My recent posts have been less about the numerical aspects and more about the psychological aspects of personal finance. It gives me a broader range of topics to write about than just providing financial updates on our net worth, asset portfolio and investment income. Plus it’s more fun that way!
I also realised my wife is starting to feature a lot more on my blog despite her not having contributed a post yet. Maybe one of these days, I might get her to write a guest post about her perspective on personal finance and my attempts at managing it.
Actually, I’m not sure whether that’s ever going to happen. You see, I don’t think my wife is reading this blog as much as she says she does. And I reckon it comes down to her just not being interested in personal finance. I’m going to try and explore why this is the case in this day and age.
This is not going to be one of those articles about the differences between men and women financially. There is a lot of online material about this topic and I doubt there’s anything useful I can add to the general debate.
What I can write about is my observations on the relationship between my wife and personal finance. It will be more personal and not a generalisation of the relationships between women and finance. After all, it’s the specifics that are unique to each situation that can change the dynamic of such relationships.
Before I go any further, I should introduce my wife. FYI, the above picture is a representation of her and it’s not intended to be a sexist illustration of what I’m about to discuss. The next best thing I could do is to have an actual picture of her but that’s not happening since I do not intend to reveal our identities.
My wife grew up in a family where both her dad and mum worked. My father-in-law did well in his career (he had a demanding but well-paid job) and stopped working in his 40s due to certain circumstances. My mother-in-law’s career (her job was less demanding with decent pay) plateaued when my wife and her brother were young but subsequently picked up as they got older. She’s basically at the top of her game now.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the upbringing of my wife and the role model she had in my mother-in-law. As much as a child has his/her character and personality traits, much of his/her interests and behavioural traits are picked up from young. These are difficult to change when you grow up and usually ends up being reinforced.
From my observations, these are some of the life lessons my mother-in-law may have inadvertently passed down to my wife growing up. As a career woman, the first lesson my mother-in-law taught my wife was that she should earn her own money. This is possible even with children but it really depends on how demanding the industry and job position you work in.
However, my mother-in-law also managed more of the family matters despite my father-in-law being at home most of the time. On top of being tired from work, my mother-in-law gets even more exhausted from dealing with the emotional stress of family matters. Lesson number 2 – Men still see women (even if they have jobs) as the primary caretaker in the family.
Here comes the kicker. My mother-in-law ends up with a limited amount of time to do everything else and she spends it on leisure activities like travel, personal care appointments and shopping. Although my mother-in-law makes her own money, my father-in-law manages the credit card payments, bank accounts and investments. Lesson number 3 – Men should manage more of the financial matters of the family.
In this environment, you can see how my wife has grown up to manage her own life in reaction to these lessons. My wife has built a career but is willing to let it plateau (not give it up) if we have children. She prefers to let me manage our finances as long as I update her on the progress. However, she expects me to be a lot more involved in family matters (for now – housework, grocery shopping, cooking etc).
I read a lot of blogs and websites focused on helping women succeed financially. This is important when you consider the financial requirements of women can differ significantly from men due to personal circumstances. But my wife rarely reads any of those blogs & websites and you would think she belongs to the targeted demographic.
If my wife is not interested in personal finance, why would she read the online material in the first place? She rather click on gossip, personal care and shopping websites than on personal finance ones. That’s not to say my wife doesn’t care about our personal finance situation and is happy to track it but won’t do any more than necessary to manage it.
I really think you have to trace back to the upbringing to pin point the origins of these personal finance behavioural traits. They might only change in the event of significant life events but bear in mind that without first developing the interest in personal finance, there aren’t likely to be any major changes.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing and it’s just a matter of what we have to work with. In fact, this simple approach to personal finance where my wife focuses on her job but understands the need to have a growing investment portfolio is the main reason I set up the ETF portfolio for her. Much less research and maintenance are required compared to a Share portfolio. In fact, my wife’s savings are solely channelled towards building her ETF portfolio on a DCA approach.
Anyway, I can’t seem to get my wife any more interested in personal finance other than her periodic checks on whether her savings, ETF portfolio and retirement funds are growing. Ultimately, I reckon this simple approach to personal finance works for my wife and she prefers doing all the other more interesting things that make her happy.