Men and Women view debt differently

Published by on

How do you and your partner manage your money?  Does one person take care of the finances or do you share the responsibility?  A recent survey by Manulife Bank suggests that men and women hold different views of debt and household financial management.

Although men and women seem to place equal importance on being debt-free at retirement, women appear to be slightly more concerned about debt load and the ability to eliminate it by retirement.

Women more readily acknowledged the factors making it difficult to become debt-free and were more likely than men to be stressed out about the possibility of still having debt at their planned retirement age.  60 % of women rated the possibility of having debt in retirement as being extremely stressful compared to 42% of men.  16% of men rated this as ‘not at all stressful’ compared to 7% of women.   

Both men and women’s top categories chosen to ‘cut back on’ to become debt-free sooner were household furnishings/appliances.  After that, women chose dining out, and men chose charitable donations.  It’s not surprising that men and women might have different views on how and where to find savings.  It’s also interesting to note that 19% of respondents cited ‘The ability of a family member to control spending’ as a factor making it more difficult to become debt free.  This perception alone increases the financial tension within a family trying to tackle debt.

Here is what I personally found to be one of the most interesting findings of this survey.  What are men and women both least likely to give up to reduce debt?  It’s their phone, internet and cable services.  Only 12% of Canadians indicated a willingness to cut back on these technology items.  The survey results tell us that despite a desire to reduce debt, remaining “wired in” remains very important to Canadians.  I have recently encountered an interruption in my normally seamless wireless internet services, and I was amazed by how frustrating it was.  Being ‘linked in’ to our technology has risen as a higher priority as we rely on it more and more to function effectively.  It was interesting to see this trend represented so strongly in the financial survey results.

So what do you do when you and your spouse don’t necessarily see eye to eye on this issue?  Doug Conick, President and CEO of Manulife Bank of Canada stresses communication as the key, “In many households there’s a discrepancy in attitudes, perceptions and expectations between couples with regards to debt, likely because they are either managing their own personal debt separately or just aren’t talking enough to one another about finances.” 

Although men and women see some things differently, there is definitely a common ground to be found.  Conick commented, “Overall, this survey tells us that Canadian homeowners want to be debt-free, but that they’re not necessarily talking with one another about how to get there.”  Couples who can communicate with each other about their finances, and get on the same page for a debt-management and financial plan will be off to a great start.


Link to column as it appeared in Elgin This Month June 2013 edition (page 23)


Stephanie Farrow, B.A., CFP.,  Stephanie has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning, and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial planning column for the local business magazine Elgin This Month since 2010 and hosts our Farrow Financial Blog and Twitter @farrowfinancial.  Stephanie and her husband Ken Farrow own Farrow Financial Services Inc., are busy raising three young children and actively involved in the community. Our Farrow Financial Services Team.