.

“Even on things like the family car, women are very involved in selecting a car that is appropriate for their needs.”

The BMO report, done in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group, shows women are also gaining financial power by virtue of their earnings and now control about one-third of all wealth in North America.

Still, the study released Thursday suggests women remain on average less confident than men about finances.

Men are more likely than women to have investments and a financial plan by a factor 62 per cent versus 52 per cent, the bank said.

They also tend to be less prepared for retirement due to a variety of factors, including lower earnings, intermittent work histories and longer life spans.

Di Vito said the gap is closing in many areas where women are lagging.

“There is still a gap, but it’s getting less and less. Even in the area of retirement, baby boomer women are the first generation of women retirees that actually control their own personal wealth,” she said.