When Jane’s husband died in a climbing accident in the Alps, she faced not only shock and grief but a daunting pile of paperwork.
“It’s hard . . . having been married 43 years then all of a sudden your partner is not there any more and the world is on your shoulders,” says Jane, 72, who lives in Scotland.
In the midst of grief, she found it particularly difficult to sift through the couple’s financial records and make decisions about how to manage assets that were now solely in her charge.
Many more women of Jane’s generation will face similar challenges in the coming decades. A large portion of Britain’s wealth is currently held by the baby boomer generation born between 1944 and 1964, most often by couples, in which men frequently manage the finances.
But that situation is set to change, as men of this age pass on and women, on average, outlive their husbands and assume independent control of family wealth.
This asset shift puts pressure on the UK’s £1.8tn wealth management industry, which for decades has been geared toward courting male clients, according to financial advisers.
Many firms have long been preoccupied with generational transfers of wealth, when children inherit assets from their parents. Families have themselves focused on this asset handover, which often comes with big inheritance tax (IHT) issues.
But demographic shifts are driving an unprecedented wave of spouse-to-spouse transfers in the baby boomer generation — and calls for better support for surviving partners, especially widows.
By 2025, it is estimated that women will hold 60 per cent of Britain’s wealth, having inherited most of it from their deceased spouses, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. Yet a survey from Schroders found that only 7 per cent of wealth managers have dedicated strategies in place to retain, attract and advise female clients.