Research by Sheila’s Wheels, a UK insurance company, indicates that the average male motorist in Britain travels an extra 444km (276 miles) per year simply because he refuses to ask for directions.
This amounts to Ksh8,000 for an average consumption car of one-litre per 10km at the current fuel prices in Kenya. In the UK, the figure is even more startling at £2,000 or $3,100 (Ksh340,000) worth of wasted fuel because of the stubborn man’s character.
Psychologists attribute this to man’s natural desire to be independent and the quest to achieve more, thanks to testosterone. This I-can-do-it-myself attitude has infiltrated many aspects on men’s lives, including the most critical aspect of money management. Inclined to take more risks compared to the women folk, men are arguably more successful both in business and other investments.
This also makes men the biggest victíms of bad decisions – big losses and huge debts. No wonder women outperform men globally when it comes to investments. Indeed, men make a very interesting group when it comes to investment as their approach to money issues is different, dictated by both physiological factors and societal expectations.
Testosterone, that hormone that stimulates growth of male characteristics, has a big influence on how a man spends his money – whether he invests or consumes it or even on the kind of woman he dates or the car he will buy.
NCBA Bank’s Money Mastery Series delves into this sensitive issue and brings out interesting information on men and money. “Men generally take more risks in business and investment,” says Mr Waithaka Gatumia, the CEO and Lead Trainer at Centonomy, which provides content for this series. “Men have different perspectives from women and therefore approach money matters differently.”
Mr Gatumia, who was hosted on the NCBA Money Mastery series by Daniel Makau, says testosterone pushes men to explore more in terms of investment and stimulates the drive to move into new – sometimes dangerous – spaces in life. If not controlled, this hormonal inclination can easily cause untold financial pain since it clouds judgement.
It’s now easy to understand why there are more men in risker businesses – such as stocks, forex, cryptocurrency or even gamblíng – compared to women who are risk-averse. Financial experts say this testosterone needs to be tamed for men to have a sober approach to managing their finances.
“It’s about understanding their strength and weaknesses,” says Mr Gatumia. “Men should lean more into their strength. Because risk appetite taken to the extreme is what leads many into, say, gamblíng.”
He says a good investment risk would focus more on exploring business opportunities to meet certain needs in the market, rather than angling for quick riches. Individuals and societies cannot grow without taking risk, but as Mr Gatumia says, the trick is in taking calculated risks.
“Men need to balance risks. If, for example, you want to save school fees for next term, the perfect investment would be a savings account that offers your money security and easy access,” he says. “Saving for university educatíon 15 years away would require a long-term investment.”
Meanwhile, men can also manage the pressure imposed by society – family, friends and the environment. Socially, there is the expectation of men to be providers. As they do this, men also get caught up in the pressure to be better than their peers. This has led to wrong investments and purchases, with some even faking success. This is when the ‘image trap’ begins to influence men’s financial decisions.
“Money is lΙke FΙre. FΙre can help you a lot but it can also burn your house. If debt is used to finance consumption, it will burn your house.”
Most men are acquiring bigger cars or shifting to leafy neighbourhoods to match or beat their friends, yet many do not stop to assess how their friends are financing their lifestyles. This has pushed many into debt as they borrow to finance their consumption. “Debt is not bad,” Mr Gatumia says. “It’s like fíre. Fíre can help you a lot but it can also burn your house. If debt is used to finance consumption, it will burn your house.”
According to NBCA Bank Money Mastery, debt should be taken to build assets that generate income to service the loan and leave a profit. For men, it notes, the problem is not debt per se but chasing an image of success and achievement.
Back to the not-so-small matter of men not asking directions. Society has nurtured the world to expect men to ‘know everything’. And so many guys have this I-know-it-all mentality and will rarely consult on many things including investments and, interestingly, even marriage partners.
“This is dangerous,” Mr Gatumia says. “Successful financial management requires the humility to accept that you don’t know everything. The willingness to look foolish for a minute can be game-changing.”
The strategy to combat ignorance is letting testosterone to take a backseat and going out in search of knowledge by asking questions and reading. The role of banks like NCBA is educating people and, therefore, as an investor you need to ask questions.
So next time you are given that banking or insurance contract don’t just sign it – read it first and, if possible, ask questions, however stupid they may sound.