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Behind Closed Doors: Older Couples and the Gendered Management of Household Money

  • Dinah Bisdee (a1), Tom Daly (a2) and Debora Price (a3)

As couples survive longer and live together into older age they face many issues of financial management, including daily money management on reduced and/or reducing income, and paying for care or the additional costs of disability. Yet household money management is highly gendered, especially for older age groups. This has implications for the ability of women, particularly, to manage financial decisions in the face of their partner's illness, or widowhood, as well as for their autonomy and well-being. We analyse in depth qualitative data from forty-five older couples across the socio-economic spectrum to show that women have varying emotional responses to money management in coupledom: ‘accepters’ who accept financial inequality and dominance by their husbands, ‘resenters’ who recognise these inequalities but resent them, and ‘modifiers/resisters’ who retain financial independence and power within their relationships. It is only the latter group, who have long histories of financial control and management, who are well placed for financial management and decisions in later life. By recognising the implications of different types of couple relationship, policies can be better designed to assist those navigating money in later life.

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M. A. Belch and L. A. Willis (2002) ‘Family decision at the turn of the century: has the changing structure of households impacted the family decision-making process?’, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2, 2, 111–24.

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C. Vogler , M. Brockmann and R. D. Wiggins (2006) ‘Intimate relationships and changing patterns of money management at the beginning of the 21st century’, British Journal of Sociology, 57, 3, 455–82.

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Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
  • URL: /core/journals/social-policy-and-society
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