Single? Married? How Relationship Status Impacts Your Money Mindset

Relationship status — whether single, married, divorced, or widowed — plays a major role in women's financial behaviors, new study shows.

A grandmother, mother and daughter hug each other.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Single? Partnered? Widowed? Relationship status plays a big role in how women think about and manage their money, as demonstrated in a new study from financial services organization Equitable.

Equitable employed an independent research firm to survey more than 1,200 U.S. women, ages 18 to 77. The study, "Women, Money and Relationships," explores how single, married/partnered, divorced or widowed women manage their finances. 

“As someone who has been married, widowed and is now newly engaged, I understand firsthand how our relationship status can influence how we think about finances,” said Connie Weaver, Equitable’s Chief Marketing Officer. “It’s important to understand how — and why — women’s attitudes and behaviors toward their finances change during all life stages. Life changes can be joyful and also challenging. It is critical that women have a plan, feel empowered and take control of their financial well-being.”

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Key Findings

  • Single women stated that income is the number one life event that encourages them to become more involved in their finances. 
  • Married women gradually become more involved in their finances over time.
  • Among divorced and widowed women, the end of their marriage and the death of their spouse, respectively, were the most common reasons they became more engaged with their finances. 
  • More than half of divorced (52%) and widowed (56%) women surveyed expressed regret for not having been more involved in financial decision-making before their marital status changed.

How does relationship status impact financial behavior?

The survey pointed out one glaring truth: regardless of relationship status, the majority of women surveyed wish they had paid more attention to their finances earlier in life. This sentiment was strongest among divorced (70%) and widowed (67%) women compared to married (64%) and single (63%) women. 

The study also revealed that many women feel less confident about investing and retirement planning after a change in their relationship. While having enough money to cover unexpected expenses is a top financial goal across the board, single, divorced and widowed women also list other short-term financial needs, such as simply being able to pay their monthly bills. 

In comparison, married women surveyed are most likely to say their financial focus includes longer-term priorities, such as being able to retire comfortably and having enough money to travel. 

Equally important, the survey showed that a change in relationship status is often a catalyst for seeking the help of a financial professional. One in four divorced women (26%) started working with a financial professional after their marriage ended, and 29% of widowed women began working with a financial professional after the loss of their spouse.

How much does working with a financial professional help?

Relationship status aside, women who work with a financial professional saw improvements in their financial well-being, with over 90% saving for retirement and 72% creating a financial plan for the future. In comparison, among women not working with a financial expert, only 64% are saving for retirement, and just 16% have a written financial plan. Yet despite the benefits of working with a financial professional, only one in five women (20%) turn to a financial professional for help. 

“Our financial wellness includes much more than our risk tolerance and what is in our savings accounts. It’s the total of all aspects of our lives, including our relationship status,” said Jody D’Agostini, CFP®, CDFA™, RICP, a financial professional with Equitable. “We want women to feel confident about their financial futures, and that includes preparing for what sometimes might be the unexpected.”  

About the study

The “Women, Money and Relationships” study was commissioned by Equitable and conducted by Zeldis Research Associates from June 2023 – July 2023 among 1,702 respondents.

Related Content

Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.