Lynnae from beingfrugal.net has written a beautiful post presenting the woman’s view of this subject. Please also read 7 Things Women Wish Men Knew About Money.
Also, this post has been included in The Carnival of Personal Finance #139 Valentine Edition! Be sure and read the fantastic blog entries from this week’s carnival.
Few things are as touchy a subject as the differences between men and women. Add in the “money” component and you get a recipe for a lot of heated debate and emotion on both sides. But there ARE differences, real differences in how men and women view themselves and their personal finances. We are wired differently and it affects every aspect of our lives.
In most relationships, usually there is one person who is more financially oriented and one who is less financially oriented. In research and in discussions with others, it often appears that men are more financially oriented, but this isn’t always the case. Despite many social changes, men are still bred to believe they will be good at dealing with money, even though nobody tells us how to do it. We’re just supposed to know. Women are raised to believe they won’t be good at it and, if they’re fortunate, some man will take care of all the details of money and investing. To be sure, there are some women who are doing the research on mutual funds, IRA’s, taxes, and handling the checking accounts. Ladies, if that person is you, please don’t take offense to the title of this blog post.
At any rate, this is a list of what many men would like women to understand about their relationship with money and how they view their financial lives within a relationship :
1. Men do not have all the answers. We may be more confused than you are, but our testosterone levels rarely let us admit it. We don’t always understand how moving something from one type of account to another works. We don’t always know the best investment to make for the kid’s college fund or future wedding. We don’t always understand how much risk really is involved in that emerging technology ETF. Taxes, oh yeah, we act like we know what we’re doing, but few of us actually do.
Our natural tendencies make us want to be in charge, to be the all knowing one, who speaks with authority and is never wrong. You all know this is very rarely the truth, but we do have that fantasy, and we cannot change it. It is hard wired into our psyche.
How you can help: Encourage and support us as we try to educate ourselves on personal finance and how money and markets works. We don’t want to be a divorce statistic and since most arguments are about money, let’s work this out. Help us by learning and reading along with us. It’s much more fun to discover something together.
2. We are scared we won’t have enough money at retirement. Every time we read something new on the subject, the amount goes up. When we look at the amount of money we’re able to save compared to these seven figure numbers the “experts” recommend, we almost want to just give up. WHO can save that much? Do these people have kids? Apparently, it can be done, but we question whether we can do it ourselves. We also wonder it you’ll think we’re just cheap or just want the money for our own selfish ambitions. We question whether you’ll support us.
When it comes to retirement, we feel like we’re going up against a full grown lion with our BB gun from 3rd grade and we’re going to end up shooting our eye out right before the lion eats us. When we furiously clip coupons out of the blue one day, it may be that we got our latest 401k statement and don’t want to show it to you. We truly are worried that we won’t have enough saved up and that you’ll think less of us.
How you can help: study frugality. You don’t have to be a cheapskate, but understand that one dollar saved is the equivalent of two dollars earned. Investigate ways you can save a few dollars here and there, then tell us what you did. My wife recently saved $56 from what was a $130 grocery bill by participating in The Grocery Game (I am so proud of her). When she does these type of things, I feel that we are a team. We are helping each other in the battle to save our finances.
3. We don’t want to be frugal ALL the time. We DO want to take you to that nice restaurant. We DO want to take a mini vacation without the kids. We DO want to shower you with flowers and chocolate. In order to do those things though, we will have to give up other things, whether that’s an additional payment on the credit card, a chunk into the Roth IRA, or rebuilding the emergency fund after needing 5 new tires (5 because one had a blowout one week after we bought it). The problem with money is that it forces us to make one choice over another. How do you chose between a short term splurge and a long term benefit? We don’t know either.
We also dream about being the Prince Charming you want, riding into town and carrying you away for a romantic weekend. We don’t voice our ideas very often, but we do look things up quite frequently and make all the mental calculations in our heads every time that Sandal’s commercial comes on. Men are more romantic than we get credit for being.
How you can help: keep us reined in if we get goofy with the money, but allow us to do some nice things with you every once in a while. Don’t talk about how much it costs, or say, “We can’t afford this.” That isn’t very romantic and it makes us feel like inadequate suppliers of your needs. That’s not a good thing, trust me. On the other hand, if we say something is too expensive, suggest less costly alternatives . . . after waiting a day or so. We may have some well defined goals in our heads that we’re trying to reach and spending money right now would delay them even longer.
4. Never embarrass us by talking about our personal financial situation to others, especially in public. That sounds kinda strange coming from someone who blogs about his personal life in front of millions of people on a daily basis. What I’m referring to here is similar to a situation my wife and I encountered on our honeymoon cruise. The couple we ate dinner with every night were newlyweds also, and he had taken a job working for her father. She mentioned that the only reason they were able to go on a cruise was that her father paid for it (ouch). She also said that they hardly had any spending money on the trip (ouch #2). One day at port we had the option of spending some time at a local beach. Towels were free–with a $10 deposit. She actually said in front of him, “We can’t even afford THAT.” He looked like the wind was completely taken out of his sails (ouch #3). Ironically, he had a $5 free chip to play at the casino and parlayed it into $500. Did SHE ever change her tune. Somehow though, I bet they didn’t make it.
It’s okay to talk in generic terms with friends, but when the conversation takes a tone of “we can’t afford anything” it’s interpreted by us as “you’re a bad provider.” We despise that more than just about anything. We would rather be unloved than disrespected. Read that last sentence one more time.
How you can help: Men internalize their thought processes and speak once everything has been sorted out in our minds, but many women have the tendency to think out loud, especially with friends. When it comes to discussing matters of money, make sure you think about what you’re going to say first and ask yourself if this could be interpreted as a lack of respect, encouragement, or support for us. We can love you better when you respect and admire us.
5. Men worry that you’ll perceive us as inadequate when it comes to finances. We almost can’t handle being thought inadequate, like you cannot handle the thought of being unloved and unwanted. Rare is the man who will admit to being inadequate on anything, but especially money. We all believe we know more that the CEO, the CFO, the accountants, the financial planners. We hate having to ask for advice because down deep inside, we think that shows weakness. No man willingly shows his weakness. We always think of the little lap dog that gets scared and rolls over to show his belly. We don’t want to be like that and we certainly don’t want you to think we’re like that.
6. Money issues should never get in the way of physical intimacy. We’re already self conscious enough about making enough money, managing it right, and making sure our family is well cared for. Do I really need to go into any more detail here? And no, guys, there are no pictures to go along with this point.
If you want to create a real problem, just withdraw from us on this point. Then watch us withdraw from you.
How you can help: it’s pretty simple. Don’t confuse physical intimacy with bank balances. We need you in both physical and emotional ways that we ourselves don’t fully understand. When you “shut the door,” it doesn’t help anything.
7. Chances are, we will have very different money personalities. Some people are hoarders, accounting for every penny. Others become spenders, seeing money as a way to express love. Some are hand wringers, some are avoiders. Some are dreamers and some are planners. Let’s not polarize our relationship based on our differences and project onto each other all the negative characteristics we’ve experienced with other hoarders or spenders.
We don’t want to argue and fight with you over money. But we both need to come to an agreement on how it should be earned, spent, saved, and invested. We’ve seen and heard our parents argue over money all our lives. Our fathers worried aloud about finances while our mothers were shopaholics. Maybe Mom would hide her purchases in the back of her closet until Dad was in a good mood. Maybe she bought gifts as an expression of love. We all bring past baggage concerning money and personal finance into our relationships. Let’s make sure we don’t let this baggage drive a wedge between us.
How you can help: seek first to understand, then to be understood. That’s an old Chinese proverb but it holds very true in this case. We need to try to understand each other first. Please try to understand me and I’ll try to understand you.
When every payday rolls around (finally), do what doesn’t come naturally: sit down with your significant other and talk about money. Don’t be rude, condescending, demanding, accusatory, aloof, unresponsive, or approach this meeting with the intent to set him or her straight. It won’t work. Has anyone ever heard of a successful use of nagging? I’m talking to both men and women here because men nag too. We nag about how much those new tennis shoes cost, or why she bought the most expensive pasta sauce, or why no one can seem to turn off a light switch around here.
Talk about what money represents. Talk about what you can do. Talk about what you want to do with your money. Talk about where you see yourselves in 5, 10, 20, or 50 years. Talk about how your goals will change over time. Talk about why you want to reach those goals and how they will enrich your lives.
Don’t put it off. Life’s too short.