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Gender & Personal Finance: Do Men Still Dominate Personal Finance in the Home?

Last updated by on 17 Comments

I grew up in a household that had very traditional gender roles around who handled the finances.

My father worked full-time in tax auditing and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. Since my father made all of the money in the household, he felt it was his responsibility (or maybe his right) to manage it all. I get most of my frugal ways from him. My mother has very little background in the area of personal finance, but is frugal by association.

And that was the way it used to be in the American household.

But do these gender roles around money in the home still exist today?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor,

  1. Women comprise 46.5 percent of the total U.S. labor force and are projected to account for 47 percent of the labor force in 2016.
  2. Women are projected to account for 49 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2006 and 2016.

household income by genderMore specific to the younger demographic, about 75% of women between the ages of 25 and 34 are in the labor force. This percentage has tapered off over the last decade, however, it had increased each decade since the 1940’s.

And women are making more money as well. A wife’s contribution to family income has increased from 26.6% in 1970 to 37.1% in 2009 (this includes stay-at-home moms, which skews the #’s even more).

What the Numbers Tell Us

So we’ve established that the income gap between women and men in the household has closed significantly, more women are working than ever before, and as we have all seen – two income households are the norm, not the exception anymore.

So women should be almost as involved and as educated in the area of personal finance as men, right? I’m going to leave you hanging on that note.

Gender & Personal Finance Discussion:

  • Are women (in general) as interested in personal finance as men are? If ‘no’, why not?
  • Who are more frugal amongst your peers, men or women?
  • What role do stereotypes and lingering tradition still play in all of this?
  • Vote below!

Do Men Still Dominate Personal Finance Ownership in the Household?

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  • youngandthrifty says:

    I think that women are interested in personal finance, though I find that there are less female personal finance bloggers than men.

    Hmm amongst my peers, I’m the most frugal, i’d say! (i’m female) though I think in general, it would be males being more frugal (less fuss and frill)

    roles and stereotypes and traditions that linger? Well (uh oh i’m starting on my feminist spiel now!) for one, women work full time and more often than not, women are still doing work at home (cooking dinner, cleaning, laundry etc) in addition.

  • Stephanie says:

    In terms of frugality, I would say that males I know typically spend less than females I know on a daily basis. Growing up, my mother would always say, “Boys are cheaper than girls” because girls want more clothing, accessories, etc. But, I will add that males I know will spend a lot more money at a bar or restaurant than a female (and I’m talking about when everyone pays for himself or herself). Females will drink less and eat less and therefore pay less. Males I know will also make bigger purchases than females — let’s say a new video game system or new speakers or something more expensive than a shirt. Males I know will rarely use a coupon for a purchase, whereas my female friends pay close attention to coupons and special offers.

    So, at the end of the day, I think the girls I know spend a little more, but I don’t know if it’s really by much when you look at both large and small purchases.

    Among people I know women are just as interested as men in personal finance, but I always have to keep in mind that none of my friends are statistically normal — we’re all in our late 20s but almost everyone has a graduate degree. So, I suppose among the highly educated portion of the population in my experience there isn’t much difference. Additionally, most of my friends are married, and in our households women handle the finances. I don’t mean women make all the decisions, but I do mean they keep finances in check day-by-day by keeping and sticking to a budget, tracking savings, paying bills. It’s the same way in which women I know manage their household social calendar. My female friends are more detail-oriented than my male friends.

  • Julie says:

    I have to say that in my circle of friends, the women are more frugal then the men. A lot of the men I know spend a lot on clothing, hairstylists, and gyms to keep up their image. Not sure if it’s because I’m on the East coast and there is a higher proportion of vain men here or what.

  • Allison says:

    Nearly all of the young women I know are interested in learning more about their personal finances, but a lot of them feel intimidated by personal finance publications that are largely marketed toward men. I’m actually an editor at a personal finance site called LearnVest, which is specifically written so that women feel like they have a place to turn that caters toward them and makes them feel welcome.

    And, actually, on the topic of gender and income disparity, we just published an article in advance of Valentine’s Day about couples who make disparate incomes. I’d love to hear what all of you think!


  • Allison says:

    Great post. To answer your question, I don’t think women are any less interested in personal finance than men, I simply think they are an underserved market in the world of personal finance. There are very few (personal finance) resources out there that speak to women in a voice they can relate to and trust. The Harvard Review printed a great article recently citing the following: “Financial services wins the prize as the industry least sympathetic to women.”

  • Lillie says:

    Women, in my opinion, are definitely taking a more active role in the financial matters of the family especially because many of them are more actively involved in earning income as well. In today’s time, it’s important that the family’s finances are discussed openly. Too, there are so many options available online, such as exchanges as yours, that make it easier to be informed.

  • Paul says:

    Here are the guys!
    My fiance and I are in an interesting economic position. Right now, I am essentially the sole earner. However, in about 3.5 years we will both be making money, and she will be making a LOT more than I will be. All financial decisions are made with 100% equity.
    The issue is her dad is VERY old school. Awesome guy, but firmly believed that “his girls” (her and her sister) need not be informed of the household finances. The result is she started out not knowing some really basic things.

    We are about as equally frugal as each other, though there are some differences about what realm of life our frugality presents itself in (our desired luxuries are different). At this point in our lives we can certainly afford to give each other a taste of those minor luxuries, and in the future we will be able even more set in that regard.

    Overall, I think it comes back to the general lack of financial education in this country. A college preparatory high school education ensures you can do a little bit of everything but it does nothing to prepare you to manage your own finances. I think it should become a high school graduation requirement to learn the basics (balancing a checkbook) to the intermediate (financing a car, basics of investing). I also believe this is one of the reasons so many people leave college with way too much personal debt (and why way too many people go to college when it might not be in their personal best interest).

    I do not think the male/female disparity exists amongst Gen. Y, I just think too many of us know woefully too little. I was really blessed to have parents that ensured I knew how to manage money before I left home.

  • Eric says:

    Both my fiance and I are pretty strong with each of our basic personal finances (saving, budgeting, etc.). We’re both working professionals (she’s buyer in a retail company and i’m a tech consultant). We both earn a decent amount with a slim gap between how much we each take home.

    When it came to handling our combined finances and other bills, I ended up taking care of it. Not to say that I’m better at managing money, but my line of work seem to allow me to have the better tools to stay organized when it comes to keeping track of budgets, bills, passwords, and all of that.

    When it comes to paying bills, I’m usually the one to figure out how much we each need to budget. Other than that, we’re both involved in the planning of other expenses.

  • Jen says:

    i’m the finance guru in my household, but i think out of all my friends the ladies don’t seem to have a strong want to learn it they’d rather the guy be in charge, too each their own i guess

  • Frugal Babe says:

    We’ve been married for seven years, and for most of that time I’ve managed all of our finances. My husband is on board with my frugal ways (and has become a great thrift store shopper in the years since I’ve known him), but I was the one who paid the bills and transferred money into our various savings accounts. A few months ago, he got very interested in finance, and has been studying the ins and outs of investing and savings – he now knows more than I do about the topic. I love how excited he’s gotten about it, and we’ve done a lot of tweaking to our IRAs and savings accounts so far this year. I’d say we’re 50/50 now in terms of managing money, and I love it this way.

  • yemek tarifleri says:

    They have prescription glasses from $8, and you just type on your prescription and bam, you receive your glasses. I’ve used them about half a dozen times and I love them.

  • Nicole says:

    I believe it depends upon the family financial situation. If the couple is just able to make the living for sure the male would be more frugal. The reason is the male takes the responsibility and he is more practical and more mature to not give way to materialistic desires. If they have lot of money then female would be more frugal because they have this tendency to save it for future use and since male guys are satisfied and have a believe that they are doing well financially. They would not be much interested in saving money.

  • Allison says:

    Nicole, I would greatly disagree with you. I don’t think that spending habits are gender-exclusive. Women don’t necessarily spend more on frivolous “material” items than men, and if there’s a disparity in spending and saving patterns, I think that it’s largely a result of a disparity in personal finance education. If you teach boys good spending habits and assume that the girls will never need to know these skills, then yes, there’s likely to be a gap in the way that they spend. All the same, I don’t think that gender spending patterns are any sort of an innate secondary sex characteristic. Put simply, both genders need good financial education. If women feel like personal finance isn’t “made for them” or that it’s inaccessible, then they need to find an outlet that IS more friendly.

    If you’re looking for a friendly personal finance resource that makes the topic fun and accessible, consider checking out LearnVest”, which is a personal finance community not exclusively for–but largely focused around–women.

  • Daddy Paul says:

    I have tried for years to get my wife to get involved in the family finances. There is simply no interest! No she does not blow money. She knows she has a 401K and an IRA but I think I am the only one who monitors them.

  • M Denis says:

    I’m 44 with a little different perspective.
    My wife is not very interested in the finances and considers it boring. Fine by me, I’m the nerd. However, she has intimate knowledge and input into our yearly household budget. I’m like the comptroller and both of us are the board of directors for our family. Regarding traditional roles, our situation is non-normal – she is the breadwinner & I am a stay-at-home dad. My Mom & Dad raised their family over 4 decades (1952-1994). Dad brought home the bacon while Mom stayed at home, did all the finances and gave my Dad a monthly allowance. This was not an unusual arrangement. As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, it’s all about whether you are a nerd or a free spirit, not male or female.
    Sorry to be an old man nosing in on the twenty-somethings, but I always learn something from your website.

  • Kelly says:

    Me and my partner are doing 50/50 on our household spending. I don’t see nothing wrong with that.


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