Battle of the sexes: Are men or women better with money?

Battle of the sexes: Are men or women better with money?

As the expression goes, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ – we all know that there are stark differences between the ways each sex approaches different subjects, but just how does this translate into dealing with money…and just who is the superior sex when it comes to personal finance.

Below I’ll outline each of the key areas when it comes to personal finance, highlighting the key differences, and then highlight some of the key lessons that we can learn from each other to become better at managing our money.

Retirement savings – Focus on long-term goals

A recent Vanguard survey found that women in the US were much more likely to be enrolled in tax-efficient retirement savings programs than men. Of those earning between $50,000 and $75,000, over 81% of women were enrolled compared to just 62% of men. Of those earning $75,000 to $100,000, 86% of women were saving for their retirement, compared to just 70% of men.

Most surveys continue to reveal that women have a much more long-term focus when it comes to personal finance than men, being more likely to hold investments for the long-term as well as saving for long-term goals. Women certainly lead the men when it comes to focus on retirement savings.

Personal spending

Most surveys continue to reveal that women tend to spend more on personal items than men, and on a regular basis. A recent Journal of Financial Planning report reveals that nearly 24% of women are unable to resist a sale, while only 4.5% admitted to the same ‘urge to splurge’. Women also outnumbered the men in the survey by 2 to 1 in impulse buying.

The overall finding when it comes to personal spending is that men tend to be much more pragmatic and practical, weighing up the pros and cons of most personal expenses. The men come out in front when it comes to personal spending.

The ‘BAD’ debt – Personal credit cards

A recent survey of 5,000 people revealed that while women were likely to have a credit card and use it on a regular basis, far fewer women than men were likely to have more than one. Over 70% of women recognised the fact that having more than one credit card could lead to financial difficulties later on.

Women certainly come out in front when it comes to having a greater awareness about the potential pitfalls of having multiple credit cards and the dangers of not paying them off on a regular basis.

Taking on investment risk

Women are typically far more risk-averse when it comes to investing than men. This can be a particular risky strategy for younger women, who may not be taking on enough investment risk to reach their long-term financial goals. Surveys reveal that women tend to hold greater portions of their investments in defensive assets, such as cash and fixed income, rather than growth assets such as equities and property.

Given that women outlive men, on average, it’s important that your retirement nest egg is ‘built to last’ and this means making calculated investment decisions and ensuring your investment risk is aligned with your financial goals. The men come out in front when it comes to being more willing to take on calculated investment risk to reach their long-term financial goals.

Perception of debt

Many of you will have heard of good debt and bad debt, and you may be aware of the differences. If not, you can check out my article here that clearly explains it (Good Debt vs. Bad Debt – Which do you have?). Good debt can be an excellent tool, used with the right asset classes, with a clearly mapped out strategy, to build your wealth and achieve your long-term financial goals. Bad debt, however, can lead to problems and financial turmoil over time if it’s not dealt with.

A recent Men’s Health survey completed in 2015 reveals that women are more likely to be upset about gaining weight (30%) than accumulating debt (27%), while men are likely to be more upset about accumulating debt (34%) than gaining weight (24%). Studies reveal that men are more comfortable getting into debt, however are also more likely to get into financial trouble, as women will typically seek out professional advice to avoid it or tackle the problem. There is no clear winner here but pros and cons for each side.

So what can men and women learn from each other…here are my top tips:

Men

- Trade less: Men are typically far more impatient when it comes to investing and will often trade more, resulting in higher brokerage/commission charges and lower overall returns.

- Seek advice: Whether it be retirement planning, taking on debt, building a property portfolio, it is important that we seek the advice and expertise of key people in the industry who have the experience we require.

- Recognise anxiety: Investing and personal finance can be anxiety-producing topics for most of us. It’s important to recognise this and seek professional advice and guidance. A little ‘worry’ can create real focus on what’s important to you.

- Stay the course: Markets will move up and down over time, it’s important to remain focused on the long-term financial goals and strategy and recognise when it’s time to rebalance your portfolio, reduce or increasing exposures, and when to simply ‘ride the waves of the markets’.

Women 

- Take calculated risks: It is important that you be aware of how much risk you should be taking on to reach your retirement goals

- Learn the financial lingo: Men tend to be far more interested in finance and money management and can typically speak the language. By reading blogs, books and other information resources on money management, you’ll quickly learn the lingo also.

- Recognise good debt vs. bad debt: With the right strategic plan in place, good debt can be an excellent tool to enable you to reach your financial goals. Debt does not need to be a feared subject.

- Impulsive buying budget: Rather than trying to eradicate this behaviour simply set a budget for it. Set aside $X every month for impulse buying and know that you can continue to spend $X without impacting whether or not you will achieve your long-term financial goals.

Money management and personal finance is a team effort, and there are many factors that men and women can learn from each other. What’s most important is being open and honest about what drives your own thinking about money, and of course, seek professional advice from somebody you can trust and who recognises the different ways that men and women think about money.

Jarrad Brown is an Australian-trained and qualified Fee-Based Financial Adviser. He is listed on Consultwho.sg, a platform that connects you to reliable and trusted financial consultants.

Consultwho.sg helps you with your personal finance issues -- ask them a question anonymously, or connect with a financial consultant.

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