smart spending

Gender spender: Sex sets your money DNA

When it comes to money, men and women view it, spend it and invest it very differently.

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?

Read on.

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, the money paradigm most of us have been dealt is similar.

Women vs. men:
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."

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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, professor of Family and Consumer Sciences and dean of the home economics faculty at Kenyatta University in Kenya, published in the Journal of Financial Planning.

-- Updated: Jan. 30, 2007

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