FamilyLife Today® Podcast

How Gender Differences Affect Our Finances

with Scott Stanley | July 23, 2009
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Just how opposite is the opposite sex when it comes to money matters? Today on the broadcast, martial researcher Scott Stanley tells Dennis Rainey how men differ from women in the way they spend and manage money.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Just how opposite is the opposite sex when it comes to money matters? Today on the broadcast, martial researcher Scott Stanley tells Dennis Rainey how men differ from women in the way they spend and manage money.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Just how opposite is the opposite sex when it comes to money matters?

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How Gender Differences Affect Our Finances

With Scott Stanley
July 23, 2009
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Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 23rd.  I’m Bob Lepine along with the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and as we start today we want to know – do you ever use shopping for therapy?

Jason:  Hi, Hon, how's your day?

Barbara:  Oh, it's pretty lousy, but I stopped off at Foley's to cheer myself up.

Jason:  Somehow I don't think I'm going to be too cheered up by that.

Barbara:  Now, don't start.  Foley's has a great sale.

Jason:   Oh, no, the "S" word.

Barbara:  Oh, come on, Jason, I got some stuff for you, too.

Jason:  What difference does that make?  Barbara, we don't have the money to blow on either one of us right now, okay?

Barbara:  Oh, yeah, right.  You just treated yourself to a new, super-deluxe Orvis Odyssey 400 fishing rod.

Jason: That's different.

Barbara:  Oh, the way you fish, a Minnie Mouse pole would have done just fine.

Jason:  It wasn't an Orvis.  I just looked at the Orvis.  I needed the pole I got.  What are you talking about, a Minnie Mouse pole?  What kind of stupid remark is that?

Dennis:  Yeah, no Minnie Mouse pole.

Bob:  I've been fishing with you. 

Dennis:  I don't have an Orvis rod, but I've got a nice fly rod.

Bob:  It's better than a Minnie Mouse pole, huh?

Dennis:  Yes, I mean, she's cutting to the core of who that man is.  We are talking this week about the subject of marriage and money.

Bob:  And men and women and how it all …

Dennis:  … their differences …

Bob:  … they are different and, in fact, Scott Stanley is with us this week.  Scott, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Scott:  Thank you, it's nice to be here.

Dennis:  Scott is the co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver.  In other words, he is one of the educational elite.  He is in the thick of the university studies, but he is a light for Jesus Christ there.  He's a great friend. 

He's been on FamilyLife Today before, and we're thrilled to have you back.  Scott has written a book called You Paid How Much For That?   And the book is convicting.

Bob:  It is convicting.

Dennis:  It is convicting, because it exposes some of the real issues around money – our values, our expectations, hidden issues.  And, Scott, you talk about – well, you talk about in your book what we just heard about in the little vignette about the differences between men and women.

Bob:  Men and women can have different priorities, and I was wondering – these are kind of stereotypical with her going to Foley's and him wanting the fly rod – are there legitimate gender differences in how we pursue money or is that just a stereotype?

Scott:  I think there are some very significant differences about money.  For example, we all know one of the great changes in the last couple of decades is you have more and more couples where both might have income, both work outside the home to some degree, and, you know, historically, men and women, in some ways, in terms of their actual earning behavior were much more different than they are now.  

Where the guy was the breadwinner, and that's the thing that he did, and she tended to stay home and take care of the house and raise the kids, and increasingly you have a lot of couples where it doesn't work that way.  So in terms of the earning behavior, men and women have become somewhat more similar in many homes.

On the other hand, there are some differences between men and women that just seem to be enduring, and …

Dennis:  … biological differences.

Scott:  Well, I suspect they are biological – that there are some things that are really wired in.  So, for example – and this isn't money-specific except that money is related to so many conflicts it comes into play. 

Men will avoid conflict more than women in marriage.  Women will pursue an issue being raised and dealt with more often than men.  Now, there's lots of marriages where that's reversed, just to be clear to the listening audience, where the female is more the one that withdraws, and the male tends to pursue, or they vary back and forth but, on average, if you just had to bet who is the one that pulls away more in a conflict it's more likely to be the male.

Dennis:  You actually have in your book a group of myths about men and women, and I want Bob …

Bob:  … well, let's see if they're myths or not, because …

Dennis:  … give these to the researcher who knows the truth – whether these are true or false.

Bob:  Number one – women like to shop more than men do.

Scott:  True.

Bob:  That's statistically verifiable?

Dennis:  Now, I want our listeners to …

Scott:  I verified every answer here with my wife.

Dennis:  Scott is not a sexist.  This is the result of his …

Bob:  … this is research …

Dennis:  … unbiased research and …

Scott:  Now, many of these are studies other people have done, but, yes, women do tend to shop more than men.

Bob:  And while that's statistically verifiable, at our home Mary Ann hates to shop, and I'm the one that's having to drag her to say, "Let's go look at some new clothes for you."

Scott:  Absolutely, and, by the way – because you have some women out there thinking this, and I know there's three guys around this table right now – there are some women out there saying, "Okay, well, yes, I go shopping more but who spends more money?"

Dennis:  Well, the big-ticket items for the guys – I mean – we shop once every three years, and we buy a bass boat that costs 20 …

Scott:  I was thinking about …

Dennis:  $20,000.  Barbara's bought – she's bought 12 dozen pair of shoes during that same period of time.

Scott:  If you're going to get – you know – for number of purchases, you might win that argument, but for amount of money, you're …

Bob:  … the guy may be the big-ticket guy.

Scott:  That's right.

Bob:  In fact, I was reading somewhere the other day, someday said a man will spend $2 for a $1 item that he really wants.  A woman will spend $1 for any $2 item whether she needs it or not.

Scott:  Yes, there's some – my wife will – absolutely, she will wait more than I will wait.

Bob:  That bargain thing …

Scott:  Yes.

Dennis:  We're going to give our listeners Scott's home address, because we can send all the mail that thinks that we're against females …

Bob:  Let's keep on with the list here – do boys get a larger allowance than girls do?

Scott:  Yes.

Bob:  Really?

Scott:  Yes.

Bob:  Did you give your boys more money when they were growing up?

Dennis:  No.

Bob:  You were completely egalitarian on that?

Dennis:  I think – well, I wouldn't say the word "egalitarian," but we were equal.  We were equal on that.  Our girls, I don't think would say that they were discriminated against in any way, whatsoever.  In fact, truth be known, I think we were a little softer on the ladies.  Tell the boys they've got to get a job, go to work.

Scott:  Well, and see this is an important point, because this gets to what things mean and the value of things, because I think if, for example, you, as parents, had the system where the kids get an allowance, but they're supposed to buy their clothes out of their allowance – some parents do it that way – most don't – but …

Dennis:  That's the way we did it.

Bob:  We do, too.

Scott:  There, I think some teenage girls would make a plausible argument that their clothes cost more than boy clothes.

Dennis:  They made that argument frequently.

Scott:  Apparently unsuccessfully, but …

Dennis:  … no, they won some.  That's why I would say they probably wore me down more than the guys.

Bob:  But, in general, moms and dads are giving their sons more allowance than they're giving their daughters.

Scott:  Yes.  Now, that could be – by the way, anytime you talk about research findings, you're talking about broad averages, so there's always going to be lots of exceptions, and some of these things are probably changing, even as we sit here, you know, with how rapidly these things have been changing in the culture.

Bob:  How about the idea that sons are taught more about how to handle money than daughters?

Scott:  True.

Bob:  So we have this – our own perception that we need to teach our boys financial matters, and it's less important for our daughters?

Scott:  And not only that, but what the research even shows is that mothers teach their sons more about how to manage money than they teach their daughters.  So this isn't just a guy thing, it's a societal bias thing that, you know, this background sense, "Well, you're the man.  You're going to be the one that has to handle the money, and so we'll give you more practice, we'll give you more coaching." 

Bob:  I was thinking about this one the other day because our son Jimmy who is the oldest boy in the family he got a checking account earlier than his sisters got checking accounts.  Part of that is because he was making money earlier than his sisters were making money but the other part was because I wanted him to start early learning how to reconcile a checking account and keep things in order. 

I knew it would be a skill that he’d have to have some involvement in all the way through his life.  I guess I should have thought our daughters probably will too but in the back of my mind a man seems to be the one ultimately responsible for the financial well being of the home.


Dennis:  Yes.  I look back on it and I would say this would be one of my regrets as we raised our six kids that I didn’t do more for my daughters in terms of training them.  I think in my mind I thought they are going to get married and that’s going to be the husband’s responsibility ultimately. 

It’s not that we just threw money at our daughters and let them do what they wanted to do.  It was a point of discussion and training but I could have done a better job. 

Scott:  It's also possible that, in part, parents are recognizing that boys, at a given age, seem to be less mature than girls at a given age.  So it could be a lot of it's this cultural bias about men versus women and money, but there's probably a little bit in there, too, of the sense that the guys need a little more guidance.

Bob:  In general, who is a saver – a woman or a man?

Scott:  Men tend to save a little more than women, and there's an association that does retirement research that found that women normally save 1.5 percent of their pay versus 3 percent typical of men.  Now, the trick of that is there could be all kinds of factors in that in terms of who makes more and who makes how much more than what they need for the basic expenses, and maybe that explains a lot of that, and professionals are quick to point out that nobody saves enough in America, for the most part.  So men or women – none of us tend to do as much as we should.

Bob:  This doesn't have anything to do with money, but are women more willing to stop and ask for directions – or men?

Scott:  Women are more willing.

Bob:  I just wanted to make sure on that.

Dennis:  Now, wait, Scott, in your book you give the two reasons why women are more apt to ask for directions when it involves …

Scott:  … shopping and finances.

Bob:  How do I get to the mall and how much does that cost – those are two things they'll ask for directions on.

Scott:  That's the funny aspect of that, but there's a real serious point about the financing one – there is some research that shows that you could be presenting in front of the male, the hottest investment, you know, here is the latest thing, you know, "This is going to be so good, you're going to make 10 times what you put in," and men are less likely to ask questions about that. 

So this is an extension of that less-likely-to-ask directions – they're less likely to ask really hard questions – "Well, then tell me again, how could I make 10 times as much of that and why should I write that check to you now?"

Women are actually not only more likely to ask for directions in some sense, they are more likely to question some of those things – "Well, why is that?  Tell me."  And that's a good thing, because men can be a little too gullible at times on some big decisions about money.

Bob:  I'll give you a great example of that – sitting with a life insurance salesperson, right, and he's going through – he's talking about the cash value, and he's talking about – you know, all of these terms that come up in your life insurance. 

And, as a guy, you sit there, and you nod, and you're thinking, "He lost me about 30 seconds ago.  I'm not sure how that works," but am I going to step up and say, "I don't understand what you're saying."  That's kind of like saying, "I'm not really a man."  You know, that's how it feels, doesn't it?

Scott:  You're playing it through, "Oh, I understand, Honey, I'll explain that.  I'll tell you that one later."

Dennis:  But if you bought a pick up.  You’d be a man and you would be able to understand what cash value is.


Bob:  What about – who is running the household finances?  Is it the men or the women?

Scott:  It's very mixed now, and it's very hard to say as a blanket statement.   People tend to really separate out the decisions now in different ways based on different tendencies.  So in many households you'll find one tends to handle more of the big picture thinking about retirement or where things would be saved, and the other may do the budgeting – balancing the checkbook, et cetera, and a lot of these things.

What I think happens to a lot of couples is they just sort of gravitate and if they're smart or reasonably wise as a couple, they gravitate into who does it better – some people do this better, and some people do that better.

Bob:  That's what we did, and at our house Mary Ann is running the checkbook and paying the bills because she's more organized and disciplined than I am but – big picture, global thinking, where are we headed, what's going on financially – that's my purview. 

I tell guys all the time, and I believe this – even if your wife is the one balancing the checkbook and taking care of paying the bills, you're responsible for the overall financial health of your household, and you need some ownership.  If you've delegated the responsibility of the checkbook to her, it's still ultimately your responsibility, as a guy.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  I think that's just stepping up, as a man, to take the leadership role.

Dennis:  I think he needs to carry that weight emotionally so that his wife doesn't.  One thing I want you to comment on, Scott, because I'm hearing as you're going through these myths and answering them, that a husband and a wife together, when they are healthy in their marriage, there really is a greater opportunity for financial success than an individual person would have.

Scott:  Absolutely.  The research is so clear on this that any other path in life doesn't do as well financially as a married couple that really stays together and is committed and, among married couples, of course, the ones that are going to really excel in every way in life are the ones that have a vision together for life, a worldview, and have a oneness, a sense of being a team together and a partnership about money.

They may decide you do more of this or I do more of this, but the strongest thing you see with the couples that are doing well is that we're a team.  And we talk, and this is a mutual thing, and neither is being coerced or controlled.  But we work together at these goals.

Dennis:  What you hear in Bob's illustration is Bob and Mary Ann working together for the common good, and that illustration, I think, in and of itself, is a great example of how a husband and a wife do need to take one another's strengths and leverage them against the objective.

Bob:  Does that oneness and teamwork approach to marriage mean that you're going to be in trouble if you have separate checkbooks?

Scott:  That's a tricky question, and there are a lot of elements to that.  Generally speaking, couples do better who pool their finances, and increasingly today, of course, it's more and more common for people to keep it separate – especially common, though, in second marriages.  So first marriages, people are still much more likely to pool their resources, and that's an – I mean – it does mean something.  You know, it's an extension of the sense that this is us in life together, and we're a team. 

Dennis:  Is it a warning for you, at least as a researcher, when you hear of a couple in their second marriage who are segregating their finances into two different checking accounts?

Scott:  It depends on what it means for those two people.  If they are really a strong team, and they've decided, for other reasons, to keep it separate – and here is a great example – a lot of older couples who are married keep it separate somewhat because of estates, you know, inheritance for their children and all.  There it doesn't have any meaning that's negative about the relationship. 

But let me give you a story about a couple where I think it has a more ominous meaning, where – second marriage for both, and they had lots of conflicts about money and, in particular, one of the conflicts was coming into this second marriage, he wanted to pool it.  He wanted to put it all together, and she really wanted to keep it separate.  And they had conflict – this is the epitome of this spinning your wheels – they were just never getting anywhere about this conflict until we really got down to, "Well, what does this mean to each of you?"

Dennis:  Yes, that would be my questions – why?

Scott:  Why?  Why?  And again you don’t get the right answer on the “what does it mean?” if you are not talking in a safe environment.  There has to be a level of trust.  So when we got the trust established this was a couple I saw in counseling.  He said – and this made a lot of sense as soon as he said it –

He said, "Well, now that I think about it, my first wife, before she left me, opened up her own accounts and was starting to move her money and her paycheck and things into her own account, and then one day she was gone." 

So, for him, her wanting – his new wife – her wanting to keep it separate really symbolized "maybe you're not committed to me.  Maybe you're really not going to stick with me."  Now, I don't think it meant that for her, but it had that meaning.

And for her, what she said when we got down to the meaning level is "My first husband was so controlling.  In fact, he was abusive and controlling and everything all wrapped into that, and I don't want to feel controlled like that again.  It's very important to me to keep it separate."

Now, I don't know what they've done to actually handle the physical "How are we going to budget and whether it's separate or apart," but I do know they weren't going to get anywhere on that until they got to those deeper levels of "What does this mean to you and what does this mean to me."

Bob:  All right, let me ask you about a few other stereotypes here.  Are women less risk tolerant then men?

Scott:  Yes.  Women are more conservative about wanting to make sure that we are not losing anything.  So men are a little more likely to take risks.  For example if you just think about all the people you’ve ever known who were entrpenerial at the high end of risk where some of these guys…I gave away my answer.  I’ve always seen guys make a fortune.  Lose a fortune.  Make a fortune.  You’re just less likely to see that in women.  It probably has something to do with women having such a great sense of responsibility in the family for security.

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  Yes.

Scott:  That they are going to be less willing to take the risk to lose some of what we already have.

Bob:  Alright.  Last question – in a two-paycheck marriage, are women doing more housework than men?

Scott:  Yes.  Women are almost always doing more housework than men in any marriage on the planet.  However, the more women make, the less housework the woman does but still, even in marriages where the woman makes more than the man, the woman does more housework.

Bob:  Yes, and if she's making a lot more, she's just hiring another woman to come do it.

Scott:  Now, that tends to be a lot of the ways that it gets played out.

Dennis:  You know, it's interesting, as you go down that list, and you hear how different we are, we marry one another because we're different.

Scott:  That's right.

Dennis:  We fall in love because we're different.  Barbara completed me, and I've said it so many times on FamilyLife Today – before we get married, those differences are like a magnet that attracts, and they just pull together.  After you get married, you turn the magnet a certain way, and you feel an invisible repulsion.

Scott:  I was wondering if you were going to use that word.

Dennis:  You don't see all the reasons, but you feel it, and that's why I think Christian marriage makes so much sense.  I mean, how else can two people respect one another, understand one another, love one another, and then, most importantly, make a commitment to create the security. 

So you can be different in the marriage, you can approach money from your different perspectives, and both of you can be right; neither has to be wrong.  But you can love one another for a lifetime and maintain that oneness.  Now, it won't be easy, but when you said, "I do," you didn't – there wasn't a promise that …

Bob:  You could just coast …

Dennis:  Building a marriage would be easy.  It's a challenge, regardless, because it involves two very selfish, very individualistic human beings who need the Scriptures, I think, to bring them back into line.

Bob:  But that's the healthy thing that comes in as we realize not only are there differences, we also realize that some of those differences expose fundamental selfishness.  So the differences are actually tools of sanctification in our marriage relationship.

Rather than seeing them as the polar ends of magnets that are pushing us apart we need to flip the magnet around and come together and value the differences we see in one another.  When we do that we see what that exposes about ourselves that maybe is not as flattering.  It's really looking at the log that's in our eye when we can see, too clearly, the different speck that's in our mate's eye.

Dennis:  When you feel those opposite ends of the magnets repelling each other, I think that points out our need, as people, as a husband and a wife, to be equipped with tools to know how to deal with those invisible points of repulsion. 

And one of the things we've – it's probably the most frequently mentioned thing about the Weekend to Remember, our weekend marriage conference held all over the United States, is when couples come to these events, they get practical, biblical tools from authentic married people who share their wins and their losses; their victories and their humiliating defeats; and in the process equip them to better handle their differences in marriage.

Bob:  I think it was about six months ago we had a little more than a thousand families who contacted us and said we want to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today as legacy partners—monthly contributors to your ministry.  For those folks who agreed to have their donation done via credit card we sent them a certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage conference.  We’ve heard back from folks who attended and they said it was a great weekend getaway for them as a couple. 

I mention that because right now we’re encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to consider becoming legacy partners and once again if you will sign up to make a monthly donation of any amount to help support FamilyLife Today and if you agree to have that donation via credit card we are going to send you a gift certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage conference.  You and your spouse can get away together as a couple and enjoy a fun, relaxing, romantic getaway and get on the same page of some of the issues we’ve been talking about here today.

You can find out more about becoming a legacy partner and attending a Weekend to Remember marriage conference by going to our web site FamilyLife  All the information you need is available there.  You can click on the link and sign up and become a legacy partner. 

Again if you make your monthly donation via credit card we’ll send you a certificate to a Weekend to Remember marriage conference when it comes to a city near where you live. 

All the information can be found at FamilyLife  Or you can call to sign up at 1-800-FL-TODAY. 

If you are on our web site let me also encourage you to look for information about a very helpful book by our friend, Howard Dayton.  He’s finished a book called Money and Marriage God’s Way.  This is a book that will help husbands and wives think carefully together about financial priorities and financial issues.  It’ll help them resolve financial conflict in marriage. 

Again it’s called Money and Marriage God’s Way and the details about Howard’s book are on our web site FamilyLife along with other resources we have.  Again that’s FamilyLife or you can call 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800 “F” as in family “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY.

Well, tomorrow we’re going to continue to unpack some of the challenges couples face around money and marriage.  Scott Stanley will be back with us again.  I hope you can be back as well. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Help for Today.  Hope for Tomorrow.


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