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Fatherly IQ: Survey Shows Parents Are Taking Finances Into Their Own Hands

Increasingly, parents are managing their own finances, with a little help from technology.

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Now that about a decade has passed since the recession, many parents have more wiggle room with their budgets and more opportunities to save or invest. At the same time, technology has evolved, making managing finances a whole lot easier. Parents can now transfer funds on their iPhones while waiting in the school pickup line, apply credit card points to another purchase with one tap, or seek out financial guidance on their tablets.

It seems these changes have made it easier for dads and moms to manage their finances on their own. We polled 1,000 parents from around the nation to see how they spend, save, and plan for the future, and we found that, by and large, today’s parents are very hands-on with their finances.

Then, just to see how Fatherly users’ financial practices stacked up to the general public’s, we asked about 750 of you the same questions. Good news: While we found plenty of similarities among all the parents we polled, our readers have the financial leg-up over the average parent in a few areas.

Most Parents Have Found the Financial Confidence to Go It Alone

Very few respondents claimed to be financial pros, but not knowing it all doesn’t stop them from making key money-related decisions. Overall, about half of the parents said they have a solid understanding of finances, and roughly half feel comfortable planning investments without professional help. In fact, only about one in four parents in our general poll (and less than half of the Fatherly readers surveyed) said they work with a financial advisor or an accountant. This makes sense since there are so many helpful resources online these days, not to mention a dizzying array of apps to help handle money matters. For many parents, hiring an actual professional to oversee your finances may no longer be necessary.

Technology Now Rules Money Management

About those apps.… The vast majority of parents today use some kind of technology for everyday money management — no shocker, since tech-enabled banking, bill-pay, and funds-transfer can be much simpler than visiting a physical bank or writing out old-school checks. Banking and financing apps were the most popular choice by far, followed by money-transfer apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle.

Interest Rates Are Still King When Choosing Credit Cards

When we asked parents what they care about when selecting a credit card, low-interest rate got the most votes. But earning points on everyday spending — grocery rewards, gas perks, etc.— also ranked high, which shows that parents are using their cards very intentionally. Rather than just charging items they can’t afford now but will pay off in time, they are using them on one purchase in order to save more on another. Smart. The same logic applies to travel rewards, another top consideration for parents when choosing a credit card.

Fatherly Parents Tag-Team Finances

When it comes to who in the household makes financial decisions, our two polls yielded very different results. Among the Fatherly readers surveyed, a whopping 54 percent said they decide on money matters together with their partner, making finances a team effort. That wasn’t the case for nearly as many parents in our other poll, though, where only 35 percent said they and their spouse share the financial decision-making duties. Of course, every family is different and two heads may not always be better than one. But when the majority of Fatherly readers say they team up on financial decisions, that shows they at least have good, open communication with their partner around money.

Parents Are Focused on Saving for the Big Stuff

As for the types of things parents are saving up for, three big ones emerged in both polls: retirement, vacations, and emergencies. This is awesome to see, because it wasn’t too many years ago that a lot of parents didn’t have enough cash left over after paying the mortgage or sending their kids to soccer camp to put toward their retirement, take a nice vacation, or be able to weather an emergency. Our polls suggest that most parents don’t have to sacrifice everyday needs in order to save wisely.

Fatherly Readers Are More Invested

Here’s a key area where Fatherly readers are faring better than the average parents: 71 percent said they have discretionary income. By contrast, only 46 percent of parents in the general poll feel like they do. Fatherly users are also much more likely to invest their money. An impressive 76 percent of said they have at least a small portfolio, and $200,000 or more was the most common amount invested. In the general poll, on the other hand, only about half of parents invest, and of those people, most have committed $5,000 or less.