Financial habits start early. Even at age 10, twins Spencer and Sophie Bortone have developed different ways of handling their money.
"Spencer has always been the saver. He can tell you to the penny how much money he has at a given time," says their father, Lou Bortone, a writer in Kingston, N.H. "He knows that 'If I want a new video game, that's $25. That means I'll have $25 less in the bank.' So he's always calculating what he has."
It's different for Sophie, Bortone says: "My daughter doesn't worry about spending it or (care) if it's her last $5."
It's hard to talk about girls, boys and money without resorting to generalizations, but the Bortone twins are typical, experts say. When it comes to finances, girls fall behind in both the knowledge and the confidence to attain desired goals, according to a report from Girls Inc., an organization that works to inform girls about the influence of economics on their lives. That's not to say girls don't care; both girls and boys show pragmatism and ambition about future financial success, the research indicates. But gender differences that start early persist in adulthood.
Last year, blogger Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich conducted a reader survey about gender and money. The results were telling: Fifty-eight percent of men felt confident about money, as opposed to 44% of women. Twenty-six percent of women were apprehensive about it, compared with 15% of men. Eighty-three percent of men were interested in investing, compared with 70% of women.
"Women, who are trained to nurture and seek acceptance, view money as a means to create a lifestyle," says Jay MacDonald, a contributing editor for Bankrate.com. "Women spend on things that enhance day-to-day living. Theirs is a now-money orientation.
"Men, who are trained to fix and provide, view money as a means to capture and accumulate value. Men don't spend; they invest. Men don't want something; they need it. Theirs is a future-money orientation."
Take Meagan King and Caleb Albertson, two 14-year-olds who attend school together in Minot, N.D. Ask Meagan how she feels about money, and chances are she'll giggle nervously. It's not that she doesn't think about it; it's just not high on her list of priorities. The eighth-grader gets about $20 a month for doing chores around the house, such as cleaning up her room, taking out trash and doing laundry.