Some years ago, I was told a statistic by a real estate agent that caught my attention. She mentioned that 70% of home purchasing decisions were made by women. This didn’t mean 70% of the decision making process, but rather 70% of final say.
It was interesting to me how gender roles and money could be so clearly evident in such a big purchase. This wasn’t simply a case of supporting stereotypes on how a guy might go splurge on home electronics while frustrating his wife, or the wife coming home with expensive shoes that raise the husband’s blood pressure. Rather, this is a big ticket item – probably the biggest purchase anyone will make – where she stated that one person typically had more say than the other, based on gender.
It seemed hard for me to believe, as I couldn’t imagine just handing over such a big decision and saying “Honey, we’ll do whatever you want”. Not sure what that says about me, but I think big financial decisions need to be made together, as a team. After all, it affects you both. Moreover, you each have a perspective and viewpoint that could help with the process of making the most informed decision.
A guy I know picked up and moved out the area back in the peak of the housing boom. He relocated because his wife wanted to live closer to her parents, so they could see the grandkids more often. I asked him what his own parents thought of it, but he sidestepped the issue uncomfortably. Clearly, she was calling the shots here.
Additionally, he bought a home that was more than twice as expensive as what they had before. Clearly, this was a big reach, and I know him well enough that he hates to spend money. He bought the home in the same exact town as his in-laws, in a nice subdivision, all to make her happy. His words to me were along the lines of (paraphrased), “sometimes as a guy, you just have to focus on making your wife happy”, as well as “of course her parents have to matter more, because no woman wants to have her mother in-law as involved in her life as her own mother”.
Well, just recently he shared with me that his home lost about 33% in value since they bought it. He knew he was buying in an expensive area that had seen a huge run up in price, and way beyond the price point of where they were living before.
Yet he felt compelled to give in because he felt that he didn’t want to rock the boat, and thought that it was his duty to make her happy with a lifestyle she dreamed of. He knew better intellectually, but didn’t take action on it!
To me, this is a perfect example of how people can get stuck in their own perceptions of gender roles, and end up making suboptimal decisions. I think it’s best to operate together, as a partnership, where each person has equal say. And, very importantly, both people feel comfortably communicating with one another and want to compromise with one another.
Now, I do want to point out that there are plenty of situations where the reverse is true, in terms of women letting men make decisions just because of traditional roles. Some of these can be just as ridiculous or even more so. For example, letting the guy handle all stock investments because that has historically been more of a male role – particularly in days gone past. Really? Your family’s finances are more important than his fragile ego!
Bottom line: work as a team, make big decisions together without letting arbitrary gender roles play too big of a role.
My Questions for You
What do you think of the concept of gender roles and money? Are some of these very understandable, or simply antiquated?
Do you think that many of these will fade away, or are we hardwired to some extent to play certain roles?
Do you exhibit any of these gender-specific approaches to money roles in a relationship?