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?