Nearly Half of Americans Don't Know Exactly How Much Income Their Spouse Earns

It’s commonly known that financial matters are a source of discord among married couples, but nearly half don’t know exactly how much income the other earns, according to the latest updated survey by Fidelity Investments on couples and their finances.

Although the vast majority of couples (72 percent) say they communicate exceptionally or very well when it comes to financial matters, more than four in 10 (43 percent — up from 27 percent in 2013) couldn’t correctly identify how much their partner makes. And of those, 10 percent were off by $25,000 or more. (See video below.)
The latest from Fidelity Investments’ 2015 Couples Retirement Study found other critical misunderstandings between spouses:

  • 36 percent of couples disagreed on the amount of the household’s assets that can be invested.
  • When asked how much they will need to save to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement, nearly half (48 percent) have “no idea” — and 47 percent disagree about the amount needed. This level of disagreement is highest among those who are closest to retirement—Baby Boomers (born 1946-64).
  • 60 percent of couples and almost half (49 percent) of Boomers don’t have any idea how much their Social Security benefit might be, even though the information is readily available on the Social Security website.
  • Couples aren’t on the same page when it comes to describing their expected lifestyle in retirement—with one in three disagreeing about how comfortable that lifestyle will be.

“We know couples don’t always agree when it comes to money, but we were surprised how many missed the mark on the question of their partner’s salary,” said John Sweeney, executive vice president of Retirement and Investing Strategies at Fidelity. “If gaps exist around basic questions like salary, couples might have other opportunities for improvement on the financial front, such as sorting through and tackling important issues together around the next big milestones in their lives, how and where to spend retirement and later-in-life issues involving eldercare and estate planning.”
A strengthening economy is apparently not enough to ease anxiety about rising costs in the future. In fact, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say they worry about being able to afford unexpected health care costs in retirement, up from 70 percent in 2013. More than half (51 percent) worry about outliving their savings in retirement, a number that is significantly higher than what was reported in 2013 (42 percent).

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