All about the challenges of Midlife Finance

Men, Women…and Money

Men and women — dealing with each other is interesting enough, without throwing in the issue we all have to deal with: how to handle our money. The male/female viewpoint on budgets, expenses and luxuries has been dealt with before. Even after thousands of years, we still struggle with it.

     So what is the truth?

     Women buy smaller things (shoes, handbags, etc.) more, says Margrit Bradley, while men make bigger purchases (boats, guns, etc.) less often. The cumulative total’s still the same.

     Nah, says Bruce Sallan, in his series of columns on ‘Men vs. Women. Men purchase for results (“points”). Spend more — it counts for more. (Or so they think.) Women, on the other hand, rely on emotional effect as much — or more — than price. (One present = 1 point, no matter how much it cost.) If they spend more, it had better have a flashy effect. And if they get it “on sale” (i.e., purchased at Store #1 for less than they would have paid at Store #2), even better.

     Women don’t pay attention to specifics, anyways. “Okay, I’m stepping in it now,” Sallan says. “Women have a harder time figuring out tips, balancing their checkbooks and doing basic math.”

The M/F world, according to Bruce Sallan’s website

Maybe the differences are actually based on salary, instead of sex. In spite of changes in education and the workplace over the years, positsUSA Todaywomen still earn at least 7% less than men. Women working full-time on average earn 82% of their male counterparts, according to a study related by the AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that “women earned less in every occupation except bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks.”

An editorial note here: not all women act the same. Nor do all men. Nor do we always display ‘typical’ male or female preferences. Case in point — Husband, who wears his masculinity as casually as a leather jacket, is fond of flavored creamer for his coffee. The “foofier” (and by implication, feminine) the flavor, the better. His beefy hunting buddy makes fun of him, but secretly shares the same opinion.

     So if I talk about ‘all’ men or ‘all’ women here, it’s for effect. Consider the person before you assign the generality.

      Or perhaps there’s not that much difference, after all. Professor Harry Reis and senior data analyst Bobbi Carothers re-analyzed more than 13 previous studies, using more than 13,000 individuals, whose results argued for distinct social differences between men and women. Their take: those conclusions were skewed. “There are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.” (They did admit physical differences — men are considerably taller on average, with wider shoulders.)

     According to the Huffington Post,  “They examined everything from physical strength and sexual attitudes to academic preferences, mate selection criteria and major personality traits, and ran the data through three different statistical procedures, looking for characteristics that could reliably indicate whether an individual was a man or a woman. Turns out, there aren’t many.” The scientists’ data was published in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

     The definitive answer to the Great M/F question won’t be found here. In fact, it won’t be anywhere, although plenty of people, including those just cited, have their own opinions. If you want to make the best money decisions, consider the following:

*Maybe childhood events affected you more. Suze Orman’s books particularly underscore this, especially The Courage to Be Rich. Did you ever forget to bring money to a special event, as a kid? The humiliation of that memory may be the reason why you insist on picking up the tab at group dinners today. (And going broke, in the process.) Understanding your memories, and dealing with them, are a good first step toward financial awareness.

*Don’t use externals as an excuse for not trying. Don’t let anyone else do it to you, either. “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission,” Eleanor Roosevelt said — and she was right. Refuse to believe that it’s not possible for you to work this or do that, just because you are [insert physical attribute here]. If you really want to do it, figure out a way you can.

*Tradition changes. Things change. When I graduated from high school, a well-meaning uncle said, “Now you can go to college for a year, and find a good husband.” It did not occur to him that I might have wanted to complete the degree for its own sake. (In fact, I was one of only a few female cousins, out of dozens, who got a B.A. And only one of two who earned a Master’s.)

If Uncle (who just turned 90) said this now, my twenty-something daughters would have laughed him out of the room.

*Work together. Does your sex really matter, if you’re working well with others? The Golden Rule’s “Do until others as you would have them do to you” is a good start. And yes: 

*You’ll get further by doing it graciously. Being strident — and obnoxious — may initially get you what you want, but it will be a lonely place. Even when you must be ‘pushy’ to advance, do it with class. And that doesn’t take a particular chromosome.

2 Responses to Men, Women…and Money

  1. It seems complicated to consider the world in terms of males do this and women do that. Although its interesting to see where trends lie, I have always found its easier to navigate the world in terms of individuals. Often our personal experiences contribute the most to how we relate to money, as well as other things in the world. Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. Interesting post. I always hate how the media lumps all people together based on gender. I know some women that are making more than their male counterparts. This isn’t to dismiss the pay gap, because I know it’s there. But I wonder how much of it is actually the fault of the company itself. Not trying to defend a company, but how many of the men vs women negotiated for a higher salary when they were brought on board? How many negotiate raises? There was an interesting experiment I saw where the men tended to negotiate and the women just accepted what was offered. I’d like to see if that is the main cause for the pay gap.

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