- Though traditional gender roles are changing, many opposite-sex couples still adhere to them, with men generally taking the lead on finances.
- A lack of confidence, failure to implement a financial plan and saving too heavily in cash are holding many women back, according to Jean Chatzky, the author of "Women With Money."
When it comes to money, as with many things, men and women approach the topic differently.
Though traditional gender roles are changing, many opposite-sex couples still adhere to them, with men generally taking the lead on finances and women taking a less active role.
That's according to a recent study from UBS Global Wealth Management, which found that 58 percent of women leave those crucial choices up to their male partners.
Younger women — those between ages 20 and 34 — were even more likely to defer to their significant others, at 56 percent. Meanwhile, older women ages 51 and up were not far behind, with 54 percent saying they leave money decisions to their spouses.
It doesn't have to be that way, according to Jean Chatzky, a personal finance journalist and author of "Women With Money."
At some point, most women will find themselves on their own. Aside from those who never marry or divorce, the average age of widowhood is 59, according to the Census Bureau, with many women living another decade or more beyond a husband's death.
To help women successfully take control of their finances, she encourages investing with confidence, rather than stashing cash in a low-yield savings account.
While zero-risk cash investments are entirely appropriate for short-term needs, such as an emergency fund, savers will lose money in the long run by trailing the rate of inflation.
"We put and keep far too much cash in the bank and we should be investing in the markets," Chatzky said.
The first step is to make savings a priority — aim to put aside 15 percent of whatever you earn, she advised — and put those dollars to work in an index fund. You don't have to actively trade stocks, Chatzky said; just pay attention to your fund's approach toward shifting from stocks to bonds.
Alternatively, opt for a target-date fund, which gradually moves from riskier investments to more conservative options as you near retirement.
Then, remember to revisit your portfolio periodically and rebalance as necessary to ensure that your asset allocation is still in line with your short- and long-term goals.
If you want help, meet with a professional. "I am a big fan of financial advisors," Chatzky said.
Financial advisors can play an important role, as well, in addressing any specific financial concerns you may have, such as a job change, move, illness, change in marital status, buying or selling a home, or paying for a child's education.
"Your advisor may tell you to increase your savings rate, restructure the way you're paying down your debts, [or] help you strategize to avoid taxes," she added. "All of those provide a quantifiable return."
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