I like to think men and women really aren’t that different, but sometimes you’ve got to admit that there are distinct differences between their typical approaches to money. Ask around and you’ll find that there are certain money mistakes that women, at least in Singapore, tend to be more prone to making than men.
This is by no means a scientific study. But based on past conversations and a survey of the people around me, it does seem there are some money regrets that hit women more strongly than men. Here are the top 3:
1. Buying too many clothes
While affluent men have actually been found to spend more than women, it appears than women tend to have more regrets about spending too much on a particular category—clothes. The fast-moving world of fashion might be one reason a coveted purchase soon morphs into a red-faced regret.
Sharon, a 30-year-old bank analyst, has enough clothes to fill two rooms in the terrace house she shares with her parents, amassed over more than a decade. She has difficulty recalling most of the items she owns and admits that she could give away cartons of clothes without missing a thing.
“I’ve been working for almost 7 years, but at times my POSB account still reaches the point where I’m getting charged $2 for not having the minimum deposit of $500,” she says. “I spend mostly on travel, entertainment and clothes. The category I regret spending so much on is clothes. I don’t even wear most of what I’ve bought over the years.”
Yiqian, a hotel manager, expresses similar sentiments. The 30-year-old is the epitome of style, but these days she sticks to classic items in a colour palette of mostly blacks and neutrals.
“For the first few years of my working life, I used to spend every cent I earned. I bought some crazy fashion items back in the day and would even buy and sell items on eBay to keep my wardrobe fresh. If I could do over that part of my life I would probably have spent less,” she says.
Based on the fact that so many ladies around me regret past clothing purchases but not money spent on vacations, it seems the discovery that spending on experiences boosts happiness more than spending on material goods is quite spot on.
2. Feeling obliged to help others out
While both men and women get burnt by friends and relatives who take advantage of their generosity to borrow money and then do a disappearing act, the women I spoke with seemed more likely to have regrets.
Aisha, a 33-year-old videographer, lent her ex-boyfriend more than $20,000 to cover his tuition fees and living expenses over the course of a few years. They broke up several years ago and she has little hope of ever getting the money back. “Of course I regret lending him the money, but at the time I couldn’t not have helped him out, you know?” she says.
Mrs Phua, a teacher in her 60s, was from a well-to-do family and lived in landed property until she was in her late 30s. However, she fell prey to relatives asking for loans and was eventually compelled to sell her flat and move her family to an HDB flat. Today, she is still working despite already being in her late 60s.
“Things were different in the past,” she says in Mandarin. “If people asked for help, you really tried to do all you could. If I could change things of course I would. But they say family money only lasts for three generations. So maybe it was meant to be.”
It seems that women are more easily guilt-tripped into helping people out when deep down they don’t really want to.
3. Being clueless about investing
While older people in general tend to wish they had become proficient at investing earlier on in life, women in general tend to be less active and more conservative investors.
While many of my male friends display considerable bravado when they jump into risky investments (not without its own set of regrets), women on the other hand tend to underinvest their money.
Today, a lot of young women know that they should be investing money—they just don’t know how to go about doing it.
Marissa, a 30-year-old bank executive, has been saving money steadily over the years since she joined the workforce 8 years ago. Not counting her CPF savings, less than 5% of her money is currently in stocks, while the rest is languishing in her bank account.
“I think property is the safest form of investment, and since property prices are down at the moment I’m looking at purchasing a condo unit on my own, since my CPF savings together with my cash savings should be enough for the downpayment,” she says.
“I regret not investing all that cash over the past 8 years, as I would have a lot more now if I had. I just hope I can make up for it with a good property investment.”
Are you a woman with money regrets? Tell us about them in the comments!