How Men and Women Manage Money Differently

Personal Finances

Despite society’s advancements, there are still significant differences in the way men and women manage money. Dozens of studies have been performed on this subject, with research from around the globe. Being aware of these differences can help us understand the ways we deal with our finances.

Attitudes toward shopping

Men and women look at shopping very differently. A study by the Wharton School of Business titled “Men Buy, Women Shop” found that women are more likely to view shopping as a recreational activity, while most men just want to get out of that store with their purchase as quickly as possible. Because of this, women will be quicker to notice and care about a store’s environment. Also, the way they were treated by the salespeople.

Yearly Spending habits

A Consumer Expenditure Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics studied the spending choices of single women and single men. Here’s what they found:

Overall spending: Single men outspent single women. Men spent an average of $41,203 a year as opposed to $38,838 by women. It’s important to note, though, that the median earning data from the Census Current Population Survey found that overall, women are paid about 17% less than men.

Food: Food costs for single men were higher than women, but only by a slight margin. Their annual food bill was $4,816, as opposed to $4,446 for the ladies. Men also spent more than double what women spent on alcoholic beverages, at $542 a year compared to the women’s $257.

Clothing: Women came in first place in this category. They spent an average of $1,080 on a category titled “apparel and services,” while men spent $842.

Cars: Men outstripped women in this category, spending a total of $6,469 a year on personal transportation costs, compared to women’s $4,621.

Entertainment: Men also outspent women in this category with an average of $2,197 compared to women’s $1,694. However included in this category is pet costs. On average, women’s yearly pet costs totaled to $575 while men only spent $367.

The data shows men outspending women, but why? One factor is the wage gap. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers, women earned 84% of what men earned. But there’s another factor that has been drawing attention recently – student loan debt.

Student Loan Debt

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) 2021 Deeper in Debt report. women held approximately 55% of total student debt and owe approximately 16% more than men at graduation. On average, men owe $18,880 in student debt while women owe $31,276.

Additionally, the report found that student debt is contributing to why some women can’t afford their basic living expenses after graduating from college. An average of $31,276 in student debt leaves women with a loan payment of $307 the year after graduation. The AAUW reported “One year after college, women spend an average of $920 per month on housing, $396 per month on a car loan and, for the 16% of women who are moms, $520 on childcare, the report finds. Adding in that $307 student loan payment makes it difficult—if not downright impossible—to make ends meet.”

Financial Priorities

A recent survey conducted by Ellevest found that men ranked growing their retirement savings as their top financial priority. Women’s top-ranked financial priority is “supporting family.” This category includes family planning, child care, taking care of parents or siblings, etc.

Retirement Savings

The United States Census Bureau reported last January that women are more likely than men to have no retirement savings. About 50% of women ages 55 to 66 have no personal retirement savings, compared to 47% of men.

A TIAA Institute study published by CNBC found men contributed a median $8,271 to their workplace retirement plan in 2020, compared with $5,994 for women. The research also showed that Social Security income is lower for women, whose monthly benefit averaged $1,437 in 2020, compared with $1,824 for men. Additionally, they found, women are more likely to tap into their Social Security early and have career breaks due to caregiving, which affects both income and savings.

Investopedia weighed in on women’s social security earnings last April reporting that “The Brookings Institution research has found that having a child reduces a woman’s Social Security payout by 16%, and taking time off to care for an elderly relative can cut lifetime earnings by $131,000.”

Furthermore, a 2016 National Institute on Retirement Security study found that women caregivers under 50 wind up with 30% less in retirement savings. For male caregivers under 50, their retirement savings shrink by 14%.


There have been copious studies performed on the different investment habits of men and women. Most of them conclude that, of the two genders, men tend to be more confident in their financial knowledge and more open to risky investments. Women are the more cautious investors with an eye toward the future. Not surprisingly, studies have found that the average woman’s investment strategy and eventual performance tends to be more stable than the average man’s.

In 2021, CNBC reported on a Fidelity study that found women investors are outperforming men. The CNBC article stated “women may outshine men with a buy-and-hold investing strategy versus frequent trading, which tends to stunt performance over time. Women have also made strides beyond retirement accounts, with two-thirds now investing extra savings outside of emergency funds, a 50% increase since 2018, the findings show.”

Women may be outshining men in their investment strategy, but men still take more of an interest in investing. A Black Rock Survey found that 70 percent of millennial men enjoy managing their investments compared to just 36 percent of millennial women.