Women and Money: Problems and Perspectives

Published: March 6, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Last Updated on

Women members of Facebook Group Asan Ideas for Wealth listed several problems that women (married/unmarried, working/non-working) face when it comes to money management. Here is a compilation.

Some problems are due to deep-rooted notions about ‘what a women can do or should do’ and some problems are due to lack of communication between a couple and financial non-compatibility.

The comments to the thread I started are quite disturbing. The purpose of this post is awareness and to ask ‘what can we do about this?’.

The following is a compilation of comments. Often neighbouring sentences are by different members. Sometimes it is an exact quote (not mentioned explicitly) and sometimes it more of a paraphrase. I have done my best to make it appear cogent. I hope it is not too difficult to follow. If so, it is entirely my fault.

I have not mentioned any names here, but who said what can be followed by accessing the thread (will work only for Asan Ideas For Wealth Members).

Access Denied!

  • Women do not even have access to their own debit card. The salary is credited to back account and everything is planned and used by the spouse.
  • Women in senior position also face issues where they don’t have access to their own salary
  • Many need to inform / take permission from spouse even to spend small amounts
  • Many don’t even understand that they are in such a state
  • Many in-laws control the finances of the daughter-in-law. Husbands let this happen.
  • Inequality at the workplace in term of promotions and pay hikes is another aspect to consider.

This is gradually changing, but I think we should focus on the majority. Notice how ‘financial freedom’ for a women can mean an entirely different thing!

Financial Incompatibility!

The wife says equity, the husband says LIC policies. Or the wife says FD/real estate/gold, the husband says equity. That is financial incompatibility in a nutshell for you.

Now, if you declare in AIFW that I like equity and am trying to shift my spouse towards equity, you will get a lot of ‘likes’. The trouble is, why should those who like equity be considered the better investor that those who do not?! Who knows how the future will pan out?! Maybe the fixed income guys may have the last laugh after all.

My point is, one cannot take a holier than thou attitude here. On paper it takes two to tango, each spouse has to come halfway and all that sort of thing. Real marriages are way more complex.

The very minimum one can expect is that one spouse should not control what the other does with their money. Unfortunately even this is not prevalent in our society.

Trying to change the investing habits of the spouse is a difficult and more importantly, dangerous path to tread.
A young man about to get married asked me (while back) in a rather terrified state, how do I ensure money management compatibility with my wife-to-be. I told him, it is pot luck! Now with the support of AIFW members, we could say to such a soon-to-be-married couple:

Talk it through prior to marriage. Discuss your wants and needs and how the inflow should be apportioned. This dialogue has to continue throughout the relationship. Regardless of whether it is an arranged marriage or love marriage, communication is essential.

Related post: Money management as a couple: together, separately!

Milieu and Upbringing Matters!

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The expectation from a girl and guy after marriage is very different. While the women is looked as the emotional caregiver, it is the men who are always looked upon as the bread winner (caretaker) of the family. Hence, men are more inclined in ensuring that the family’s financial health is in place while the women ensures that the family’s physical health is in place. (Yes, not in all families). This kind of attitude also has a lot to do with the way a girl and boy child are brought up and also what is taught/expected by parents. 2. The annoying stereotype of seeing women who will spend all their money, time and energy in a jewelry/clothing store. That being said, a lot of women are completely in charge of the finances or have an equal responsibility.And some do not like to get involved in it at all.

The basic mentality that persists is that it is the job of a man to handle money affairs and the woman is to handle the household affairs.
Boys learn personal finance basics at some point in their lives when the responsibilities dawn upon them, but the girls, who are married off, gradually tune themselves into their new home, hardly understanding the need of learning the basics of money related matters.


it’s not a matter of gender.. But the way you have seen money matters while growing up plays an important part.

Are Women to be blamed too?

  • Some women feel guilty of neglecting household duties if they focus on money management!
  • Many never consider spending money and time on themselves. This can lead to serious health issues later on.

Many people still believe men are the primary bread earners and women’s earnings are just supplements. I have seen many people asking “why women needs term insurance” ?!

I tried to pay it forward by sharing the little knowledge that I have with a few and failed miserably.
1. The why should I bother when my husband does it attitude.
2. I can’t deal with it attitude. Yes, one person hired a PMS- wealth manager the very next day.but, what he does – no clue. Not bothered.
3. We have our houses as investment. Should we invest more?
4. Anyway, they cut EPF. We ‘ll get pension from it. Why bother?
5. This is the best if all – don’t tell me you are into MFs. Its stock market. Not expected of you.That said, a few were fantastic – came out of their sleep and started.

That said, a few were fantastic – came out of their sleep and started.


Working post childbirth

Whether to continue working or quit job after childbirth is a major issue. There is guilt associated with working and pressure from relatives not to.

Disclosure: I wrote a post titled Should a parent quit working after the birth of a child?.  My parent I meant a parent and not the mother but was panned by many as a conservative jerk who does not understand the pressures associated with a women getting back to work after childbirth.

Quotable Quotes (many of above sentences were direct quotes too)

Women at large don’t have much financial freedom in our society. But, she needs to learn to earn it. If she is asked to declare her expenditure, she should ask for the same too. If she has to give a rationale for her investment, she should demand to know her spouse’s rationale too. Till then, her salary, debit card and financial decisions will all be subdued

Women are viewed with misgivings when it comes to finance and driving

My advice to all the women is to develop interest and gain knowledge on how to manage their financial life and not let anyone else take charge of it completely leaving them in dark.

This quote sums up the situation succinctly

I am repeatedly noticing that women consider it as a fortunate factor or a lucky factor for having freedom to decide on financial matters. No man thinks so!

Please do share your views on this topic and consider sharing this post with your colleagues.

Related post: Woman’s Day: In Celebration of the Stronger Sex

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of freefincal.com.  He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras since Aug 2006. Pattu” as he is popularly known, has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management.  He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Pattu publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates  and associations(see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, TamilNadu Investors Association etc. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
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  1. surprising and shocking
    i thought situation will be ulta

    sir if i am not mistaken 9/10 of ladies who commented that they are not given freedom to handle money their parents and husband’s parents also ladies will not have handled money

    it is very funny for majority of my married life, me, my brothers, my most friends we just handed over the salary to the wife and everything was taken care of!

  2. Majority (90-95%) of Women are only interested in EARNING and BURNING, not at all in LEARNING as far as finance is concerned. only 5-10% women spend their/husband’s money judiciously. Also, most of them are afraid of mathematical part of finance.

  3. sir,
    there is one more important point i want to share .
    i have seen 2 3 cases in my own circle where ladies are not involved in finance.
    after death of the husband 3 4 years later when cleaning old almirahs boxes they found papers for land purchases share certificates etc which they were totally unaware of.
    all sorts of loose talk unnecessary legal trouble transferring title were caused

    so it is better ladies be fully aware and fully involved

  4. Damn! missed reading this article by few days, otherwise would have suggested it as a must read on INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY to all female colleagues of mine.

    Nice writeup and a brilliant idea to get viewpoint from ladies on money handling.

    Any plans of doing the same thing on INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY ? 🙂

  5. With all due respect and with the risk of sounding politically incorrect, women also need to take interest and responsibility in financial matters.

    It has almost become a fad to blame the men and the patriarchy for everything everywhere, and now even for the womens’ disinterest in personal finance management!
    How many women who form the redearship of this blog have to hand over the entire salary to the spouse and have no say whatsoever in how it is spent?

    How many men actually have the final say about spending ‘their’ salary which usually becomes ‘our’ income unlike the wife’s income?

    How many women do actually read this blog regularly against the number of women who use the plethora of social media options?

    In an earlier job, I had a lady colleague with an M. Stat degree from ISI (Indian Statistical Institute). That is one of THE best degrees in statistics one can have globaly. A few years later she went back to ISI for a PhD. She was a very smart lady but was absolutely disinterested in managing her own savings and investments.
    Once I asked her if she had submitted her tax related documents to the finance team at the office. She just shrugged and said that her brother and father handle everything! I am sure that this arrangement was not out of any patriarchal mindset. If she wanted to, she could have easliy taken charge and do it herself.

    Women influence a lot of decisions about how the ‘family’ income is spent and how ‘their’ income is spent. Remember the movie, ‘What women want’?

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