Should Men And Women Receive Different Personal Finance Advice?

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A while back, my wife was leafing through a copy of David Bach’s Smart Women Finish Rich when she asked a very astute question: is it really necessary for men and women to receive different personal finance advice?

I’ve puzzled over how to answer this for months, knowing what I want to say but realizing that this issue is bound to get me in some hot water from some segment of my readership. However, it’s a really worthwhile issue to discuss, so here goes.

It’s not necessary, but it is useful for men and women to receive different personal finance advice. Why? Men and women simply think differently, and a big portion of personal finance success is psychology. Even if there is a clearly optimal way to manage your finances, it still takes psychological effort to achieve it, and if men and women think differently, the advice that will help them achieve it will be different.

So let’s look at this a bit more closely. From that article:

Men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics.

For example, John Doe would likely be better at tasks such as number-crunching a budget and developing an investment plan.

women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.

Jane Doe would likely be better at making good shopping choice (evaluating a lot of disparate types of data) and keeping the family in line with the family budget (communication and language skills).

Is this an absolute? Of course not. Many women are good at investing and many men are good at shopping and managing a budget. However, the default cognitive bias points the genders in specific directions.

The truth is that there is no “perfect” personal finance advice for everyone. Each person will find advice that works for them. It’s much like dieting. Better yet, it’s like playing The Sims – I play it much differently than my sister-in-law does, but my wife tends to play more like me than her sister. We’re all unique, though, and we all respond to different situations and events differently.

So if everyone has different personal finance needs, how can one possibly find something that will help them? Just keep looking until you find a voice or a set of answers that makes sense to you. It might be a book (like Your Money or Your Life), it might be a blog, it might even be someone on television or radio. Also, you don’t have to blindly follow everything someone says – just use the pieces that fit with you and make an effort to try to understand as much as you can.

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51 thoughts on “Should Men And Women Receive Different Personal Finance Advice?

  1. In addition to this mental processing difference that you note, which can indeed be substantial, men and women also experience life events differently. For example, a married woman with children should be getting some advice on how to protect herself and her kids should her spouse suddenly run off to the Azores. Women, especially women with children and/or who do not work outside the home, are likely to see their financial situations crumble when faced with divorce, and that is simply not a factor for most men.

  2. Hmmm.. interesting question. I think a similar question is whether financial advice for different races is necessary. I’ve seen personal finance advice for African-Americans and Hispanics. I think the answer is similar to gender oriented PF books. Not necessary, but I’m sure is helpful.

  3. I agree with Ellen. Women have different concerns about money than men. It’s more important than ever that a woman learn how to be financially independent. With divorce rates hovering at 50%, nothing’s a sure thing anymore and statistically, women are worse off financially following a divorce. Books that can address the mindset of women, and get through all the “Prince Charming” propaganda women have had in their heads since childhood, are going to connect with a woman on a different level than one-size-fits-all financial advice.

    To me, it has very little to do with women being “bad” at math (some people are better than others, gender excluded completely) and everything to do with how boys and girls are raised very differently in our culture, and how that affects our financial sense.

  4. Even if women don’t face desertion or divorce, the odds are good that any married woman is going to end up a widow if she’s not a divorcee. Wives are typically younger than their husbands, and women typically outlive men. It’s simple mathematics.

    So, heck yes, women should be told at an early age that they would do well to plan for a significant number of years when they will be old and without a spouse. These years will often include expenses for medical care and possibly help with household tasks they can no longer manage for themselves. Both those things can cost a great deal of money.

    Is the advice women need in order to plan for this likely scenario different from the advice a man would need for general financial stability? I don’t know. But the message to women should include this scenario as a strong possibility.

  5. Another difference that may be important (and again, of course there are always exceptions) is that men tend to be overconfident (overly optimistic, overassessing their own abilities) and women tend to be underconfident. I’m not sure whether it’s known whether this is due to biological wiring or to socialization, although I suspect it’s mostly the latter.

    This difference may lead to men and women making opposite mistakes – for example, men choosing investments that are too risky and women choosing investments that are too safe. Or it may have the same end effect, but for different reasons – maybe men tend not to save because they’re sure they’ll be able to save enough later, whereas maybe women tend not to save because they feel they’ll never be able to save enough, so why bother?

  6. It’s an interesting topic to address. Ramit over at iwillteachyoutoberich noted the differing responses of men and women to a survey he conducted on his site about a month ago. The results showed that women are more interested in personal finance topics dealing with building savings while men are more interested in topics about investing.

    I think this goes along with what Johanna said about men tending to be overconfident and women tending to be underconfident. An investment is something you take charge with, making important decisions to buy and sell at the correct times. A savings account is a safe reservoir for your money where it will steadily build some interest.

    As far as receiving different personal finance advice, I believe both men and women should be introduced to the advantages of the other gender’s financial preferences. Women should be informed about the benefits of investment plans while men should be encouraged to keep some money in a savings account. IMHO.

  7. I agree and diagree with Ellen. Men, on average (not always), make more money than women. A woman can/will take 50% of her husband’s money during a divorce. (In California at least)

    So “a married woman with children should be getting some advice on how to protect herself and her kids should her spouse suddenly run off to the Azores.” is even more relevent to a man should the situation be reversed. Not only could a woman run off to the Azores, but she could take HALF of his money with her.

    While I agree that a divorce is devastating for a womans finances, I disagree that it “is simply not a factor for most men.” It most certainly is.

    BTW – I am a 29 year old man with no wife and no kids. I am completely scared of getting married only because of what I have seen divorce do to some friends.

  8. I think I’d restate the “men and women think differently” statement to be more like “men and women are conditioned to think differently” – it’s more of a nurture versus nature issue from what I’ve personally observed. However, based on that reasoning, we do tend to process things differently, and I do think that separate advice can be justified. Just another feminist commenter…:)

  9. The issue about the relative longevity of women compared to men is important, but in some ways I think its more important not to give gender-based advice. I think men and women should essentially think the same way about finance.

  10. Nowadays whenever I see an article of interest targeted to a specific audience, I just assume that they are addressing issues that they feel are not covered appropriately in the usual areas, and so I like to read it, whether or not I fall into the target population.

    Often financial things aimed toward women have more focus than usual on issues like longevity, family law, security, and breaks in employment. These can be important for anyone, but somehow focusing on women inspires people to focus on these things.

    Financial things aimed at black people may focus on things like networking, not making excuses, dealing with stereotypes, and coming from a low-income background. Again, these issues can apply to anyone.

    On the other hand, things geared toward minorities are sometimes watered-down crap, of very little use to anyone. So, you never know.

  11. Recent research (and I don’t have a link, but it was reported inthis month’s Moneysense magazine) indicates that women’s investment returns are better – because we’re somewhat more conservative and steady, and don’t tend to chase last quarter’s big winners.

    I agree with plonkee about the age issue, but otherwise don’t agree that gendered money advice is required. When I was a single 20-something I needed the same advice as single 20-something men. Now I’m married, and I make more than twice as much as my husband – so he needs the “protect yourself” advice. “Womens” magazines like Cosmo provide the same bad money advice as “mens” magazines like Mens Health. And on and on.

    Also, it’s anecdotal I know, but among my female friends the vast majority are the “CFO” of their households. It’s a running joke that most of the men I hang out with have to ask their wives for permission to spend a penny.

  12. I’m not sure it’s useful to talk about men and women thinking differently. As Plonkee noted, I think people should think the same way about personal finance: what’s your risk tolerance; what are you goals; how do you get there.

    Rather, I would suggest that this bigger issue is how society treats the genders differently: assertive women (perhaps ones who ask for raises or are positions of authority) are viewed more negatively; children are largely viewed as the women’s responsibility and job responsibilities and opportunities may be affected; opportunities through the old boy’s connection are not made available to women. These issues hurt women financially.

    If we focus on eliminating the perceptions and fixing the issues, rather than accentuating them, there should truly be no need for different books. But, until society doesn’t treat the genders equally, there may need to be gender-oriented advice. (And note that many of the above comments can be applied to race and sexual-orientation as well.)

  13. Money is money, business is business, it has very little to do with gender. Men and women process information different but that doesn’t mean one is necessarily better with money than another

  14. Re the comment about women taking half of “the man’s” money during divorce:

    First of all — PRENUP.

    Second — a little history. One of the first cases in Canada where a woman got a share of “the man’s” assets after a divorce was in a case where the woman had spent HER LIFE working on the farm which was in THE HUSBAND’S name. They got divorced, and she would have been entitled to NOTHING. Now, maybe you have the misconception that anyone who doesn’t have a wage paying job spends all day lying on the couch eating bonbons and watching soaps, but this is not usually the case. This woman worked her a** off doing the farmwork, housework, and raising the kids. Can you see in this case how she might be considered to have contributed to the assets accumulated during the marriage? Now pretend that LOTS of women who stay at home do the housework; childcare; husband support; volunteering (if you have kids, there is a lot of it, and I have never seen men put on anything that didn’t have a lot of women in the background doing a lot of the work — not saying it can’t happen, just haven’t ever seen it myself). The reason they get half of “his” money during the divorce is that they have contributed to the marriage and to “his” success. You may think applying the rule across the board creates a lot of injustice, but if you DO NOT have such a rule, it also leads to a lot of injustice. Also, up here, we don’t get a lot of spousal support payments ordered (that’s alimony to you americans). What we do get is child support payments. I have heard b****ing and complaining about that, but the child support is not the ex husband supporting the ex wife, it is the FATHER supporting the CHILDREN.

  15. I don’t really think that men/women specifically need different financial advice! I know my situation is very different than most men/women’s situations are, so I think each person needs specific information.

    This is why each person should consume as much PF literature as possible and weed out all the information that doesn’t apply for his or her particular situation!

  16. I think the issue is confused because there are two factors: what you say, and how you say it. The first factor is independent of gender, race, age, etc. It would include things like “Build an emergency fund” or “Asset allocation is an important consideration in investing.” The second factor is basically the art of advertising: How do you get Group X to listen to your advice? How do you present it? If housewives don’t seem to be actively involved in retirement planning, how do you craft your universal message of “Save for retirement” so that it appeals to them?

  17. Margaret- I think you should re-read my post.

    A woman staying at home raising kids is absolutley doing just as much work as a man(Probably more) and should be compensated for all the hard work she has done. I completely agree that she has enabled and contributed to his success.

    “While I agree that a divorce is devastating for a womans finances, I disagree that it “is simply not a factor for most men.” It most certainly is.”

    My disagreement is that “it is simply not a factor for men”. I’m saying it is.

    Divorce is scary financially. If a woman runs off “to the Azores” she can take half of the money with her. If a man runs off he’s on his own with 50% of the money he earned.

    As a single man I see no advantage to marriage. It is a financial contract that gives half of my money to a person that could take it at any time they want – for whatever reason.

    I think if you look at the contract without the “love” involved in the decision, most people wouldnt sign it.

    I’m not sure how Canada works, or even the rest of the U.S., but in California the woman is entitled to half of the mans income regardless of the reason for the divorce.

    BTW – I know this os slipping off topic. I just wanted to clarify what I said earlier. Seems to have touched a nerve. Maybe you should post an article about this Trent. How does divorce affect men and women? With or without kids? One income or two?

  18. @Matt

    I don’t think your statement about California is correct. Each partner is entitled to half the assets, and those assets can include future income.

  19. ClickerTrainer – You’re right, I could be wrong. I’m not a lawyer and have never been married, so all my info is from friends that have been divorced – so it’s here-say.

  20. ClickerTrainer – You’re right, I could be wrong. I’m not a lawyer and have never been married, so all my info is from friends that have been divorced – so it’s here-say.

    I hope I don’t ever have to learn about divorce first hand. It seems to devastate finances.

  21. I actually got david bachs book ‘smart COUPLES finish rich’ which is specific to the couple dynamic. Thankfully my future wife was open to the idea of going through it together…
    we are reading it together & doing the exercises
    I think the best chapter has to do with ‘the latte factor’, quite an eye opener!
    OVERALL GOOD & RECOMMENDED.

  22. I’ve noted that I tune out posts that seem aggressive to me – anything to do with leveraging debt to build wealth, buying tons of real estate, etc. It seems really unnecessary to me – I want to have enough to live comfortably; I don’t want to spend the next x years being super obsessed with money so I can be “rich” (especially considering it’s hard to know when one is finally rich – it seems like an ever-elusive goal).

    I think it’s really important to get the message to both men and women when they’re young. I grew up assuming I’d be a stay-at-home mom, when in fact I’m in my mid-30s, single, and have been through several interesting careers already. Thank goodness I decided to take care of myself, and have been saving for retirement since I was in my 20s! It’s a great feeling to know that I’m already in good shape for retirement, which certainly meshes with the theory that women are interested in security. (I’ve also pestered my siblings into planning ahead as well.)

  23. Interesting thought. My opinion is that no, it is not necessary to have different advice based on gender or otherwise. However, I am a white American male, so the vast majority of financial advice out there was probably written by/for someone like me and I probably just can’t see the need for variety.

  24. Well, as far as this particular book is concerned, I have a cynical point of view: as best as I can tell, David Bach is trying to write the same book over and over, targeting different audiences. JMO.

  25. Hey Trent,

    I don’t want to be too cynical here as well, but in my opinion this is pure marketing. Like Marsha says, Bach is just trying to sell the same content packaged in the same way over and over again.

    Interesting topic though.

    The Dividend Guy

  26. I think good rules of saving and spending apply to everybody. But when it comes to controlling everyday expenses, I think men and women spend money — and are tempted! — in different ways. I’ve read several of Trent’s posts, say about resisting buying a new video game or finding a $10 haircut, which are great, but not necessarily what a woman would be struggling with.

    I think women face a more complicated, and somewhat more demanding, challenge on the clothing and personal care front, and more money ends up directed towards this. While this might seem frivolous to men, the pressures and temptations are different (electronics, food, sports?) I think it’s totally possible to be smart or reckless about either situation, but how the money gets spent can be very different.

    So sometimes I keep wish there were a corresponding blogger who could offer tips on the day-in, day out woman things — find cheap highlights, organize my fall shopping, how to make cheap/healthy salads, etc, cute interior decorating ideas, etc…

  27. Just to pipe in here. I actually mentioned the skyrocketing divorce rate in a previous thread so I can hardly talk, but there was an actual number given here (50%) which simply isn’t true.

    There was a New York Times article on this in 2005 at http://www.divorcereform.org/nyt05.html. The 50% figure endlessly bandied about is based on the fact that when divorce was at its peak there were half as many divorces in a particular year as there were marriages. This caused researchers to (prematurely) predict that 50% of all marriages would eventually end in divorce. This idea became so pervasive, it saturated the culture so that it’s still around long after it became outdated. In fact, the rate has never been that high and probably never will as the rate of divorce has been declining since 1980 (curiously, the divorce rate peaked at about the same time as the murder and violent crime rate). The highest rate of divorce for any cohort in a 2001 survey was 41% (the group in question were men aged 50 to 59, i.e. people born between 1942 and 1951; women in the same age group were at 39%). There is no cohort who has ever had a greater rate of divorce than that, at least not yet.

    Nevertheless, it might still be true that half of all marriages will eventually end in divorce, but I doubt it will ever quite reach that for *first* marriages. Second marriages (and especially third marriages), however, are notoriously unsuccessful. (The kind of people who will divorce once will also divorce again.)

    As for gender differences, anyone who thinks either that all gender differences are societal or that all gender differences are biological is wearing ideological blinders. It’s not too hard to separate them either, since there are hundreds of quite different cultures in the world. Some differences show up in culture after culture (e.g. there has never been a society in which the warriors were principally women and you’ll never find a society in which women commit the majority of violent crimes). I just have to shake my head when some people will insist that men are more aggressive than women (on average) purely because of social conditioning.

    Some differences which seem to be generally accepted as biological do not show up in every culture. E.g. I have heard people claim that women are biologically programmed to vote for leftist and progressive causes. (In America, this idea is often expressed as the Daddy Party and the Mommy Party.) But in most countries other than America, women are actually more likely to vote for the right wing and men are more likely to vote for leftists. I once heard an Australian speculate that women were more likely to vote for war-making parties, referring to John Howard, because they didn’t watch enough war movies. So it’s also certainly the case that people can assume biological explanations for differences which are easily explained by culture.

  28. I have read both smart couples and smart women. I think there are some subtle differences that were very helpful to me when I got married (how my husband may think differently, etc.) So, yes I think his plan is the same, but there are different issues that arise when you marry.

    One thing I’ve noticed with myself is that I am more comfortable with advice directed towards women. I have an inate belief I will understand it, even if it’s the same advice in a regular finance book or blog. I have a graduate degree and work in business, so this isn’t a real distinction, it’s just perception on my part.

    Based on my own experience, and that of many women I’ve talked to about this, maybe finance advice directed to women (or minorities) is valuable, even necessary, simply because it reaches people where they are, and the people are more open to it.

    Also, my generation of women tends to be the first generation to manage its own money and finances, so simply having advice that recognizes that we have few gender roll models to follow is helpful.

  29. Lots of women ask me how I got so knowledgeable about money and investments. The answer is this: I read everything, and I do mean everything, available to me in the library, bookstore, and of more recent vintage online. My advice is for them to do the same. The reason is that if you read enough of the stuff you start to be able to distinguish useful and reliable information (of which there is comparatively little) from the BS. Most people of either gender glaze over pretty quickly when I tell them there is actual work involved. It doesn’t matter who the intended audience is if it is useful information.

    I have found that most of what I have read is fairly elementary, being aimed at budgeting, saving, buying a house, and simple mutual fund investing. It is when you get into the real estate and stock portfolio arena that the BS detector developed earlier comes into play.

    The problem isn’t generally in the thought processes. It’s in execution, otherwise known as work.

  30. Matt — Perhaps I am confused. You say that if the woman runs off, she gets 50% of the money. If the man runs off, he gets 50% of the money. You seem to imply that both cases are a rip off for the man. Maybe I am missing something in your argument, but a 50-50 split of the assets of the marriage seems equitable to me.

    I also find it hard to believe that the law is actually couched in terms of gender. If the woman had acquired more assets during the marriage, surely then the man would be getting 50% of “her” money.

    And while you have heard the sad stories of your friends, I have heard the sad stories of my cousins, including one who was living out of province. She came back to visit her dad who was dying of brain cancer, then went home and found out that her husband had been having a long standing affair (kids knew all about it because he would take them with him on the visits, isn’t that lovely?), got her to sign a very disadvantageous seperation agreement before he would agree to allow the children out of province so she could return to our family for support and to see aforementioned dying father, then proceeded to break the only two terms of the agreement that were in her favour. Oh yes, she was pregnant with their third at the time. I have heard his side of the story, and it always mentions how she left him (only true in that he informed her they were getting a divorce, so she really couldn’t stay, could she?) and how hard it was on him to have to pay child support (only what was provided for under the provincial regulations, late, and some of the things he did not provide were, for instance, the childrens winter clothes and winter sports equipment, even though he only saw them in the summer, and, oh yes, the car that was pretty much the only asset she was going to get under their seperation agreement). Then there is the other cousin whose husband raped her then threw her and the kids out with literally only the clothes on their backs, then sold all the assets of the marriage out from under her for less than 25% of their fair market value, then never did provide her with ANY share of the assets or any court ordered child support. Certainly there are some whack job females out there screwing over their husbands, but don’t delude yourself that it is only ever the man who suffers injustice during a divorce.

  31. I’ll chime in about the divorce stat too… my understanding of the 50% rate was that it includes all marriages, not just first marriages for which the divorce rate is much lower, I think in the 30% range. The rate is pushed up by people who remarry and divorce, either once or many times over. The chances for a second, third, or fourth marriage ending in divorce increase with each marriage/divorce. Unfortunately I don’t have the stats on hand to back this up, which is something I should look for. Always another way to distract myself from finishing my thesis…

  32. I’m a different Matt but like him I am in my 20s and am single. The points he made above are also the reason I am worried about getting married.

    Margaret – “You say that if the woman runs off, she gets 50% of the money. If the man runs off, he gets 50% of the money. You seem to imply that both cases are a rip off for the man. Maybe I am missing something in your argument, but a 50-50 split of the assets of the marriage seems equitable to me.”

    Generally a man will earn more in his lifetime so divorce is a losing proposition if things are split 50-50. Plus I have heard of divorce cases where assets prior to the marriage are also evenly split. Again this is a disadvantage to the man as men usually marry someone younger so he has had more time to amass more wealth.

    Getting back to Trent’s main point I completely agree with him that men and women should be taught differently. Not just about money but education as a whole (although that is a completely different topic). Whether you believe the differences between men and women are nature or nurture there is no denying that there are differences. People should seek to understand these differences rather than pretending they don’t exist. My personal stance is along the lines of the commentor Andrew Stevens above.

  33. One more point to address Margaret’s comments. I have heard the stat that divorces are initiated by women around 66% of the time (although I haven’t done research into checking out the viability of that – perhaps someone else here has).

    If it’s true, it’s yet another disadvantage for a man going into marriage.

  34. I didn’t even know that men and women are taught finances differently. That would be interesting to see how men are taught personal finance and determine which teaching style is more effective. Women need to learn about personal finance to become independent regardless of the teaching style.

  35. On topic comment: It’s my belief that while there may be some broadstroke differences in the way men and women process information and deal with finances, the individual differences way overshadow those. With some of my friends, the woman runs the budget and does the investing, in my family, I do. Some have very clearly defined money management styles, some don’t. I can learn and share more with a woman interested in investing than a guy who’s idea of investing is betting on “Greased Lightning” to Place in the 5th or a woman honestly convinced she actually saved two hundred dollars by buying a two thousand dollar couch on sale (i.e. you didn’t save two hundred, you spent two thousand and the issue is was it really necessary, budgeted for, a true value, etc.).

    Slightly off topic: With respect to Matt’s financial concern about marriage, I feel the focus is on divorce and the after affects. If the 30% divorce rate for first marriages is accurate, that’s 70% of marriages that stay together and that’s not a bad bet. Sure divorce is finacially tough, hell the only ones who are sure to make out moneywise are the lawyers, but marriage has some financial advantages:

    Duel income allowing for greater savings potential

    Longer life (based on studies of married couples) so you might have longer to earn, but also longer to burn.

    Potential benifits of insurance (e.g. my wife’s health carrier was cheaper than mine for both of us and my auto insurance decreased).

    I guess the ultimate advantage, is in the raising of children. If you don’t want, and never envision wanting, kids, then you’re probably right never to get married. Raising a child on your own, male or female, is a tough, finacially difficult road to travel down.

    If you were to have kids with someone without marriage, things can go south as well, and as one example NY State has a 17% of your Gross requirement for child support up to 50% (so if you have three kids you and are in the 25% tax bracket, you get to live on 25% of your income). So if you have kids with someone, whether married or not, it’s going to hurt finacially if things don’t work out.

    Additionally I look at my wife as a partner in this life. If something happens to me, she gets it all. So if we do divorce, why wouldn’t she get 50%. If you’re worried about assets before marriage, hey that’s what prenups are for. For us, we pretty much started from scratch.

    You mentioned that most people wouldn’t sign a partnership for marriage based on a straight financial deal. I don’t necessarily agree, because it’s what you bring to the table and what the business is meant to cover that determines if the deal is worth 50%. He agrees to focus on the kids and stay home or work a part time job as necessary and maintain the household while she earns the lion’s share of the income. I’ve got some friends who work it that way. No kids and he earns three times as much as she does, but they agree to a strict budget which does include the same amount of spending (blow) money for each of them a month. You could claim she’s getting the better benefit, but her additional income is allowing him to retire early at 50 since they’re living cheaper together which he might not have been able to do on his own.

    Let’s face it, from a strictly financial point of view the human race would die out because kids cost more than they return moneywise. Marriage costs more because there are inequities (percieved or real) in any relationship and someone is getting taken advantage of. But we don’t live life strictly based on what makes financial sense, because then we’d never really do half the things we do, because they cost money.

    So, bottom line, there are pros and cons to anything. It’s the individual choice on which outweighs which.

  36. Matt — Could there possibly be any broad social injustices underlying the fact that generally a man makes more than a woman in his lifetime? Forgive me if I am not too broken hearted over the fact that because you happen to be male, you are more than likely going to earn more money than your spouse, and thus will be the one who has contributed (financially) more to the marriage.

    In Canada, the division of assets is based on what is accumulated during the marriage, not on what was brought into the marriage. I agree with the injustice of prior assets being split, although I can certainly think of cases where it would be appropriate.

    So you think a woman should be compensated for her non-financial contributions to a marriage, but that it shouldn’t be 50-50. So really, you think the actual dollars brought in is the most important thing.

    Oh well, since you don’t intend to marry, and I don’t intend to divorce, there is probably no point in arguing the point anymore, since it isn’t going to apply to us anyway.

  37. Margaret – you know, I have long argued that (in 2007) there is no broad social injustice underlying the fact that men make more than women over their lifetimes. If you look closely at the economic statistics, the gap between men and women is actually the gap between married women and everyone else. Single women who never marry actually make slightly more on average than single men who never marry (at least in America; I don’t know about Canada). However, listening to the two Matts’ arguments might make me change my mind. If we listened to Matt, married women would not only sacrifice their earnings (as they do), but also have to proportionally sacrifice assets in the event of a divorce. On this, there is no question that I’m on your side.

    Now, an excellent point was made with the 66% figure (that women are twice as likely to initiate divorce), and I think this is probably the largest cause of the modern male reluctance to marry (which I predict will become a growing social problem in the decades ahead, and is already an enormous problem for certain sub-groups).

    I’ll relate an anecdote about my brother and his wife, who are not divorced. They both work now, but when their children were young, he continued to work and she stayed home with the kids, not because she was necessarily better at the domestic stuff (in fact, he continued to do most of the cooking and cleaning), but because his career was more remunerative (he’s an engineer, she’s a teacher). I have heard her threaten divorce, gleefully pointing out that children are always given to the mother. Believe me, this is the primary fear of divorce for men who have children, not financial considerations. (By the way, I’m not exclusively on my brother’s side here. At a guess, I would say he’s about 50% responsible for the problems in their marriage, perhaps even a little more, but he has never threatened divorce.) We can agree that women should be financially compensated for the sacrifices they make when they’re raising children. As a man, I’m much more concerned about the fate of the children and current inequities about how their time is divided post-divorce than about the money. Personally, if a divorce were to happen, I’d happily trade 100% of the marital assets in exchange for the children and child support.

    Part of the problem here is no-fault divorce. I sympathize with courts that don’t want to get involved in untangling who did what when and figure out who was at fault in the end of the marriage, but this has led to cases of clear injustice when one partner has been obviously victimized and betrayed by the other with no legal redress. I would hesitate to say which gender is at fault more often. I’d guess it’s usually the man, but it’s not a blowout. Meanwhile, we do have a situation where a stay-at-home mother can run around and have affairs, treat her partner cruelly, fall in love with someone else, get a divorce, and still get to keep the kids and 50% of the marital assets. (On the other hand, we also have a situation where stay-at-home mothers can have the reverse happen to them and not get fully compensated financially for the career sacrifices they made in raising the children.) In my view, the solution to this is to treat a marriage like we treat any other contract. The person who violates the terms of the contract should be punished for this violation and bear more of the costs of the dissolution. Not only would this be more equitable, but it would cause more marriages to stay together. Part of the reason why people feel free to disrespect their marriages and spouses is because they suffer no punishment for it. Nowadays, they don’t even suffer social stigma. (Anyone for recriminalizing adultery and other marriage contract violations? I’m not talking about prison sentences here, but how about fines paid to the betrayed spouse?) My mother-in-law will talk about how she divorced my wife’s father simply because she was bored and wanted a change and, apparently, nobody thinks worse of her for this (well, except for me and my wife). And, you guessed it, she got to keep the kids despite the fact that she was more dedicated to her career and makes considerably more money than he does.

  38. All the horror stories about divorce (and I’m sure we’ve seen or experienced our fair share) sum up that regardless of your position in a relationship, you need to know what is going on with the money, and not just figure the other person is handling it. You need to educate yourself to at least being able to understand what risks they are taking, where it is, and what your goals are and why you have them.

    That just means you need to find someone (I’d recommend multiple “someones”) out there who talks about money in a way that you, individually, can relate to, regardless if you are male or female. For example, I’ve read “Your Money or Your Life” which Trent is currently reviewing, and frankly, it didn’t do much for me. “The Automatic Millionaire” when first read and “The Millionaire Next Door” spoke better to me, as well as the “The Wealthy Barber” (I think that’s the title).

    Regardless, the point is that you need to read a number of books, view multiple sources, to get at least a reasonable understanding of what you want to do with your money. If you are in a marriage, it is a partnership and it is partly your money, regardless of who earns it or who’s investing it. You need to know because they may be gone tomorrow. Car accidents, industrial accidents, cancer, etc. can suddenly leave you alone. If you don’t know why your partner had $50K in this investment over here, you’re likely to yank it without realizing there might be a big penalty for doing that. Or you might leave it there when your partner knew they needed to pull the money before the end of next quarter. Point is, even if you leave the lion’s share of the money handling and choices of investment to your partner, you still need to sit down and go over things on some type of basis and know what is being planned.

  39. Excellent point, Peter. I’ve started saying this a lot, “If I die, you should know…” because my husband is not interested in financial stuff at all, beyond the fact of whether there is money in his bank account when he wants to spend it. How can he not want to know more? I guess it is just how I feel when he tries to tell me hunting stories. My brother is like that too — he wants to start his own welding rig (which is what we do), and I tell him this and that about what needs to be done paperwork wise, and he just says he will get mom to do it for him. Weird.

  40. (I’m the 2nd Matt again)
    Margaret – I didn’t say I never intended to marry, just that there are a lot more concerns young men have going into marriage now than there have been in the past. Part of this has to do with the horror stories I hear from seemingly responsible men whose wives have just gotten bored with marriage so they divorce and hold the children hostage. It makes young men like me think “If that happened to him, it would be naive of me to think it couldn’t happen to me.”

    Hence the hesitation in getting married.

    I think I’m a pretty responsible guy and when I have a family I will do everything I can to lead and support them. But the problems with the divorce laws in North America (as Andrew pointed out) scare the pants off me.

    Because of that, I really can’t see myself getting married in North America. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived abroad and I enjoy the foreign lifestyle. In a few years when I’m ready to marry I will probably move to a country which values families more than North America and raise a family there. It’s not just because of the divorce laws but also because family units are generally regarded as more important when compared to North America.

  41. Matt — good luck to you. Marriage sounds scary, and it really is something you have to work at, and there are ups and downs, but overall, I think it is worth it. There are some things about my husband that drive me a little crazy, but fundamentally, he is a decent person. Decent, and not selfish. I think with those foundations, you can work anything else out.

    Geez, I sound like my aunts giving advice.

  42. Pingback: Welcome to Carnival of Personal Finance #122 at Mighty Bargain Hunter

  43. I agree this idea. Because most women are in the inferior position of the society. They should find a way to solve the problem. Last week i came across a beauty at millionairematch.com. She just talked with me about the economic thing and she said that she was finding wealth men.

  44. There are all kinds of things wrong with this blog post, but I’m going to zero in on just one for this comment and then take the rest of my objections over to my own blog so as not to hijack you.

    You quoted some other website as saying that men are better at mathematics, and that women are better at shopping and finding good deals.

    How in the world is a woman better at shopping and finding good deals if she is not good at mathematics? Wouldn’t finding a good deal, um, sort of require being good at mathematics in the first place?

    You express bemusement elsewhere that people had a problem with this article. Maybe there are good reasons for that.

  45. It’s funny when I see men in general to be so reluctant to get married, when studies have found that: married men are happier than single men, but married women are less happy than single females, and b) that if a couple divorces a women’s net wealth goes down while a man’s increases. I’m sure there are cases where a man gets screwed, but there are 5 stories for a women that aren’t advertised for every case like that for a man. There are speculations why this is so, but at least some has to do with a women often doing disproportionally more of the house/child work, which is both not renumerative and also not valued in this society. Of course while they are doing that they are out of the job market which adversely affects their wage earning ability once they go back in.
    It should be the women who are afraid of getting married!

    Matt, don’t worry about your concern about getting married in North America. Someone who has that much innate distrust and suspicion that 1/2 the US population is going to take advantage of you is not good marriage material.

  46. I don’t think they need different advice. Basic advice applies to everyone. If, however, writing a specific book for women causes women to read the advice that they otherwise wouldn’t have, then it is a good idea. Again, even though the advice is the same, sometimes a different tone or style of writing will get through to a particular audience.

  47. It seems to me like a lot of people are implying that it’s ok to have financial advice geared towards women because it’s important for women to be independent. Why are we assuming that men are automatically independent and women aren’t?

  48. I do think women should receive different financial advice from men, mainly because they tend to be widows for so much longer than men, and also because they tend to give too much money away! I handle all the money in our family because my husband just isn’t interested. I am seven years younger than him, so unfortunately I may be a widow someday even though he has a healthier lifestyle than me, so maybe it will even us out!
    Our elderly mothers have both been widows for 20+ years and even though they aren’t totally financially ignorant, have managed to go through their savings at this point. Both of them are generous to a fault and gave a lot of money away when their husbands died and since. I admire them for their generosity but now they are facing rising costs of healthcare, repairing old homes, etc. and it’s starting to restrict their spending money. I know that if our fathers were alive, this would not be the case because they were both much more cautious with their money! Both of our mothers seem to think they are going to die tomorrow, so they intend to die broke! But both of them could live another 10-15 years because they are in excellent health.

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