Why a Man is Not a Financial Plan
I know more women than I can count that let their male partners do the “big” and “important” financial tasks, like investing for retirement. Yes, relying on my personal anecdotal evidence is totally problematic, but there’s plenty o’ research to back up my observation: This study says married women take control of major financial decisions only 27% of the time.* (Though, this figure is up from 14% in 2006.)
AND I GET IT. Considering that women do way more than their fair share of the domestic and emotional labor at home, letting yo’ dude handle some money decisions isn’t lazy, it’s a goddamn survival tactic. If he’s willing to rake some leaves, grill some meats, and/or do some investments, sweet lord—we let him. It’s frustrating and predictable and OF COURSE I FUCKING KNOW that “not every relationship is like this,” but I’ve seen the pattern replicate itself enough to know it’s not some unfounded trope, either.
To be clear: We in a judgment-free household!! Always!! I know how it is to be a woman; to feel like Play-Doh being squished through a squeeze & sculpt dough machine, but also to feel left out of and intimidated by conversations historically reserved for humans that look like Alec Baldwin. Really, it makes perfect sense why we avoid Big Important Financial Decisions like they’re the expired cottage cheese in the fridge that we know damn well we need to throw out, but pretend not to see every time we swing open the door.
Though I am 100% sympathetic, I need to state my case for why relying on your husband or boyfriend to “do the money” is a no good, very bad idea. Will I be making fun of men? Of course I will be making fun of men. Will I make some people angry? I will likely make people angry. Will I inspire more women to learn about their financial lives so their livelihoods aren’t shredded by an outside party? THAT’S THE GOAL!!
TOP 4 REASONS THAT A MAN IS NOT A (GOOD) FINANCIAL PLAN
If you only have the energy for one reason, skip down to Reason #4. I cannot have your man cost you half a million dollars.
Reason #1: He Might Not Be Around Forever
You’ve heard this one before. It is most common to talk about the importance of a woman having a hand in the financial planning in terms of a potential traumatic event.
Death can happen. Addiction can happen. Abuse can happen. Plain ol’ change can happen.
Divorce can happen and in fact, is sososososo common. And usually, it’s NOT some crazy “my husband cheated on me with my sister and accidentally posted the video evidence to my Facebook wall” shit (but if it was, contact me—I’ll be your chief writer and dramatist, let’s get that Lifetime Movie Channel money!!)
It’s a helluva lot more likely that, due to the sometimes-banal, often-uneven pressures of a life, a marriage becomes a distorted, unfriendly version of what it once was. Job and money struggles, children or a lack of children, disagreements on things that range from “You gonna put your dishes in the fucking dishwasher for once in your life?” to “Who puts their career on hold to raise the kids?” can disease a relationship. And it can happen to anyone. You already know this, but it could happen to you.
Divorce rates seem to be on the decline, but trends still suggest that almost half of marriages will end in one. And here’s a WAY CRAZIER, MORE UPSETTING stat: Almost 70% of all divorces are filed by women. That’s a lot of heartbreak and disappointment on behalf of married women out there.
As if the emotional tariff isn’t enough, divorce and death can cost a person an amounticus grandicus (official measure) in terms of dollars and cents. And then, you’re on your own to manage your money, potentially for the first time ever. Wanna know the absolute worst time to sit down and really focus on learning about that topic you (understandably) hate and have been sidestepping for years and years and years? Yeah.
Do it before the proverbial excreta smashes the ceiling propeller. Get yourself into a position of money knowledge that is so comfortable that having to potentially sort it all out post-trauma is really no big whoop.
Reason #2: Retired Women Live in Poverty More Than Men
If you are all are not committed to your own financial well-being, you’re putting yourself at major risk of living in poverty as a vulnerable (and adorable) old person. Just yesterday, a friend was telling me that she bought holiday presents for a local senior she “adopted” through the YWCA. Her lil bunny’s holiday wish list tells a crushing story: She hoped for a toothbrush and toothpaste, incontinence supplies, a space heater, and a blanket. This is no Christmas wishlist; these are survival kit supplies. Me, upon hearing this:
Women between the ages of 75 and 79 are 300% more likely to live in poverty than their male counterparts. This is so sad, and so scary. And we CANNOT HAVE THIS for our gang o’ #BadGrannies!!! I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be my own damn sugar mama (bring on the hot younger men and the hot candle wax) and I also need YOU to have money so we do fun shit together until we dead and gone.
And the statistics are even worse for women that are single, divorced, or widowed. ANY OF US could be ANY OF THESE THINGS. (I’m still single if you can even believe it. Mother certainly can’t.)
Reason #3: He May Have No Fucking Clue What He’s Doing
I ain’t draggin yo’ man. Your hubs or boyfriend may be a phenomenal human: your best friend and travel partner, kind, smart, a cunning chef, a fine athletic specimen, eats yo’ box like a motherfucking champ, and maybe he even has a high salary. None of this means that he knows how to handle money.
And this is not even a man v. woman thing!! Being terrible with money is a trait that truly knows no gender. It’s not like yo’ dude slid out the womb and God handed him a gift basket with a dick, balls, and an innate understanding of Modern Portfolio Theory neatly packaged inside. And hey, I am blaming NOBODY for the trash financial education that exists in this country, but anyone could lack basic money skills. In fact, 56% of college graduates in the U. S. of A. couldn’t pass a basic, 3-question financial literacy test, which means there’s a worse than 50/50 chance that the person in charge of your finances is one of these people.
To me, it seems that there is an obvious reason you’d want both parties to be involved: Two heads are generally better than one!! Imagine how much more is possible in money—and in life—if two informed people are making thoughtful financial decisions. That way, you can be certain that you are working towards a common goal, and you can catch each other’s mistakes before it’s too late. You can bounce ideas off one-another when financial decisions aren’t straightforward (they often aren’t).
Also, the value of accountability in making good financial decisions cannot be overstated. The person holding you accountable to your financial goals doesn’t have to be your partner, but if you’re sharing your life and finances together anyway, it makes sense. (None of this is to say that having money conversations with a partner is easy, but you must. Unsurprisingly, the number one reason cited in divorce proceedings is money issues. Money can be complicated and hard, especially when there’s not enough of it, but if this isn’t a case to do your part to have productive money conversations, I honestly don’t know what is.)
We’re as far away from traditional gender roles as we’ve ever been before (praise be), but it would be dumb to pretend like they don’t exist at all. Women are still taught that our usefulness lies in our ability to be forever-youthful sex receptacles and maids, and men are told they must be providers. Well, it is impossible to be either of those things permanently. And without some honesty about the impossibility of permanent perfection, people sometimes resort to lying. To themselves and to others. Just as women have spent centuries faking orgasms to appeal to men, men have SURELY done plenty of faking about how “in control” they feel about money to impress women.
Instead, let’s do what we’re actually good at, not what garbage gender roles tell us we should be good at.
And as it turns out, your man may actually suck at one of the most important financial jobs because of his mandom!!!! See:
Reason #4: Men Are Worse Investors Than Women
I’ll put it bluntly: Yo’ man could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
What would you do with several hundred thousand dollars? I know I’ve got a few ideas.
Study after study shows that women are better investors than men. Just how much better? It depends on which one you’re looking at, but I’ve seen reports showing that women outperform men anywhere by between .4% and 1.2%. Now, I know what you’re thinking: So what? .4%? 1.2%? That’s literally nothing.
1.2% sounds very unexciting on paper (can you imagine buying something at a store because it was on sale for 1.2% off? Lol no), but in the world of investing (and compound interest), every percent matters so, so much.
Here’s what it would look like, in numbers. Let’s say that the stock market is going to be up 7% annually over the next 40 years. For ease, let’s say that a woman is able to capture that full 7%. (Here’s how.) Her man earns 1.2% less than her, so 5.8%. Both husband and wife are investing $10,000 per year for 40 years.
The result? A DIFFERENCE OF OVER $500,000!!! Half a million dollars, ladies!!
This is money you are leaving on the table by assuming that your man knows what he is doing.
Why are men worse investors than women? Well, there are a lot of theories. For one, men tend to have more confidence, which is actually a bad thing with investing; men may think that they have more control over their outcomes than they actually do. Because of this, they may engage in what is called “active management” or “active trading.” Said another way—buying and selling stocks or other investments.
This is important to understand: You would only actively trade stocks or other investments if you thought you could beat the market average, which as it turns out, PRETTY MUCH NO ONE CAN DO, especially over sustained periods of time. Your man ain’t Warren Buffet, but he may think that he is.
Even without “active trading,” there are certain human behaviors that tend to bite us in the ass when it comes to investing. For example, gettin’ enticed by “hot investments” or “hot stocks.” Why is this a no-no? Because oftentimes, that ship has already sailed far, far the fuck away. Sorry Todd, but you had to be in on the investment before all your Reddit buddies were talking ‘bout how it made them a million dollars.
And it appears that women have been better, historically, at being patient and staying the course when shit gets bad. (No surprise there.) Successful stock investing requires a person not make crazy changes and just letting shit ride even when it seems like it isn’t working. A stock market downturn cannot be “fixed.”
What Do I Do To Take Control?
You commit to learning about money. This means reading and listening to books, blogs, and podcasts, and putting yourself in virtual and IRL communities that are learning, talking, and thinking about money.
You work hard to make your actions align with your goals and not your impulses.
You find ways to build accountability into your life, whether it’s through a friend or partner, system or plan.
Here’s how I can help: I now offer a course on investing!! Think Investing 101, but way more fun than the snoozefests you’ve seen in the dusty old investing books. The course is four parts, live, and taught by me. My goal is to teach women (and men) the most important concepts so that they can feel confident in their saving and investing plan. It is designed for someone who can’t afford a financial planner (and honestly you probably don’t need one), but that wants to commit to their own education and knows that learning in a classroom setting is far more effective than trying to cobble together a financial education from across the internet.