TIAA-CREF Survey Identifies Communications Gap Between Couples and Their Advisors

Launches Get Closer® Practice Management Program Designed to Address the "Couples Conundrum"
New York, June 18, 2015 — Financial advisors face a serious communications challenge putting much of their business at risk of potentially losing long-standing clients when a partner dies or a relationship ends among the couples they serve, according to a TIAA-CREF Asset Management Survey of over 1,000 Americans released today.  The multi-generational study examined the intentions and actions of both married and unmarried couples with regard to communicating about their finances.
Couples account for over half of a typical financial advisor’s client base, yet 44 percent of couples assign just one partner to handle their advisor relationship. With industry research showing that 70 percent of women leave their financial advisors within a year of being widowed, for example, the survey finding underscores a complex puzzle that advisors must solve in order to effectively serve both partners in the couples whose investments they manage and retain that business over the long-term.
"The 'Couples Conundrum' translates into real risks for financial advisors," said Jennifer Pedigo, managing director and head of institutional business development at TIAA-CREF Asset Management.  "Despite their best efforts to work with both members of a couple, advisors often do not have adequate insights into the remaining spouse to serve him or her as effectively as possible in the event of a major life transition. It’s critical that advisors are able to make a real connection with both partners."

Actions Versus Words: A Disconnect in Couples’ Financial Communications

Attitudes of men and women toward communicating about finances with their partners highlight significant differences.  According to the survey, while more than nine out of ten couples say that communicating with their partners about finances and investing is as easy as deciding on where to go to dinner, many (60 percent) entrusted one partner to make most of the financial decisions.  Furthermore, when hiring a financial advisor, 41 percent did not even include their spouse in the decision making process at all.
Gender stereotypes appeared to play a role in financial decision making among couples. Male respondents were much more likely to view themselves as the primary financial decision makers (62 percent vs. 43 percent of women) and twice as likely as female respondents to say they are more knowledgeable about financial decisions than their partners (78 percent vs. 37 percent of women).

Generational Differences in Couples’ Interactions with Advisors

Younger investors are more likely to say that they share the same vision for their investment portfolio as their significant others – 58% of Generation Y (age 21 to 36) couples versus only 37% of Generation X (age 37 to 50) and 28% of Boomers (age 51 to 69). Yet, in an apparent contradiction, they are actually less likely to make financial decisions jointly than older generations. Only 18% of Generation Y couples reported making joint financial decisions, as compared to 42% of Generation X couples and 44% of Boomer couples.
Likewise, Generation Y investors are also less likely to pursue joint interactions with their financial advisors. 61% of Generation Y couples said one partner primarily interacted with their advisor alone versus 49% of Generation X couples and 40% of Boomers. Younger investors, however, tend to form stronger relationships with their financial advisors and are more likely than their older counterparts to say that their financial advisors know personal information about them. This includes their pet’s name, their personal values and their charities of choice.
Generation Y and Generation X investors are also more open to having their financial advisors teach money skills to their children. Sixty-three percent of Generation Y investors and 66% of Generation X investors said they would be “very likely” to accept such an offer, compared with only 39% of Boomers and 29% of seniors.

Introducing Get Closer®: Solving the Couples Conundrum

To support advisors in addressing the communication gaps uncovered by the survey, TIAA-CREF Asset Management created Get Closer®: Solving the Couples Conundrum, a comprehensive new practice management program aimed at helping advisors market to couples, better serve their joint financial needs and retain their business even as relationship status evolves. The program was constructed with both step-by-step interactive tools and thought-provoking analysis which includes educational white papers, practical worksheets, a series of articles by well-known industry experts and numerous instructional videos all designed to help advisors fully and equally engage couples in the financial decision-making process.
To obtain a copy of TIAA-CREF’s research and practice management tools, visit

Survey Methodology

To explore the effectiveness of financial communications among couples and its impact on advisor practice management, TIAA-CREF commissioned an online survey that was fielded in November through December 2014. Investors were asked to comment on a range of issues relating to their finances. Respondents were at least 21 years old, had at least $100,000 in investable assets and currently work with a financial advisor. In total, 1004 investors were interviewed, 500 of whom were married or living with significant others.


TIAA-CREF ( is a national financial services organization with $866 billion in assets under management as of 03.31.15 and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

About TIAA-CREF Asset Management

TIAA-CREF Asset Management ( is part of the TIAA-CREF group of companies and provides investment advice and portfolio management services to individual investors, intermediaries and institutional clients through its subsidiaries.  Its strategies cover a wide array of global asset classes, including equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative investments.

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