Men, women and money -- who wins the battle of the sexes?

By Marianne Curphey

battle-of-sexes

Who has more financial savvy - men or women? That answer depends on who you're talking to - and even then, it can be varied and complex.

For starters, while Equifax finds that women are more knowledgeable about credit, rival credit reference agency ClearScore holds that men have the higher average credit score.

According to Equifax research published in January 2017, women are better informed about what does or does not create a good credit score.

For example, men are more likely than women to believe that living with someone with debt will affect their own credit score, Equifax found. More men (36%) also think - wrongly - that the credit of people who previously lived at their address can affect their credit score, compared to women (33%).

However, new data provided for UK.CreditCards.com in February 2017 from ClearScore shows that men have a 4.5 per cent higher credit score than women.

"The fact that men's scores are slightly better than women's is the symptom of a whole host of complicated, interrelated factors around gender roles," a ClearScore spokesman said in an emailed response to questions.

Even the experts differ on how gender affects one's financial and credit decisions.

Men like using credit, women view debt as 'a burden'
"There are some broad-brush differences between how men and women manage credit, and also how men and women - at different stages in their lives - handle credit, " Jane Cox, an international human performance specialist and wealth psychology expert, said in an emailed response to questions.

"Generally speaking, men see credit as a way of facilitating big spends in their lives - their cars, their watches, their electronic gadgets, their furniture," Cox said. "It doesn't tend to worry them having money owing on credit, because it largely just becomes a budgeted monthly expense to pay off what they often see as ‘critical purchases'."

Women, on the other hand, consider credit handy in times of need, but often will only allow debt to accumulate almost by mistake, she said.

"A dress here, a pair of shoes here, and the next thing she knows the balance owing is more than she expected," Cox said. "This then often becomes a guilt payment each month, and she carries it as a burden, rather than as a business expense."

She said we can change our behaviour around money and credit, and our financial lives will be easier if we take the time to sit down and figure out what we actually want from our short- and long-term finances.

Cox said men often take more financial risks than women. However, she says, there are other factors at play, such as age, obligations and family commitments.

Women 'worry more about credit than men'
Alex Hedger, clinical director and cognitive behavioural therapist at Dynamic You therapy clinics, says research suggests that women have higher rates of anxiety disorders than men.

"From this perspective, it's entirely possible that women, on the whole, may tend to worry more about credit than men," he says.

Hedger says women also may struggle more than men when it comes to dealing with uncertainty.

Hedger says there is evidence to suggest that men are more naturally hardwired toward strategy and planning-based longer-term thinking, whereas women tending to be more hardwired for emotional and intuitive types of thinking. 

In fact, Simonne Gnessen, money coach at Wise Monkey Financial Coaching, and professor Karen Pine, a researcher in developmental psychology, investigated women's emotional relationship with money and found that 80% of the women they interviewed admitted to shopping when they were emotionally charged, either happy or sad.

Women, though, are better than men at budgeting, Cox said.

"At the risk of gender stereotyping, women are often better at managing household budgets because they tend to be the ones making most of the shorter-term daily, weekly and monthly spends," Cox said. "They are more likely to have a rounded idea of what expenses are likely to come up, and what type of unexpected spend may be just around the corner."

The more people that will be affected by the decision, the more likely a woman is to choose the less risky path, Cox said.

Gender is just one of many factors
So, is there a gender divide when it comes to managing and understanding money? Not necessarily, says Lisa Conway-Hughes, a financial adviser and founder of Miss Lolly, a money advice website for women.

"In my experience, attitude toward credit or toward risk is not divided along gender lines," Conway-Huges says. "It's more to do with knowledge and confidence around money, and making time to tend and grow the savings that you have."

See related: Pros and cons of having credit, Are you a 'revolver' or 'transactor' - and how does it affect your score?, How British card behaviour compares to other countries

Published: 17 March 2017