Men and women spend and save differently
it comes to money, men and women view it, spend it and invest it very differently.
Little wonder that disagreement over the green stuff is
the leading cause of divorce nationwide.
Despite better education, despite more and simpler ways
to manage it, despite tons of books on the subject, even despite just plain
having more of it, there is one thing we seem dead set against doing
with our money, and that's talking about it.
Sure, you may know your spouse or partner's blind spots
where money is concerned. But do you know your own?
Born to shop
From birth, American women and men are raised to view and spend money quite
differently. Our socialization, a trained behavior, is primarily modeled after
our same-sex parent. While experts agree these generalizations are breaking
down, here's the money paradigm most of us have been dealt:
- Women, trained to nurture and seek acceptance, view money
as a means to create a lifestyle. Women spend on things that enhance day-to-day
living. Theirs is a now-money orientation.
- Men, trained to fix and provide, view money as a means
to capture and accumulate value. Men don't spend, they invest. Men don't want
something, they need it. Theirs is a future-money orientation.
"Women have been taught to invest in lifestyle and
children. Men have been taught to invest in things that hold value -- a house,
retirement," says Ruth
Hayden, a financial counselor and author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The
Money Book for Couples. "The way that translates into spending is that
women spend more money on the stuff that makes the day work. The problem with
that is, most of that stuff has no asset value, no visible value."
In other words, let the bickering begin. It usually starts
with the words, "Where did all the money go?"
Even our approach to shopping differs greatly.
Consider the innocent trip to the mall. She will dive into
the clothes racks seeking an outfit she likes, one that expresses her view of
herself, something in fashion, something now. He will make a beeline
to the first shirt that will work, then stand with bag in hand, tapping his
toe and fuming about what he perceives as her inability to make a decision.
"Women are the collectors of stuff. Women do the clothes.
Women are taught that what they need to get through life is approval. They have
to look good, act good, be good," says Hayden. "When men go shopping,
they expect that whatever they're shopping for to 'get fixed,' because men are
supposed to fix stuff. They don't want to be part of the process."
Our spending, our selves
Our sense of who we are is intricately entwined with our spending habits, according
to a study by Tahira K. Hira, professor of consumer economics and personal finance
at Iowa State University; and Olive Mugenda, associate professor of home economics
at Kenyatta University in Kenya, published in the Journal of Financial Planning.
Based on a study of 2,000 Iowans, of whom 529 responded,
women were far more likely to buy something without needing it (36 percent vs.
18 percent), buy something because it's on sale (24 percent vs. 5 percent),
shop impulsively (36 percent to 18 percent) and shop to celebrate (31 percent
vs. 19 percent).
But when polled on their level of savings, just 49 percent
of women said they were dissatisfied with their bank accounts, vs. 60 percent
"Money is an emotional-laden thing," says Hira.
"We spend because others are doing it. Women may have more need to be accepted
by others. Maybe they think that if they have the things that others have that
they'll be better off, they'll be liked and accepted."
Hayden says the shop-'til-you-drop syndrome is more than
a harmless female pastime; it also deprives woman of the opportunity to grow
money through investing. In their 20s and 30s, when their male counterparts
are buying homes and investing in mutual funds, many women are spending on clothes,
cars and decorating the apartment.
"The biggest risk for women is they stall. It's a huge
risk for women because time grows money," she says. "With our increasing
longevity, it's becoming a critical issue."
The bigger the boy ...
The male money blind spot is a little less obvious.
"The biggest risk for men, and it's kind of a new risk,
is men's egos, men keeping up with men and bragging about how much they've earned
in the market," Hayden says.
"People don't talk about these things. Everyone brings
his or her own money behavior from home and we think that is the way to do it."
Guys also tend toward a curious quirk when making buying decisions.
"Men will say, 'I need a new computer.' No,
you want a new computer because it's faster, it has more bells and whistles,"
says Hayden. "Men move those things they want into an investment category,
'This is a good investment.' And then they can't even enjoy it, they can't go,
'Oh, this is so much fun!' Everything is a serious need and everything is an
investment. What men need to do is kind of ease up a little bit and enjoy what
they're actually able to provide for themselves."
When it comes to spending, Hayden says it's about a draw.
Women spend their money gradually over time, and men spend it on a number of
big things. "They spend really big to show off because there's a lot of
ego risk on men today to do better than the next guy," she says.
New money role models
If any of this even remotely fits you or your significant other, join the club.
Hira says 46 percent of male respondents said money worries interfere with their
relationships and 55 percent of the women said managing money troubles interferes
with their lives at work.
Our biggest collective money blind spot may be our unwillingness
to talk openly about it.
"People don't talk about these things. Everyone brings
his or her own money behavior from home and we think that is the way to do it.
Then we struggle in our relationship until we settle on something that neither
one of us is really happy with, instead of sitting down and deciding how it
will be done in our house."
"Where people are struggling is they still have the
old socialization, but they're living their lives differently. We have two people
putting in eight- and 10-hour days, we have much higher standards for partnership
and intimacy than our parents did, we have much higher standards for child-raising,
for ourselves and our homes. Our standards have changed entirely, our roles
have changed, and yet we still have this socialization model that is archaic.
What couples are trying to do is to figure out new models. It's wonderful, but
it's very hard."
-- Posted: Jan. 9, 2003