Saturday, December 20, 2008

Women Looking out for the Future

I’ve read quite a bit of academic research that concludes putting money into the hands of women is a good thing for children. This has been found to be the case in places as diverse as South Africa and the United States. The theory goes that men are more selfish – more likely to spend money on cigarettes, alcohol and other personal entertainment, while women are more likely to spend on clothing and education for their children, or in the U.S. on “treats” for their kids.

I didn’t really expect this to be the case in our family. Mark is a kind and very generous person. Though I’ve been changing in the past few years, I tend to be a penny pincher. Mark is much more willing to buy a $5-20 toy for River, when I’d rather pick up the same or a similar item used.

However, when we discussed the annual bonus Mark earned this year (he’s in an industry that hasn’t taken advantage of consumers and they are still getting their bonuses), we found ourselves in the more stereotypical gender roles. Mark’s preference was to split the income, so we could each do what we wanted with it.

“What am I going to do with that money?” I asked. There was nothing I wanted for myself that cost that much. Mark suggested travel, but the thoughts of travel I have in the near future are either family or work related.

I wanted to use $2,000 of the bonus to fund a Coverdell savings IRA for River. We already have a 529, but I think it would be good to do the Coverdell. The main difference is that the Coverdell can be used for elementary and secondary school expenses. It can also be used for a computer for River’s studies. So we might as well put the money away now and let it grow tax-free to help cover those expenses when they come up.

I wanted to use another portion to put into my Roth IRA. And then I’ve been suggesting we start one of those childcare savings accounts, where money used for childcare expenses is not taxed. And of course, there is the down payment for a house we’ve been saving up, and which has shrunk a bit since River’s arrival.

So here we were, the male wanting personal expenses for fun, the female wanting long-term investments in education, childcare and retirement. I’m not sure we’ve reached an agreement yet, but I think we’re heading towards making the investments and me showing some “understanding” when Mark wants a big-ticket item, like the cable, smart phone or computer he has been mentioning frequently lately.

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