Husbands heart Charles Schwab

New Money magazine survey finds gender divide in managing family finances.


Katharine Mieszkowski
March 18, 2006 12:18AM (UTC)

Married couples fight more about money than they do about sex, according to a new Money magazine survey of 500 husbands and 500 wives. Yet these couples say that they're less likely to bicker about money than about housework or kids.

The survey also found that financial tasks have a somewhat gendered division of labor among the married. Wives are more likely than their husbands to claim responsibility for day-to-day administrative tasks, such as paying bills and managing daily spending, while husbands are more likely than their wives to claim responsibility for longer-range planning, like investing and retirement savings.

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But it's important not to exaggerate the divide. For instance, 57 percent of the women surveyed said that they're responsible for paying bills, while 42 percent of the men said that they are -- not such a big difference really. In other areas, the divide is very pronounced. Some 73 percent of husbands surveyed said that they're responsible for the family's investing decisions, while just 22 percent of wives said that they are. (Apparently, this survey did not allow for the idea of joint decision-making on matters like investing.)

The Money magazine writers explain the investing gap this way: "Numerous surveys support the notion that women don't feel as confident about their financial abilities as men do. For example, a survey by Merrill Lynch found that 47 percent of women (vs. 30 percent of men) feel they are not knowledgeable about investing. Women also say they are far less comfortable taking financial risks than men: Only 31 percent of the wives in our survey label themselves the couple's bigger risk-taker with money vs. 66 percent of men."

The Money survey also found that the more of the household income women earn, the more likely they are to take primary responsibility for family investing: "In our survey, nearly four in 10 women in households where the wife is the primary earner say they take the lead in investing. That's twice as many as in families where wives earn less."

It's fun to see how your own relationship compares to the survey results, but it is also a little disconcerting to find that something as seemingly black-and-white as family finances can be shaded pink-and-blue.


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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