Money Across Generations II: Gender Differences

Women are engaging in more regular financial conversations with their families, but men may be more willing to reach for their wallets – at least for certain types of purchases. New findings from the Money Across Generations IISM study, released today by Ameriprise Financial, demonstrate significant differences in how American men and women approach money matters, especially those concerning their adult children and parents.
A vast majority (93%) of baby boomers say they’ve provided financial support to their adult children, but fathers are significantly more likely than mothers to have helped fund an automobile purchase (58% vs. 48%) or co-signed a loan or lease agreement (42% vs. 32%). Likewise, findings suggest that men are more likely than women to have paid for their adult children’s car insurance (51% vs. 43%) or helped with car payments (37% vs. 29%). More boomer fathers than mothers say they would help their child buy a car or pay off credit card debt than say they’d continue contributing to their own retirement savings.
“Women and men may be predisposed to help family members in different ways – which can cause disagreements and add to family tension if plans aren’t discussed upfront,” said Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. “Couples may not always agree on the best way to support an adult child or aging parent, but they can often reach a compromise if they simply take time to talk and consider each other’s perspective.”
Women appear more likely to broach sensitive subjects like money and healthcare
Boomer women are significantly more likely than men to report having regular conversations with their relatives about finances (54% vs. 46%), healthcare costs (45% vs. 34%) and family issues (59% vs. 46%). What’s more, boomer mothers may be starting a trend; two-thirds (67%) of their daughters say they regularly discuss money with their families, compared to 59% of their sons.
Women may also be more aware of how rising health care costs could impact their parents’ retirement security. Significantly more boomer women than men say they’ve adequately discussed their parents’ medical expenses (70% vs. 59%) and how they’d pay for a long-term care situation (62% vs. 49%). So why are men staying mum? The most common reason boomer men give for not discussing their parents’ current money situation is that they don’t feel it is any of their business (28%).
Mothers also appear to be more comfortable discussing their financial situation with their adult children. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of boomer women, compared to 55% of men, feel they’ve adequately discussed their current money or financial situation with their kids. Which child do they call to talk about money matters? Research suggests that they’re more likely to talk to their daughters – 65% of whom say they feel they have adequately discussed their parent’s current financial situation compared to 56% of boomers’ sons. This additional insight could also explain why boomers’ daughters are significantly more likely to express concern that their parents won’t have enough resources to have a financially secure retirement (63% vs. 47%).
While they may be talking more often, financial discussions aren’t necessarily easy for boomers and their daughters. Gen X and Y women are much more likely than men to say that discussing money is very or somewhat likely to cause tension or an argument in their family (58% vs. 41%).
Boomers’ daughters may be feeling the strain of providing increased support
What may be adding to the tension is the increased support boomers’ daughters are providing their parents. When the first Money Across Generations® study was conducted five years ago, less than half (48%) of boomers’ daughters said they had provided their parents with support, compared to two-thirds (67%) who say the same now.
More boomers’ daughters report chipping in to help pay their parents’ utility bills (27% vs. 15%), rent or mortgage (20% vs. 10%) and long-term care costs (6% vs. 1%) than did so in 2007. Likewise, they are much more likely to say they are helping with cooking, cleaning, laundry and transportation (55% vs. 35%) or maintenance of their parents’ house (41% vs. 24%).
The majority (62%) of boomers’ sons also report providing support to their parents, however this is relatively unchanged from five years ago (61%).
Women’s attitudes toward their financial future are less rosy than men’s
The increasing pressure on boomers and their children is reflected in their attitudes toward their financial future – and women appear to be especially affected. Boomer women (14%) are significantly less likely than men (21%) to say they feel very optimistic about their own financial future. Additionally, fewer women than men say they are very confident they will reach the financial goals they consider most important (16% vs. 24%).
A similar trend is seen among boomers’ children. A quarter (25%) of their daughters, compared to 38% of their sons, report feeling very optimistic about their own financial future. Likewise, 19% of boomers’ daughters and one-third (32%) of sons say they are very confident in their ability to achieve their most important goals. In addition to the emotional impact, Gen X and Y women may be feeling more financial strain; somewhat more than one-quarter (27%) say they are working hard to get out of debt, compared to 16% of men.
About the survey
The Money Across Generations IISM study was commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and conducted by telephone by GfK in December 2011 among 1,006 affluent baby boomers (those with $100,000 or more in investable assets); 300 parents of baby boomers; and 300 children of baby boomers at least 18 years old. The margin of error is +/- three percentage points for the affluent boomers segment and +/- six percentage points for the parents and children of boomers segments.
(from the press release)