How gender, marital status, and gender norms affect savings goals

Agunsoye, Ariane; Rutterford, Janette and Sotiropoulos, Dimitris (2021). How gender, marital status, and gender norms affect savings goals. Kyklos (In press).

Abstract

Setting savings goals can increase wealth accumulation behaviour, yet it depends on how challenging the goals are. Using rarely available savings goals data from 1,760 clients of an advisory investment firm, we identify gender attitudinal differences in goals amounts: men choose more ambitious savings goals than women, independently from expected life-long earnings. This, however, holds only for individuals living in a couple, for which men’s savings goals reach the highest levels. Based on insights from qualitative research (56 semi-structured interviews of 60 participants), we argue that these differences originate from gender-normative roles assigned to members within the households. Most women are assigned to daily budget management, exacerbating worries about financial security issues in the short term and negatively impacting savings goals. This observation holds even when women, rather than men, manage long-term investment for the household. Men’s assignment to long-term financial planning is related to optimism and ambition with regards to their savings goal choice, but these attitudes remain conditional on the fact that they do not deal with day-to-day budget management.

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