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Who pays? With money matters, traditional gender roles stick.

Women continue to grow stronger and stronger financially, but men are generally still expected to pay for everything from first dates to monthly bills, according to a new study. The findings coincide with studies that show a strong gender gap in financial literacy in the US.

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Despite women’s rising financial strength, a NerdWallet study finds, men are still expected to pay for everything from first dates to monthly bills.

The NerdWallet study asked more than 1,000 people across the United States who have been living with their partners for at least six months a range of questions regarding attitudes and responsibilities about cash.

See our infographic with key findings here.

Key Findings

  • Despite changing times, old dating customs die hard: 77.4% of people in a relationship believe men should pay the bill on a first date. This sentiment is true for both genders, although men are more likely to believe they should pick up the first-date check.
  • Gender roles remain strong for paying household bills: 35.9% of men surveyed pay 100% of household bills compared to 14.3% of women. Slightly more than one-third of men and women surveyed split household bills.
  • More than one-third of men and women in a relationship have hidden cash from their significant other.
  • More than one in four people in a relationship secretly spend money without telling their partner.
  • The No. 1 joint savings goal for people in a relationship is an emergency fund (36%).
  • However, nearly one in five respondents said they and their partner have no savings goal – the second most common response.

“The findings show how resilient traditional gender roles are when it comes to who pays for evenings out and household bills,” says Shiyan Koh, vice president of personal finance at NerdWallet. “It suggests that while women are greater economic force in the economy and at home, financial decision making is still a male pursuit.

“Our results fall in line with many studies that show a strong gender gap in financial literacy in the nation, with men much more likely to run U.S. household finances than women.”

The number of people in relationship — both men and women — who hide cash and purchases from their partners also is alarming.

“Money matters are a top reason why relationships fall apart,” Koh notes. A 2013 study of 4,500 couples by Kansas State University researchers found arguments about money were the top predictor of whether a marriage fails.

“While it’s good that the vast majority of respondents consult partners on major purchases, full transparency is key for both the financial health and longevity for any relationship.”

While the No. 1 savings goal for both men and women is building an emergency fund – an important first step in building a sound financial future – nearly 20% of respondents have no savings goals.

“Goal setting and savings should be a critical function of budgeting for anyone in a romantic and financial partnership,” Koh says.

The NerdWallet study surveyed Americans living with their partners – regardless of whether they are married – as more couples young and old live together without tying the knot. Nearly half of women ages 15 to 44 are cohabitating before marriage, compared to 34% in 1995, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Discussion and Analysis

Dating – Men Pay

The vast majority of respondents – 77.4% of 1,004 people surveyed across the country who are in a relationship – believe men should pay the bill on a first date. About 19% felt the bill should be split in some way. Only 3.7% said men should not pay the bill.

Although this sentiment is true for both genders, men are more likely to believe they should pick up the first date check: 82.4% of men said they should, compared to 72.5% of women.

Once the relationship takes off, gender roles remain strong when it comes to Date Night: 59% of women say their significant other pays for evenings out; 56.1% of men say they pick up the tab. Roughly 40% of both men and women surveyed say they take turns or split the costs of going out.

In general, do you think men should pay for the bill on the first date?
  Yes,
the entire bill
The bill should be
split in some way
Men should not pay
for the bill
Total percent
(sample size)
77.4%
(777)
18.9%
(190)
3.7%
(37)
Percent of women
(sample size)
72.5%
(366)
24%
(121)
3.6%
(18)
Percent of men
(sample size)
82.4%
(411)
13.8%
(69)
3.8%
(19)

Source: NerdWallet

Who pays for most of the dates?
  We usually split the cost/
we take turns paying
My significant
other pays
I pay
for the bill
Total percent
(sample size)
40.6%%
(408)
31.5%
(316)
27.9%
(280)
Percent of women
(sample size)
41.0%
(207)
59.0%
(298)
0.0%
(0)
Percent of men
(sample size)
40.3%
(201)
3.6%
(18)
56.1%
(280)

Source: NerdWallet

Paying the Bills

Slightly more than one-third of men and women surveyed split household bills. But like with “first dates,” traditional gender roles remain strong: 35.9% of men surveyed pay 100% of household bills compared to 14.3% of women; 21.8% of women surveyed said they pay none of the household bills, compared to 3% of men.

What percentage of the household bills do you pay yourself?
  100% 75% 50% 25% 0%
Total percent
(sample size)
25.0%
(251)
14.7%
(148)
34.3%
(344)
13.5%
(136)
12.5%
(125)
Percent of women
(sample size)
14.3%
(72)
7.1%
(36)
36.2%
(183)
20.6%
(104)
21.8%
(110)
Percent of men
(sample size)
35.9%
(179)
22.4%
(112)
32.3%
(161)
6.4%
(32)
3.0%
(15)

Source: NerdWallet

Trust and Cash

More than one-third (36.7%) have hidden cash from their significant others and more than one in four people in a relationship secretly spend money without telling their significant others. Both statistics hold true for men and women.

Still, the majority of people say they don’t make a major purchase without talking to their partner first (88.3%).

Have you ever hidden money from your significant other?
  Yes No
Total percent
(sample size)
36.7%
(368)
63.6%
(636)
Percent of women
(sample size)
38.8%
(196)
61.2%
(309)
Percent of men
(sample size)
34.5%
(172)
65.5%
(327)
Do you secretly spend money without telling your significant other?
  Yes No
Total percent
(sample size)
27.5%
(276)
72.5%
(728)
Percent of women
(sample size)
29.5%
(149)
70.5%
(356)
Percent of men
(sample size)
25.5%
(127)
74.5%
(372)

Source: NerdWallet

Do you check with your partner before spending a lot of cash or making a major purchase?
  Yes No
Total percent
(sample size)
86.3%
(866)
13.7%
(138)
Percent of women
(sample size)
88.3%
(446)
11.7%
(59)
Percent of men
(sample size)
84.2%
(420)
15.8%
(79)

Source: NerdWallet

Saving for the Future

More than half surveyed (57.4%) have joint bank accounts; 16.2% had both joint and separate accounts, while 26.4% kept separate accounts. Those percentages remain relatively constant when broken down by gender.

Men and women also are largely in agreement on savings goals – or lack thereof. Building an emergency fund is the No. 1 goal of joint savings (36%). Unfortunately, nearly one in five don’t have a savings goal with their partners (18.4%). The third biggest goal for joint savings is vacation (14.2%) and a home mortgage (12.2%). Only 10% of respondents list retirement as a joint savings goal.

Do you and your significant other share a bank account?
  We have a
joint account
We have
separate accounts
We have joint
and separate accounts
Total percent
(sample size)
57.4%
(576)
26.4%
(265)
16.2%
(163)
Percent of women
(sample size)
60.3%
(306)
24.2%
(122)
15.2%
(77)
Percent of men
(sample size)
54.1%
(270)
28.7%
(143)
17.2%
(86)

Source: NerdWallet

As a couple, what’s your number one savings goal?
  Emergency fund We don’t have any savings goals Vacation fund Home mortgage Retirement Education fund
Total percent
(sample size)
36.0%
(361)
18.4%
(185)
14.2%
(143)
12.2%
(122)
10.9%
(109)
2.8%
(28)

Source: NerdWallet

Methodology

Survata collected data from 1,004 respondents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Respondents were 505 women and 499 men between the ages of 18 and 64 who are in a relationship and have been cohabitating for at least six months. The online survey was performed between May 27 and June 12, 2014. 

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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