Women and Money: Avoiding "Money Stuff" and How We Can Do Better
Updated October, 2020
I’m not one to go on huge shopping sprees, but if there’s something I need to buy, you’d better be sure that I’m looking for some deals. For many years, this was my definition of being good with money. Make intentional purchases, and make sure you’re not paying full price.
How about buying mutual funds, investing my money, and coming up with a financial plan? Investing and managing money were foreign concepts to me, so I didn’t even bother trying. So foolish, but as I came to realize, also quite common.
Why did I so easily ignore learning about this other “money stuff” on my own? Looking back, I can say that being a woman has not worked in my favor.
WOMEN AND THE CONFIDENCE GAP
A Fidelity survey showed that although 69% of women feel confident with balancing a checkbook, only 15% feel confident selecting the right financial investments for their goals.
A Federal Reserve survey shows that 60% of men with bachelor’s degrees feel confident with investing, compared to 35% of women with the same educational level.
Gender stereotypes tell us that women tend to manage the day to day household budgeting, while men tend to handle investing and overall money management. I admit, I was living proof of this for many years.
After taking over the job as
If you are a woman and find yourself deferring to others (usually men when it comes to money), stop and reconsider why you’re doing this. What are the underlying reasons for your decision to leave the “money stuff” to someone else?
Here, I list the common reasons we women tell ourselves that the “money stuff” is better left for others to handle. Hopefully, you’ll soon realize that these reasons aren’t good enough, and it’s time to start getting more involved with
MY HUSBAND HANDLES ALL THE “MONEY STUFF”
One of my financial mistakes was automatically letting my husband handle our investments. It’s not like he did a terrible job. In fact, he was the one that set us up very nicely by investing in mostly index funds and insisting that I start saving in a Roth IRA when I was reluctant to do so. If it wasn’t for him setting up this foundation, we would not be where we are today financially. Huge props to him for getting us off on the right foot when he did.
However, there was only so much time and energy he could put into managing our money. The foundation was there, but without adapting to life changes, you cannot thrive. I did not realize the importance of this until recently, and now I see areas of missed opportunity. We weren’t properly insured. We did not take full advantage of our retirement accounts. We didn’t have a financial plan that made us think long and hard about some life goals.
Had I not started digging deeper into our finances and putting together a plan, I could see us having a very different trajectory going forward. A future with more debt and
BUT GUYS ARE BETTER AT THIS “MONEY STUFF”
He may have a degree in business or finance. He may even work in the financial services industry. This gives you a pass, right?
You should not excuse yourself from your finances just because your husband is your family CFO. Whoever handles the finances cannot hoard
At the very least, you need to know the following when it comes to your finances:
- Which accounts you own, which accounts your partner owns, and which accounts are jointly owned
- How much money is in each account
- The amount of debt both of you owe
- How much insurance coverage you have (life insurance, disability insurance, liability insurance)
- How much is in your emergency fund
- If you’re meeting your savings and investing goals (retirement, college for your kids, etc)
- The details of your estate plan
What if something tragic happened to your partner? What about divorce? Would you have ANY clue about your household finances and what to do going forward?
There are too many women who find themselves caught unawares when it comes to their finances. They’ve been relying solely on their husband to take care of all the “money stuff” for years. Life happens, and now they find themselves in a terribly vulnerable position.
Stay educated. Stay informed. Stay empowered.
OH DON’T WORRY. I HAVE A FINANCIAL ADVISOR.
So why rely on a spouse when you can hire a professional? Or if you’re single, this may be the very first thing you do when you’re looking to get a handle on your finances. Surely, this person can be trusted with your money- they’re professionals!
Not so fast. As I’ve chronicled in my multi-part series on financial advice, don’t be so quick to hire your neighbor or friend who happens to be a financial advisor/planner. The quality of financial advice is really all over the board, and if you’re completely new to learning about personal finance and investing concepts, you honestly wouldn’t know that you’re getting bad advice unless someone else pointed it out to you.
The worst case scenario is that you’re wasting your time AND your money with a bad financial advisor. Sad to say, this happens more often than you realize. If you’re looking to hire someone, please take time to do some good research beforehand. In fact, I have absolutely no problem with using the services of a financial advisor in order to help you optimize your finances. But you need to find a good one that you can trust. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and money down the line.
Perhaps the services of a financial coach may make more sense for you at this moment. You can read more about my financial coaching services here.
I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED IN “MONEY STUFF”
Didn’t you spend years training to do what you do? Didn’t you go into a large amount of debt in order to attain your degree?
Even if you’re not the breadwinner, surely you understand the impact that money has on your life. So many choices, big and small, are impacted in some way by money.
I truly want everyone to be living their best lives. For many people, this may mean that you ascribe to the YOLO (you only live once) mentality. YOLO is often associated with spending money now to boost happiness. We as humans have an insatiable appetite for that short-term dopamine hit, and the problem is that you can never fully feed this beast. You will always be working for money, versus letting your money work for you.
You may feel complacent if you’re currently in a good financial spot. But I’m willing to bet that if your financial situation were to change suddenly (job loss, medical issues, disability, divorce), you’d start showing a LOT more interest in your money very quickly. I’d rather you know more about your money now versus
I DON’T HAVE TIME!!
This is a big one. I get it. Time is very,
Women are notoriously busy. There are careers to tend to, households to run, and children to raise. We shoulder the bulk of the “invisible work,” which includes tasks like household chores and keeping track of the family schedule. We get tapped for various volunteer opportunities. We are bad at saying no, resulting in increased demands for our time. We feel guilty for blocking out any “me” time. This need to be all things to all people can really take its toll.
This lack of time is the reason that it took me so long to start my own deep dive into our family finances. When you’re in survival mode, you’re just trying to get to the end of the day in one piece.
That being said, there’s never been a better time to learn something new. There has been an explosion of blogs, books (in print and audio versions), podcasts, videos, and other internet content that wasn’t available even a few years ago. You can easily multitask by listening to audiobooks or podcasts while commuting, exercising, and doing random chores.
This content is all out there, and you can get pretty much all of this information for free. These resources have significantly cut down the amount of time it takes to improve your financial literacy. Just one piece of content, whether it be a book, a website, a blog post, a podcast episode, or a video, can literally change your life if it plants a seed. Once you have that desire, you’ll find yourself making time to learn more.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND INVESTING
If you’re not familiar with how investing works, then
Historically, the world of investing was squarely in the hands of men. Why? Because you need money to invest, and women didn’t have the luxury of having their own money. Investing is an entire swath of the financial world that has been shaped by men, with very little input from women.
I completely fell for the myth that men must be better at investing (many studies say otherwise), so by default, my husband handled the investments.
Now I realize this was completely ridiculous. The real reason I didn’t want to deal with it was because I didn’t understand investing, and I couldn’t relate to the jargon. The entire topic was intimidating and completely outside of my comfort zone. Taking the time to learn about it and how it works has helped calm my fears.
Again, the abundance of content has leveled the playing field. We now have information that was only available to those that worked in the industry. The barriers to investing continue to come down, to the point where we’re only a few mouse clicks or finger taps away from opening up an account.
Please don’t go Barbie on me and say that math is hard. We’re not talking about advanced calculus here. When it comes to cash flow, it’s as simple as money in versus money out. You may need to multiply and divide if you’re figuring out monthly versus annual expenses. My third grader can do this (and she understands the idea of compound interest- we don’t give kids enough credit). There are plenty of online calculators that help with projecting out retirement savings and other more complicated calculations.
I know I’m speaking to a well educated audience. You don’t get to use your dislike for math as an excuse. Becoming a veterinarian required more than a
Do any of these reasons to avoid “money stuff” sound familiar to you?
I’ve used almost all of them myself. Eventually, I realized that I was unwittingly leaving myself out of a very important part of the money conversation.
We simply cannot continue to have such large numbers of women remain in the dark when it comes to personal finance and investing. This “money stuff” has a huge impact on our lives, and especially when more and more women are becoming breadwinners, there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be more involved participants with our own money.
If you’re a woman, how many of these reasons have you used to avoid “money stuff”? What other reasons can you come up with? Do you see these gender stereotypes in your own life? Comment below!
We had separate finances throughout the first ~7 years of our marriage, and finally combined them before a big move. I had property and investments and assets and my wife was just coming out of school, so I just happened to know more about finances at that time. I discovered MMM first and shared the ideas with her. While she was philosophically on board, she was happy to let me figure details out. This year, we are starting to drill down on FIRE in the next few years, so now we have monthly budget meetings where we do all the investing together, she sees where the investments are and what we’re doing with them, etc. This makes ME actually feel better because I am more confident that, if I died, my wife would be able to handle the finances quite competently.
I have read that there is a concept of task specialization in marriages- I don’t need to keep track of _everything_, because there is someone who can share the cognitive burden. This is similarly true for household tasks. But maybe finances is one domain where there should be more equal participation?
Thanks so much for sharing your story! I agree that BOTH parties should have a vested interest in household finances because it really does affect so many choices and decisions that need to be made as a household. Of course, this doesn’t have to be done 50/50, but couples should make a more concerted effort to keep each other in the loop so that they can make better financial decisions that benefit everyone involved. I’m glad that you found a system that works for you and your wife- I think it’s a perfect example of how marriages are so dynamic and we need to be open to change as the marriage evolves over time.