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Household Finance and Gender Roles: Women Budget, Men Invest?

A few days ago I caught an old clip of the TLC’s 19 and Counting, a reality show about the Duggar family who has 19 children. In order to run the house, everyone has a jurisdiction, a specific series of chores they are responsible for. The girls do all the cooking, laundry, and washing for the family, while the boys are in charge of outside tasks such as fixing the car, mowing the lawn, and taking out the trash.

In this episode, Trading Spaces, Duggar Style, however, the kids are switching places, a departure from their traditional gender roles. The girls learn how to do the boys’ chores, and vice versa. The goal was to teach each side to be more appreciative of what others do, and to teach them the skills to take care of themselves when the others aren’t around.

This episode made me think of the “unofficial” jurisdictions that people take in their household finance, which is often divided by gender roles. From my experience and from what I’ve read about household finance, day-to-day budgeting and bill-paying frequently goes to the woman, while long-term investment and retirement planning job often belongs to the man. In my family, the responsibilities falls along the same gender lines – Mom is charge of daily stuff, while Dad monitors 401Ks and IRAs. They split the responsibilities for their property investments.

When I was growing up, my mom taught me a lot the importance of staying on top of household bills, knowing how much you make and spend, and getting a sustainable mortgage. But investing in stocks, bonds, large-caps, small-caps, etc. were a foreign concept to me. Although I had vague ideas that I should invest, I didn’t actually know the logistics of opening a Roth IRA until I had an old middle school teacher explain it to me in college. Then I started learning about the difference between stocks and bonds, asset allocation, different investment theories, so obviously I turned out OK even though I wasn’t exposed to investing at an early age.

I don’t have a brother, so I don’t know if a son would have received different financial education during his upbringing. But in the future, if my husband and I decide to combine finances, I think it’d be really fun to do a household finance trading spaces deal. Even though we might each have our areas that we enjoy being in charge more, both partners need to understand household finance, which include the budget and long-term investments.

For example, I like making investment plans and studying asset allocation. I do. But even if I am in charge of the investment portion of my household finance, I still need to understand the ins and outs of daily money matter. The reverse holds true. A true partnership might not mean that both partners do 50% of everything, but each individual should have a basic understanding of what’s happening with the household finances.

How did you decide who is in charge of the investment vs. budget in your household? Do you follow gender roles listed above? Have you ever tried to trade spaces with regards to household finance?

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahalie/416934091/ via Wisebread.com

  • eemusings - Well, I take care of pretty much all the finances – the boy cares little for that kind of thing and doesn't really want to. It naturally falls to me: I'm a planner, he would spend everything he had because he doesn't tend to think far into the future. But as far as I know, both my parents are pretty money savvy both in terms of everyday and long term investing (my mother is an accountant…) ReplyCancel

  • Money Reasons - Ironically, in my household I'm the one that handles both filing the income taxes and the investments. The kicker is my wife is an accountant… go figure. I've tried to get her involved with investments (she has her own Roth IRA), but she has no interest whatsoever!

    Now it could be that I've been involved with investments since I was 8, so I have a strong background, but I still think it would be good to have her involved too.

    My wife does handle the paying the bills though.

    As for how it happened that way? The taxes went that way it has because I use to trade a lot of stocks and she didn't want to mess with that stuff in the tax forms. And as for investing, it's a hobby of mine, but with my wife… not so much…


    • WellHeeled - LOL… I'm not sure I'd like to deal with taxes either! Especially if I trade frequently and have to keep track of all the capital gains / losses, etc. ReplyCancel

    • FinEngr - HA! MR – you've got to put her to work! Capitalize on those skills!

      haha too funny…

      Investing since 8? I'm intrigued…details? ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - My husband takes care of both household and investments. He loves reading about all of that. He basically runs it by me and I ask my questions. It’s worked for us for almost 6 years.

    I do know how to pay bills though. :) (I take care of it all when he is deployed since internet isn’t always reliable.)
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Oreo Cakesters =-.ReplyCancel

  • StackingPennies - Right now, I mostly do most for myself, but we both benefit from it. T doesn't officially budget, but he definitely spends less than he takes in. We don't have everything combined, but we do have a lot of joint spending.

    Neither of us spend a lot of time monitoring investments — but i wouldn't mind if he took charge of making sure things were balanced and such. I would want to be involved in the strategy though! ReplyCancel

  • FabulouslyBroke.com - BF and I each do both — budget & invest for our own personal use

    And BF handles the household budget overall, and just gives me a little paper at the end telling me what I owe him, by the category breakdown (rent, food, utils, etc) ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I think it's awesome you guys divide everything 50% / 50%. I'd probably do the % of income route, but your way is definitely fair. :) ReplyCancel

      • FabulouslyBroke.com - It's mostly because we earn approximately the same amount of money, give or take $50,000 and it all depends on projects, so it's not like he's making all the money and I'm struggling.

        In fact, now I'm making the cash but he isn't. It fluctuates. ReplyCancel

  • Ronnie - My grandfather used to say that whoever was better at it should do it. I'm better at it, so I do it, but my boyfriend has to be involved. Now, that said, I DESPISE paying bills. Hate it with a passion. So he writes the check (rent only) and pays all the bills, and I handle ensuring we have sufficient funds, savings, and investments.

    I cannot stress how important it is for both parties to know what's going on with the finances. When my boyfriend's father passed away last year, his mom had no idea what they had or where anything was. Thankfully his dad had taken VERY good care of her, and left her with a multi-million dollar estate, but that she had no idea made a terrible situation that much more stressful. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I agree 100% on the need for both parties to understand family's finances. Sorry to hear about your boyfriend's dad, but I'm glad his mom is well-provided for. ReplyCancel

  • 15 Minutes and Personal Finance Bloggers | Budgeting To Wealth - […] decided to visit some new bloggers and found Wellheeled’s post, Household Finances : Women Budget, Men Invest? to be a terrific read.  Growing up, it was my grandfather who took care of his family’s […]ReplyCancel

  • Frugal Babe - I've always been the one who handled pretty much everything related to finances for our family – budgeting, bills, investing, savings, etc. I always kept my husband up to date with what I was doing, but he let me do it however I chose. A few months ago, he started to get really interested in investing, and sat down with me to go through everything we had. He's learned a ton lately, and now actually knows more than I do about the nuances of asset allocation, small/mid/large cap, muni-bonds, etc. I love having him so interested in it – I'm more excited about the whole process now that my husband is into it too. We just set up a SEP IRA, and pretty much split the responsibility. I researched options (SEP, SIMPLE, Individual 401k) and he researched how we would allocate the money once we had an account. We put our ideas together and came up with a solution that we're both happy with. ReplyCancel

  • FinEngr - Personally, it's shifted through generations. My grandfather was the one who ran the investments, but he ended up teaching my mother and her sister. Now both of them run their respective households, and have taught myself and my male cousins along the way. If we end up having daughters, the cycle will likely continue.

    Your note about trading household roles should be SUPER bolded. While you are a family unit, each entity should be self-sufficient. Don't necessarily have to be proficient, but enough to feel comfortable should a situation arise and the responsibilities fall in your lap. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - That's a GREAT point. At the very least, it's so important for family members to understand where to find information and resources that can help them manage an area of household finances that they don't normally, if the need arises. ReplyCancel

  • Yakezie Carnival #3: Benefits Edition | Sweating The Big Stuff - […] Well-Heeled Blog presents Household Finance and Gender Roles: Women Budget, Men Invest? […]ReplyCancel

  • Bytta@151DaysOff - I do most of the budgeting and investing activities. However, I always ask for his opinion and the other half of approval. He's not interested in managing our money. It's true, I just asked him :(.

    To be honest, I think my parents are not a sterling example for budgeting, my dad once purchase an investment property on impuls :D. However they teach me a lot about investing and money making activities (and how to spend it). ReplyCancel

  • Elle - It's a bit different for us. Both of us work on the monthly budget and we use Google Docs to keep up with any updates. As far as picking out investments, I handle most of it. We discuss my recommendation and 9 out of 10 times, we go with it.

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