Mars & Venus… Orbiting Their Wallets

Who is better with money – men or women?

A recent study by employee benefits company Financial Finesse appears to indicate the answer is… Men.  As a self-proclaimed bra-burning feminist, I was taken aback when originally presented with the results of this study which concluded “advantage men” in five key categories:

* Timely payment of bills: 90% of men said they pay their bills on time vs. 74% of women.
* Living within your means: 71% of men say they spent less than they earned vs. 53% of women
* Having a safety net: Over 50% of men said they had an emergency fund vs. just over 30% of women.
* Knowledge of investing: 73% of men said they had a general knowledge of stocks, bonds and mutual funds vs. 40% of women
* Wise investment mix: 40% of men said they were confident they had the appropriate mix of investments vs. 24% of women.

Asked for my take on these survey results, my gut reaction was to counter with the oft quoted study conducted by noted finance professors Brad Barber & Terrance Odean. It concludes that women are actually better investors than men (“women’s risk-adjusted returns beat men’s by an average of one percentage point a year”).  Or to talk about the results of micro-lending programs in developing countries which clearly show an advantage to women (“loans to women tend to benefit the whole family more often than do loans to men“).   But alas – the question before me was what on earth could account for this data showing better day-to-day financial hygiene amongst men.  I had three thoughts:

1. This data was self-reported.  Men may be over-estimating their financial skills.
2. Women still earn less than $0.80 for each $1.00 that men earn, so during tough times it is harder for us to pay the bills.
3. We ladies don’t self-educate enough on this subject.

If the data in this study is indeed representative of the larger population, it indicates a big pink elephant in the room. (Of course, that’s a big if.  As Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”)   My experience in the field is that when it comes to the basics of personal finance both men and women struggle.  But given that we ladies live longer, earn less (grrrr…) and have a higher propensity to take breaks from the workforce to care for children and aging parents – it’s extra important for us to bone up on this subject.  My dream: a world where both Mars & Venus feel equally comfortable orbiting their wallets.  Your thoughts?

3 Replies to “Mars & Venus… Orbiting Their Wallets”

  1. LOVE THIS! And your interpretation.
    Since women on average are still paid $.77 for every $1.00 men make in the U.S., I wouldn’t be surprised at the stats, and I was happy to read this and give more thought to the subject!

  2. My first thought was “men usually over-estimate their skill at many things”.
    Note-men look in the mirrow and think they look great, whereas women tend to be hyper-critical of themselves no matter the reality on either side.
    2nd thought: I’ve been married twice, and I paid the bills in both relationships BECAUSE I was always on time, saved more than either of my husbands, and spent less as well. This is true of my 4 sisters as well.
    Where do they take these surveys???

    1. I’m with you – the testosterone set may very well have been looking through rose colored glasses when responding to this survey, while us ladies may have been unduly harsh with ourselves. On another note, a very smart businesswoman I know and admire had the following wise words to say upon reading this post:
      Some other related issues are the number of single/divorced women with children. Statistics show that:
      1. Women that have children out of wedlock generally are living on the edge and /or in poverty (the male skips and runs most of the time),
      2. Women with children that are divorced suffer a significant diminution in their standard of living, while men enjoy an increased standard of living
      3. The educations that women tend to be steered toward, or choose voluntarily, are not as highly compensated by society.
      So since we are not going to change male behavior, women need to:
      1. Quit having children out of wedlock.
      2. Ensure that even if they are married they are capable of gainful employment and that child support is strictly enforced.
      3. Encourage girls early on to be educated in the hard sciences – math, engineering, finance – or plumbing, electrical engineering…..for goodness sakes NOT just social work.

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