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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2011

More women take lead in managing households' money


DALLAS -- Many couples run their households jointly, making financial decisions together as partners.

But growing numbers of women are taking on the role of the family chief financial officer.

They set the budget, pay the bills, make the grocery list, and can easily recite how much it truly costs to run the family.

"Over the last five years, we have seen a significant increase with the clients and potential clients we have interviewed where the female in the relationship is either taking the lead in the decision-making process or at a minimum is involved in setting the objectives and risk tolerances for the family finances," Karen Burns, president of Capital Ideas Inc., a Dallas investment firm, said.

"This is a dramatic change from when my partner first entered the investment world more than 40 years ago and a significant change from when I entered the business in 1995."

In the past, her firm "rarely met the female spouses in our strategy meetings with our clients," she said.

"And now, most of the couples we deal with include either both spouses, and frequently just the female," she added.

Experts say part of the reason for the change is that more women are earning their own money and becoming financially self-sufficient.

"As they become breadwinners, we're seeing them taking on more of the longer-term finances," said Lule Demmissie, managing director of investment products and retirement at TD Ameritrade.

"The reality is that women have been taking care of the household finances when it comes to paying the bills, all sorts of everyday finances."

In a survey released last year by TD Ameritrade, 33 percent of married female breadwinners reported that they alone are responsible for paying bills, compared with 22 percent of married men who are employed.

Stephanie Stoltzfus of North Richland Hills took over her family's finances in 2005 to help her husband, David, who had started a new job as an escrow officer at a title company.

"He was pretty wiped out at the end of the day," said Mrs. Stoltzfus, 46, who was working part time then as a hairdresser. "He didn't want to deal with it because he deals with numbers all day long." The couple's stage in life -- they were newly married and were beginning to consolidate things -- also called for her to manage the finances. "I felt we were going through a lot of change, and I needed to step up and help him," she said.

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