Women, Men, and Money

Tue Mar. 14, 2006 6:14 PM EST

According to this month's Money Magazine, finances still cause strife in many marriages.

Okay, so this shouldn't be news to anyone. But what is notable is that the majority of the couples surveyed divide their financial responsibility along very traditional gender lines. Women tend to be responsible for determining daily spending while their husbands plan long-term investments, retirements etc. According to the magazine, dividing duties up this way doesn't necessarily foster communication:

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[M]en and women had dramatically different ideas about who does what with the family finances, and what their partners care about. Husbands were especially clueless, tending to underestimate how much women care about almost every financial issue, from investing and saving for retirement to paying off debt. A hundred years after Freud, and men still don't know what women want."

Some other fun facts from the Money survey:

  • Seven out of ten respondents said money causes more fights than sex or even in-laws.
  • Only 27 percent of men think their wives prioritize putting their assets in the "right investments." In reality, almost half of women responded that they actually do care -- almost equaling the percentage of men who say they care.
  • 45 percent of men think it's important to hoard cash in case of emergencies, while 67 percent of women think it's vital.
  • In families where the woman is the primary breadwinner, 4 out of 10 wives control most of the investments. This is almost double the number of women who take the reins when the husband is the earner.
  • So what is happening? Are those 67 percent of women hoarding more cash because they have, historically, earned less than men? We hear over and over that women make 76 cents on every dollar earned by men. That statistic is somewhat open to question, partly because it fails to take into account critical differences in education, experience and, other factors that impact earning potential. A man and woman with identical backgrounds, education, and family dynamics will not automatically receive a 24-cents-on-the-dollar difference in pay. Disparity in earnings is a more complicated issue than can be captured in one statistic.

    Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research calls the 76 cent figure "a good measure of inequality, not necessarily a measure of discrimination." In order to really identify what part of the wage gap is due to direct discrimination, all the other factors like performance, education and market forces need to play into the equation. The bottom line is that discrimination does prevent professional women from rising to equally high paying jobs of stature in the workplace. But the 76 cent figure, by being so sweeping and generic, doesn't always help clarify the problem of equal pay.

    Go here to see 39 professions where women earn a higher paycheck.