Ever since I first started helping people with money troubles in 1994 I’ve noticed one common thread, women are typically more engaged in the entire process of getting out of debt.
Guys, let’s face it, we are lazy at times. I’ll admit it. I’ll also admit that I have no patience for dealing with all those calls to work out details. Just tell me when and where I need to go and I’m happy. Sound familiar?
One of my favorite exchanges that solidified the point that women are generally better at dealing with debt went like this:
Steve: “Hi Bob, you called me for help with your debt?”
Bob: “Thank you for calling back. Yes, we really need help. Here’s my wife.”
Susan: “Hi, my name is Susan.”
Steve: “Hi Susan. Can you fill me in about your debt situation please?”
Susan: Turns and yells at Bob, “What’s our debt situation?”
Bob answers and this circle goes on for about five minutes. and finally I say “Susan, this has been fun but wouldn’t it just be better if I talked to Bob directly?”
Susan: “It sure would but Bob doesn’t work like that.”
Steve: “What do you say you and I just deal with this and you can run it past Bob if you want?”
Susan: “That sounds great.”
Most Readers Are Women
I don’t need to look far to see that the trend of women generally being more involved continues. All you need to do is scroll through the names of the readers that have asked questions or look at some of the publicly reported demographics of the site. Women rule.
Women Take Action More Often
According to an article out in the Orlando Sentinel, women are taking the debt bull by the horns all over.
Women top men by a wide margin in Florida when it comes to getting professional help for debt problems, according to new figures from some credit-counseling operations that have clients throughout the state. – Source
The story goes on to say, “It is not clear why more women than men seem to be turning to credit-counseling services, though many surveys have found that women often handle their families’ bill-paying and other financial decisions.”
Not clear? In my experience women take action and are prepared to deal with tough times.
According to Cosmopolitan magazine this is because women evolve hotter, but I digress. Actually they found that:
- Women are far more likely than men to talk through their problems. Fifty-three percent of women talk to their friends about what’s stressing them out, as opposed to 29 percent of men.
- Women are better listeners, mentors, problem solvers, and multitaskers than men.
In a survey I conducted in the past I found that one of the underlying reasons women appear to be better able to deal with getting out of debt is that debt is more likely to hit women hard emotionally and leave them more depressed.
While that is a good and bad thing, the end result is that women appear to be more aware of the underlying signals which push them to take action. Men, well we just live in denial a little longer.
The survey found that 58 percent of women reported mild and major signs of depression, compared to 36 percent of men. More than six out of ten women reported their level of debt to be very bad, while 46 percent of men described their situation that way. Women think about debt troubles more often than men, and feel less competent to solve their problems, or so they said. More than half of women reported their stress level to be high or very high.
In the survey, single women are at the greatest risk for depression related to financial problems.
Here is What Some Other Personal Finance Bloggers Think
In families and marriages women make 80% of the purchasing decisions, and getting out of debt can only be done if the person who makes spending decisions agrees to cut back on purchases, and helps manage the money better. – Kelly from the “Centsible Life”
Woman are “smarter” than men when it comes to getting out of debt because they are less stubborn (women are capable of asking for directions when lost). A woman who sees she has been making a mistake finds it easier to acknowledge it and move on. The other side of the story is that men are more determined (determination is stubbornness in its positive form) to address the mistake once they break through the emotional resistance to acknowledging it. – Rob from “A Rich Life.”
I don’t think one gender is inherently smarter or better than the other, but I do praise women who have to balance a budget under the constraints of typically earning less than men and living longer than men, therefore needing more for retirement. – Paula from “Afford Anything”
Janet Guyon wrote in a 2005 Fortune magazine article about the differences between men and women in the decision making process.
- Men love to lecture; Women like to listen.
- Men are more likely to act alone, apt to blame others; Women collaborate, listen, and build teams.
- Men are more focused on long-term results; Women focus on short-term goals.
- Men put more weight on the how the decision will affect the competitive environment; Women consider how it will affect the team.
- Men exercise their decision making power, if they have it; Women want to work through people, even if they have the decision-making authority.
- Men are more-likely blindsided by a crisis; Women will more often see the crisis looming (e.g., a woman anticipated the Enron disaster).
Study Says: Women Make More Decisions at Home
The survey finds that in 43% of all couples it’s the woman who makes decisions in more areas than the man. By contrast, men make more of the decisions in only about a quarter (26%) of all couples. And about three-in-ten couples (31%) split decision-making responsibilities equally.
The study found that women tended to call the shots over men when it came to deciding about buying major things for the home. When making a major purchase, respondents said the woman made the decision 30 percent of the time, the man 37 percent of the time and the decision was made jointly 28 percent of the time.
When it came to managing finances in the home, women said they did 45% of the time, men 23% of the time and deciding together came in at 29% of the time.
“However, comparing how men and women answer this question suggests that there is a good bit of gender disagreement over who ultimately controls the family’s purse strings. By nearly 2-1, women say they and not their husbands control the family pursestrings (45% vs. 23%). But a narrow plurality of men say they, not their wives, are managing the family finances (37% vs. 30%).” – Source
Here’s What I Think
Just speaking in a broad context (pun intended, groan) women appear to be more attune to debt problems. They are more likely to feel the pain earlier and want to reach out for help. They may reach out because they feel they need expert assistance, they are better problem solvers, or they want a friend on their side they can talk to through the difficult financial times. And as research shows, women apparently do play a bigger role than men in managing the finances at home.
I was talking with Pam about this over lunch today and she said that at the time of our financial problems in 1989, if she had played a bigger role in managing the finances at home she would have had a better understanding that things were as bad as they wound up being.
And now you know why since then she has played a bigger role in managing the finances in our house.
No matter what the reason why, all I know is I’m a big fan of women and in my debt world they take action.