Tuesday, November 2, 2010

21st Century Women and Money

I stumbled into an article that bothers me a bit. Strangely enough, there are still a lot of "modern" women in relationships who cede their financial matters to men. (So there, Destiny's Child with your "Independent Women" songs!) Weird. I thought I was the only one who still happily turned over the keys to all family money matters. Apparently not, much to my (selfish) relief:
...It's not just older women who leave the big money questions to their husbands. Despite strides in the workforce, traditional roles are still common at home. Women as young as their 20s frequently defer financial decision making to their spouses or even their fathers.

Why do we do this? No idea about you, but here's my reason: I'm lazy. My grandfather and dad taught me all about budgeting, saving, and giving as a kid/teenager, and I managed my finances rather well during college. I gave regularly to my charities of choice, my IRA was funded, and all of my bills were paid on time. As soon as I got married, which just happened to be the day after I graduated from college, I handed the financial keys over to my husband.

Bless him, he tries hard to keep me in the financial loop and involve me in the two-year budget plan he's designed for us. I'm just not super interested. I know where my investments are, our debts are paid off (praise God!!!), and our budget is detailed enough to let me know where I can "borrow" from in case I overspend on the groceries (what SAHM really needs regular dry cleaning?). My husband does everything he can to give me an equal say in the budget. Since I know he tries so diligently to involve me, I repeatedly scourge my brain to come up with different versions of, "Whatever you think is best." I'm sure it frustrates him to no end, but I hope he's comforted in the fact that I really do trust him that much.

In my own defense, I do my best to keep receipts and plug them into Quicken so we can have an accurate picture of where our money is going. And I track certain sections of the budget in my head and on a white board in the kitchen. But still, I'd prefer to leave all financial matters in my husband's hands.

Why, though? Am I just washing my hands of the responsibility/burden of making financial decisions? Do I not want to hear any semblance of "I knew we shouldn't have done xyz"? Do I think I don't understand financial jargon? I don't know. Maybe I really am just that lazy. This should be an interesting conversation starter for my husband. I'd LOVE to hear his opinion. That's the great thing about being married-you always get the truth, and it's usually filtered through rose-colored glasses. :) And yes, I adore my husband. He's worth his weight in nuclear-grade plutonium.

Here's another thing that really caught my eye within the same article quoted above:
Studies show that parents have the single most important impact on financial behaviors and knowledge...Few families have frequent conversations about money, and when the topic comes up, they "speak to their daughters differently than their sons."
First: Another argument for the importance of having parents who are involved with their kids. Amazing! It makes me glad I'm a SAHM now, though I know there are tons of ladies who do a fab job of working and raising their kids "right." Personally, I know I'm doing a better job mothering as a SAHM than I did when I was working.

We have three daughters, so I guess our financial training isn't going to be too unequal. We've already beaten the idea of saving into their heads. Every coin they find gets placed into our three part bank. The girls like giving to the church the best. The "bank" (savings portion) is second most popular while the spending slot has the least. That's encouraging.

Funny anecdote: I gave our two older girls $1 to spend at a rummage sale. The older one found a pair of princess shoes that she quickly picked up and paid for. The younger one carefully examined everything and talked to me (as best as a 2 y/0 can) about the items she liked. In the end, she decided to keep her $1. A few days later, we were heading to the mall, and I gave the girls another $1. The younger said, "Me have two now!" When my eldest protested the unfairness of the numbers, I had a lovely chance to explain the difference between saving and spending all over again. The point is, despite all the teaching we do, it's our kids' responsibility to put the lesson into action. As parents, we need to make sure we take the time to teach our kids properly.

Second, why in the world would we (parents) talk to our girls differently than we would our boys regarding money??? Most Americans would agree that women are perceived as bigger (that is, more frequent) spenders than men. Wouldn't that make it more of a priority for parents to give their daughters a solid financial foundation?

I'm thankful I had such good financial training as a kid. I understand everything my hubby tries to include me in, and I know I am able to contribute intelligently to financial conversations (should I choose to). How would I feel if I didn't know what was going on, though? It would be a source of constant irritation that would provoke me to one of two courses of action: 1. figure it out (hard to do without a lot of time to invest) or 2. ignore it by letting my husband do everything. It's nice to be able to choose to let my husband everything instead of being forced to do so.

Challenge: Figure out how you feel about finances. If you want to change that feeling, take action to do so. If you're a parent, make sure you provide good lessons (both verbal and by example) to your kids (regardless of gender!) about how to handle money. Check out the budget planning resources from BeatingDebt.org to get you going in the right direction.

-Domestic Goddess out.

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