3 Little-Known Reasons Why Women and Men Talk About Money Differently

Money is essential to our everyday lives, but many people struggle to talk about it. Lots of people have stigmas, shame, or even financial trauma around money, spending, and debt. These struggles can be especially intense for women, who are often socially conditioned to feel more cautious and less confident about managing their personal finances.

For all of these complex reasons, men and women tend to talk about money differently. A new survey from Wells Fargo and The Female Quotient (The FQ), called “Our Secret Numbers,” shows a few reasons why women and men tend to have different attitudes about their personal finances.

Let’s look at a few insights on the topic and how everyone can manage their personal finances with greater confidence.

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1. Men feel happier and more confident about their personal finances

The survey from Wells Fargo and The FQ found that men are much more likely than women to have positive, confident feelings about their personal finances.

  • 58% of men are happy with their financial situation (compared to 42% of women)
  • 65% of men are confident about their financial management (compared to 51% of women)
  • 60% of men say they have primary responsibility for financial decisions in their household (compared to 39% of women)

Men are also more likely than women to use positive, confident words to describe their financial situation and relationship with money, such as “disciplined,” “proud,” or “relaxed.” Women are more likely to use words like “stressful,” “frustrating,” and “embarrassing.” The survey shows that, along with the unfortunate gender pay gap that causes women to earn $0.83 for every dollar that men earn, there is a gender confidence gap about personal finances.

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This gender confidence gap can cause additional challenges for women who are trying to save and invest for retirement. When women feel less comfortable talking about money, they’re often less likely to get professional financial help. The survey found that men are much more likely to talk to financial professionals about their financial wellness (29% of men vs. 20% of women), while women are more likely to just not talk about money at all (35% of women vs. 26% of men).

2. Women feel more stigma about personal finances

Being good with money is not just a men’s thing or a women’s thing; men and women both want to be successful with their personal finances. The survey found that 74% of women and 76% of men agreed with the statement that “financial health is important to living my life.”

However, because of social conditioning and complex cultural factors, women are more likely than men to show signs of shame, discomfort, and stigma in talking about their money. The survey found that:

  • 62% of men were “more comfortable than they used to be” in talking about their financial health, vs. only 52% of women
  • 57% of men were more comfortable talking about their debt than they used to be, vs. 48% of women

Interestingly, as men get further into their careers, they grow more comfortable with talking about their debt, while women get less comfortable. This is a sign that senior-level women feel that they will be judged more harshly for having debt, while senior-level men feel more free to talk about the ups and downs of their personal finances.

The survey also found that men and women have different attitudes for how likely they are to talk about certain personal details of their financial lives, like credit scores, debt amounts, non-essential spending, or salary. When asked why they don’t share more details of their personal finances with friends, women are more likely than men to say:

  • “It makes me uncomfortable.”
  • “I don’t want to be judged.”
  • “It makes me feel insecure.”
  • “I don’t want them to think less of me.”

These are all signs that women face a higher level of social stigma, scrutiny, pressure, and even shame around money and financial management. The same financial attitudes and behaviors that men might feel comfortable sharing can often feel like a burden or a source of guilt to women.

3. Women are more likely to feel financially disadvantaged — but men don’t agree

Along with the gender pay gap and subtle-but-insidious social conditioning, women also face other financial challenges. Women tend to save less money for retirement, because they earn less than men do and their careers are more likely to be interrupted by unpaid caregiving. Even though women have made big progress in their educational attainment and earning power, there is still a significant disconnect in how men and women view their financial opportunities.

Men and women disagree on whether the playing field is level. The survey from Wells Fargo and The FQ found that 48% of women believe that men have more opportunities to be financially successful (only 39% of men felt this way). Only 44% of women believe that men and women have the same opportunities (compared to 52% of men).

Bottom line

Personal finances can be complex. Along with the simple math of numbers in the bank, everyone brings emotional, cultural, and psychological baggage to their financial lives.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s important for all of us to break through the stigma and shame around money. Everyone deserves to feel confident about their personal finances. Talk to friends and financial professionals about the “secret numbers” of your financial life, and you’ll be more likely to build a foundation of financial wellness.

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