Family finance gender roles changing with the times

Posted on 27 February 2012

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Women show more interest in taking charge on money matters

By Derek Sankey, For The Calgary Herald February 26, 2012

Money has always been viewed as a potential source of conflict in relationships and it appears there continues to be a significant difference in how the two genders view their roles when it comes to couples managing the family finances.

As the trend toward two-income families continues, it appears there is still a considerable gender gap in how men and women choose to invest their money, what they invest in and how much money they invest.

“Not only are women managing more of the finances, but we’re seeing evolution from the other partner,” says Crystal Wong, a senior regional manager with TD Waterhouse in Calgary. While men typically continue to take on more of the day-to-day family responsibilities, women are showing more interest in being in financial control.


“We hope that in any relationship, one partner has a comfort level in dealing with the family finances,” Wong says. “Yes, this is often the female in the relationship.”

Maggie Facca, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom, says that while she takes care of most of the day-to-day buying decisions to run the household, when it comes to large purchases or investments, it has to be a shared decision with her husband, Dario.

“Everyday buying stuff would be all me,” Facca says from her home in Springbank. “But I think the reason that we are such a good, strong couple financially and in every aspect is because everything we do, we run past each other – especially with big buying decisions.”

The former sales manager says that from the beginning of their relationship 11 years ago, they both decided any big purchases would have to be equal decisions. Long gone are antiquated notions of the male wearing the pants when it comes to finances.

“There’s never a time when I think about back in the day when men made all the decisions – it just doesn’t exist at all,” Facca says.

Still, it appears there are ongoing differences in how men and women approach major financial decisions.

According to a recent RBC poll that surveyed Canadians about their investing habits, men are less likely to worry about balancing savings for immediate needs compared to investing for the long term (73 per cent versus 80 per cent).

Women’s top priorities tend to focus more on making regular payments to reduce or eliminate debt (50 per cent compared to 47 per cent of men).

“The differing attitudes of women and men about savings and investments have a real impact on their financial futures,” says Jason Round, head of financial planning support for RBC Financial Planning, in the study.

Men opt for mutual funds (56 per cent) more than women (37 per cent), while women invest in GICs or term deposits more (33 per cent compared to 24 per cent of men). Men hold more RRSPs than women (63 per cent versus 58 per cent) while women hold more TFSAs (53 per cent versus 48 per cent).

As with anything in a relationship, Wong notes that communication about all major financial decisions is a necessity to avoid conflict and to ensure both of the couple’s goals are aligned.

“The conflict is more related to there being different priorities within the relationship,” she says. “If you’re not able to agree together, go talk to somebody – an accredited financial planner – that will help understand between the two parties what the priorities are and also give you somebody else’s opinion.”

In most cases, it comes down to which partner has a great level of interest in managing finances, their comfort and confidence level, as well as who has more time to deal with short-, medium-and long-term financial goals, adds Wong.

It doesn’t matter as much whether your adviser is male or female, but it’s more about the personal level of comfort in selecting the right person to work with.

You also have to consider who is best at managing daily finances versus long-term investing. Whatever the case, a comprehensive financial plan is needed to address everything from long-term retirement planning to wills and estate planning and other big purchases, such as vehicles or saving for other goals.

Education levels continue to increase, she says. While there is still a long way to go in getting everybody financially literate, there is more information more widely available and it’s making a difference in how both sexes handle his or her finances.

There are lots of free seminars or workshops through organizations such as Money Mentors and others available for couples or individuals to get information on topics such as basic budgeting and managing debt.

What is critical is to develop a written plan – an area where women tend to excel more than men.

“What’s missing for more men than women . . . is a financial plan that’s actually written down, rather than in their head,” says RBC’s Round. “Without a written plan, it can be difficult to see how your investments are supporting your short-or long-term financial goals or to take the right actions to stay on track.”

The RBC poll showed that only 43 per cent of men have a written plan, compared to 51 per cent of women. Further, 41 per cent of women reported being “very involved” with their financial plan compared to 35 per cent of men.

“A couple’s best asset is a comprehensive, written, financial plan,” Wong says. “You both need to be emotionally invested in what your future looks like.”

As Facca contemplates a second child while her husband runs his own company and takes an executive MBA program, she says it largely boils down to keeping the lines of communication open at all times.

Even when her husband recently bought a golf membership, the two of them talked it over and weighed the pros and cons before laying down the money. She knows money is a source of conflict for many couples, but says a few easy steps can avoid a lot of those headaches.

“It’s lack of communication and for us, that just doesn’t exist,” Facca says. “That’s why we’re such a strong team.”

derek.sankey@telus.net
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