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USA TODAY Notes That Men and Women see Household Financial Matters Differently

Ask a man and a woman in a household who makes the money decisions, and chances are each will point to themselves.

A recent survey of adults living with others in households revealed a stark disconnect between how men and women think they spend money. Seventy-three percent of women say they’re primarily responsible for buying clothes and shoes; 23% of men agree. When households plan vacations, 41% of women say they call the shots, but only 12% of men agree.

“We’re not surprised there was a split,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst. “Anyone who’s been in relationships will tell you that sometimes, you view things a little different from your partner. But to see how split things were was surprising.”

The survey asked men and women who was “primarily responsible” for categories of spending, without getting into who earns the money and who actually drives out to spend it, Schulz said. Women have more purchasing power, he said, but men have less of a say than they might think.

It’s human nature to draw different conclusions from the same observations, said Marianne Clyde, a Warrenton, Va.-based marriage and family therapist.

“Women make most of the financial, day-to-day decisions in a relationship,” Clyde said. “That’s neither a good nor bad thing. It’s kind of the way everyone’s wired.”

Strife comes when household partners don’t consider the other’s views, or when one side of the relationship feels overburdened by planning their spending, Clyde said. She suggests talking it out. Even if there’s no problem, she said, it helps to agree to ground rules. Many households, she said, work together on big purchases – but they won’t know what constitutes a “big purchase” unless they ask.

“She needs to say what she needs if she’s feeling overwhelmed,” Clyde said. “He needs to speak up if he’s feeling excluded.”

If someone believes their partner is upset over how they handle finances, an offer to pull more of the weight can go a long way, Schulz said. The direct approach works too – asking, point blank if they’re happy with who deals with spending – but only if the initiator leaves ego at the door.

“The danger (of being direct) is you have to be ready to hear the answer,” he said.

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