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7 ways that sex shapes your attitude to money

Updated 01 December 2022

4min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

Is there a gulf between men and women in how they manage their finances? Our research suggests there might be. See if you can escape your gender stereotype. Article by Nick Green.

How sex influences your attitude to money

Is a pound in a purse the same as one in a wallet? Our Value of Advice research has been looking into the attitudes of men and women to money, planning and advice. It reveals some striking financial differences between the two sexes.

Men are more confident, women are more cautious

We asked some people who’d never taken financial advice why they hadn’t. Of this sample, 45 per cent of men said they felt confident enough in their own judgement and didn’t need to ask an expert. Only 36 per cent of women said the same. Maybe this means that men are just better at finance than women? It might, if not for point two…

Men are more likely to make financial decisions they regret

It seems the stereotype of the risk-taking male isn’t so wide of the mark. Our research found that across the full range of financial products, from ISAs to pensions and long term care, men were at least twice as likely to have made decisions they now regret, and sometimes even more than that. It looks very much as if that confidence they carry around isn’t always an asset, if it leads them into hasty choices.

Women have a better grasp of what things cost

When we asked men and women who hadn’t taken advice to think of what might change their mind, significantly more women than men said that knowing the cost of advice in advance would help a lot. This was no surprise – we also found that women were less confident that their pension would be sufficient in retirement. One reason for this more realistic view is that it’s often the woman who is in charge of the household budget. Women are more likely to know the price of the weekly shop, while some men develop a skewed perception of the real cost of living.

Women are more conscientious about tax – but less good at saving it

A bit of a paradox here. We found that women under 35 are much more likely to submit their self-assessment tax return on time than men of the same age. Either these women are more organised and forward-thinking, or they have a greater fear of being fined. Prompt filing is financially shrewd, even if you can’t afford to pay yet – because the fines for late payment are still less than the fines for late filing.However, women let themselves down when it comes to saving tax. Only seven per cent of women have tried to cut their tax wastage in the past year, compared to 19 per cent of men. Tellingly, nearly half of the women who haven’t tried didn’t think it was possible. Perhaps some women are being over-cautious, just as some men can be over-confident.

Men are more likely to set financial goals and fixate on them

This was our single most dramatic gender split. We asked a sample of people who were concerned that they had not taken financial advice. Among the men, 40 per cent said their main fear was that they wouldn’t achieve their financial goals – but just 13 per cent of women said the same. It seems that the men were very much focused on particular financial targets, while women simply feared ‘missing out’ in a broader sense.

Women feel less well-prepared for retirement

Twice as many men as women felt ‘very well prepared’ for retirement, while twice as many women as men felt ‘not at all prepared’. This could be due to women’s generally lower income levels over a working lifetime, or it could be another sign of their more realistic attitude and men’s overconfidence. Women seemed pessimistic in other areas too: on average they estimated a retirement lasting 23 years, while men bullishly predicted an impressive 36 years. Worryingly, the male prediction of a very long retirement is at odds with their confidence that their pension will last that long.

Women are less likely to recognise the value of pensions

Extraordinary as it may seem, given that women are otherwise shown to be more cautious and more aware of the realities of retirement, a significant proportion of women have been shown to have a blind spot when it come to recognising the value of their pensions. Research into divorce by Unbiased found that female divorcees were under-valuing pensions during the settlement process. Women prioritised property, savings & pets, furniture and cars. Pensions failed to make their top six, despite usually being at least the second most valuable asset in the marriage. By contrast, men correctly placed it second or even first.

But one thing we have in common…

Men and women relate to financial advisers in the same way

A most interesting part of our research was the place where no gender split emerged. Men and women are equally likely to have an ongoing relationship with a financial adviser, no matter whether that relationship lasts five, 10 or even 20 years or more. The gender divide seems to fade away when people engage with professional advice – perhaps because they are now basing decisions on someone’s professional expertise, rather than on their own (possibly flawed) instincts.

Break out of your stereotype by talking to a professional today.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.