Science Says That Women Are Way Worse With Money Than Men
The Debrief: But it's putting us at a serious disadvantage. So here's why we need to face up to our money worries...
Not-very-surprising news just in. Research by Wells Fargo (an American financial service provider who may or may not be trying to flog us a pension in the process), has revealed that while 61 per cent of men were saving for retirement, only 50 per cent of women were doing the same, and the women who were saving were saving less of their income than men.
Forbes.com has put this down to several factors – including the fact that in America more women than men are graduating with a college degree, leaving them saddled with more debt, are less likely to be living at home than their male counterparts (leaving them with more rent to pay) and are more likely to eventually end up paying for childcare.
Anecdotally, we totally agree. How many times have you discovered that your boyfriend, or male friend, has been secretly, sneakily sticking money in his saving account or pension plan FOR THE PAST FIVE BLOODY YEARS without telling anyone, while you’ve been gaily spending all but £1.85 of your monthly wage on essentials like toilet paper and Pret sandwiches? But how much is it down to practical reasons, and how much is down to our diverging views on money?
Caroline, a 26-year-old copywriter from London, had a bit of a revelation when she realised her male flatmate, who’s a year younger than she is and earns less money, had still managed to start a savings account. ‘My housemate, who’s a guy, is so good at money I’ve basically just started copying him. Even though he’s younger than me. For example, he made me a special budgeting excel document that he uses every month because I had no idea about my incomings/outgoings,’ she told The Debrief.
‘He also has a savings account that he puts £100 or so in every month and when I found out about that it was like a eureka moment, so I started doing it too. I think guys are sometimes more practical than girls. My male friends, if they can't afford to go for dinner, just won’t. My female friends have a more ‘fuck it’ attitude so you find that they’ll be eating rice for a week because they bought loads of Jägerbombs despite the fact they’re in their overdraft.’
Journalist and author Shirley Conran has launched a do-it-yourself four-step maths course Money Stuff. She quickly discovered that although girls and boys are born with the same ability to do maths, girls’ interest drops during puberty – leading to the belief that we’ve never moved past an ingrained – and old-fashioned idea – that dealing with money is a male job.
‘We’ve learnt that women shouldn’t handle money, because they’re no good at maths,’ she tells The Debrief. ‘As girls grow older, their attitude becomes “What’s the point of maths? How is it relevant to my life? How is it going to help me achieve my goals?”’
On the Money Stuff site (which features the tagline ‘life is too short to be short of money’), Shirley (who is now an advisor to the Department of Education for STEM subjects and core maths) cites her own experiences as inspiration for the course.
‘I was raised in a comfortable middle class family where nobody talked about money. Then I married. We had two children but I was needed full time in his business. Every spare penny went on growing his business. I knew nothing about the money side of the business. I didn’t mind being short of cash because I’d never felt the lack of it.
‘Then we split up! One day I told the accountant, “You’ve made a mistake, there’s two weeks’ pay here.” He said “I’m sorry. There’s no mistake. That’s one week’s pay in lieu of notice. I’m sorry to tell you that you’re fired.”’
That experience woke Shirley up to financial reality. ‘Beyond my housekeeping budget, I had no idea what things cost. How much should a home cost? How much did running a home cost? Could I afford a car? (No.) Could we afford to go on holiday? (Yes. We stayed with my mother.) I now realise that the time when a girl switches off maths is exactly the time when she should start to focus on it, which is why so many young women regret their lack of maths for their personal life and their work.’
But why is this? Are we still really harbouring the belief that we’ll get rescued by a nice bloke with a fat savings account and live happily ever after? Will it take a catastrophic personal disaster for us to sort out our finances once and for all?
Caroline has been faced with the possibility that she’s about to lose her regular writing gig, and it’s forced her to face up to the reality of her finances – for now. ‘I freeze up when I have to budget because it makes me feel sick, so I put it off and off because of the horrible sick feeling, whereas Sam my housemate knows that if he just DOES it then it’ll be sorted,’ she says.
‘But I know I literally won’t be able to afford to eat in a few weeks if I’m not careful, so I’m making myself check my bank balance every week, constantly budgeting and trying to put as much away into a savings account as I can. To be honest, even though I know I’m doing the right thing, it still feels like it’s going against my every natural instinct.’
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