Parents talk about money differently with sons and daughters; here’s how to bridge the gender gap
Rewind a couple of generations and women would typically stay at home nurturing the children, tending to domestic chores, and taking charge of basic financial budgeting, while men would don their suits or coveralls and set out to work, providing an income that supports the family while thinking about investing for the future. Could this stereotypical lifestyle — that defines financial focus by gender — be the reason why, even to this day, the conversations that we have with our sons about money often differ from the conversations we have with our daughters?
Let’s talk statistics
A recent study titled “Adolescent Income and Financial Literacy” by Giftcards.com indicates that when discussing money with children, a financial education that is gender-neutral is rarely considered. The study surveyed 1,000 parents and concluded that daughters were more likely to be educated on fiscal restraint, while sons would be taught about wealth and prosperity. The data explains that by the time they have reached high school, 61% of boys have received a tutorial from their parents on credit scores. Comparatively, only 46% of girls receive the same edification.
When we think finances, we might consider taxes, our bank accounts, our credit cards, and any investments that we might hold. The need to understand these money matters in the 21st century cannot be defined by gender. Still, the study revealed that boys were 9% more likely to receive an education from parents on how to pay taxes, had a 5% greater chance of being taught about bank accounts, were 3% more likely to have credit cards explained to them, and 2% more likely to receive insight on investing.
Financial education for girls appears to be primarily centered around spending and budgeting, with girls having an approximately 13% greater chance of receiving advice on how to track their spending. They were 5% more likely to receive instruction on effective budgeting — perhaps a justification for why women are typically more financially risk-averse.
What’s interesting — or, perhaps, alarming — is the study also found that girls are generally given less money by their parents than boys. Boys in elementary and high school are given up to $20 more at Christmas, $3 more for completing domestic chores, and $1 more for their allowance. Further analysis of the study results revealed the commonality of same-sex-split conversations, with dads educating their sons and moms teaching their daughters.
Collectively, we must recognize that differentiation in how we financially educate and reward girls and boys will mold our young people, shape their behaviors, and influence their outlook on life; they could make life-changing financial decisions based on the information that we gave — or didn’t give them, quite an onus for any parental figure.
Where is the rationale for this divided education?
The National Council for Research on Women boast that females makeup half of the U.S. workforce and govern more than 50% of the wealth across the United States, demonstrating both a desire to do well and capability of success in the finance sector. It’s fair, however, to suggest that men and women view money differently in terms of prioritizing its use, with many financial advisors’ evidencing that men invest more frequently than women and are inclined to take greater investment risk.
Let’s give a thought to factors which may impact why parents approach money conversations differently with their sons versus their daughters. Women have longer lifespans and there is the likelihood that — should they outlive their spouse — they may have to support themselves and their children on just one salary. This could be a factor in explaining why a mother may gear her daughters’ financial education towards understanding her spending habits and budgeting.
Experts believe that there is a clear divide between men and women regarding who they feel has rights to their money. Women are said to believe that their money is for their spouse, their parents, their siblings, their pets, and nurturing and caring for all of those around them. It is suggested, however, that men are of the confidence that the money that they make is theirs, that it doesn’t need to be shared, and that whether they chose to spend it or invest it, it is their sole decision to make.
Can model behavior bridge the gap?
Any parent will recognize that children learn by example — they will watch, absorb, and copy. Visual lessons from parents to children on finances help to provide context, influencing how a child perceives money and its purpose. Children remember and respond to things that they hear. We should be mindful of how we communicate around them. We all have challenging days at work, but by casting our employment in a positive light, celebrating the benefits of hard work and the importance of an income, we can both introduce and embed healthy financial behaviors that will help shape their future. Christopher Higgins, retired business manager, father, grandfather, and school volunteer, believes that “we can further bridge this girl/boy gap by treating them equally.” He goes on to say, “I have endeavored to never give more money to one than another, be it pocket money, Christmas money, or investments made on their behalf.”
It can be helpful to include your children in some of the more exciting elements of financial planning, such as arranging a vacation. You might plant a seed with your children a year or some months ahead, allowing you to plan together how you will save to afford all elements of the trip. Consider giving your children some control over their funds, perhaps using some of their own money for a specific day trip or souvenir. Do help them with the workings-out of how much they need to put aside per week to ensure that have they have accumulated enough by their chosen date. Higgins says, “I try to convey to both boys and girls the value of money, in the sense that it has to be earned before it can be spent, and never to spend what you do not have; thus, avoiding future problems associated with debt.”
As adults, we take for granted that many of us can instinctively differentiate between our wants and our needs. Children, on the other hand, can benefit from guidance; it might be that we explain the difference between needing a study guide to complete a school project and wanting the next Marvel comic book, or needing a glass of water to prevent dehydration on a hot summer’s day and wanting a thick strawberry shake.
Professionals in the field of both finance and education agree that one of the most critical lessons that we can give both our sons and daughters is that money is not central to a happy and fulfilling life. Higgins adds: “In terms of bridging the gap further, I would venture to suggest that there is a lack of good financial teaching available across the U.S. education system, particularly about the dangers associated with easy access to credit cards and quick loans. Money, however, is not everything, we must convey that happiness is of primary importance, and certainly cannot be bought.”
Teaching children to love themselves, celebrate who they are, understand their capabilities, and to feel confident in challenging them will lay the foundations for decades of emotional and financial stability.