Finances and Feminism – Do Women Need a Different Financial Education to Men?

As part of my work as a financial adviser, I have often presented classes and seminars on the subject of personal finance, and I have found that one of the most popular subjects that people want to hear about is women and finance.

Recently, at one such seminar, I was approached by a gentleman who asked me, “What’s the difference in investing for men and women?” “You should teach a class on ‘Investing for Men,’” he chided.

In today’s post-feminist era, when many women do jobs that used to only be done by men and the concept of a “working mom” has become the norm, this is an interesting question. Why are women singled out for such seminars?

Are Women Still Different?

Did your mother work out of the house? Odds are that she did, but nowhere near the amount that your father did. As such, she probably didn’t earn as much as he did, she didn’t gather as much money in her pensions, and she probably won’t get the same level of government pension (social security, etc.). This means that unless her husband has a sizeable spousal benefit for his pension, or their savings are sufficient and their post-retirement withdrawals are minimal, she may be at risk of becoming a poor widow. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a widow’s lifestyle to drop after her spouse dies, since his death brings an end to his pension.

At the same time, there are certain cultural attitudes that have survived despite the changes in women’s opportunities. For example, though with some couples, the wife doles out an allowance to her husband, more often than not, in many homes it is still the husband who handles the money. Even if the Mrs. deals with day-to-day expenses, usually it is the Mr. who makes the big money decisions like investment choices.

Why Do Women Need to Handle Money?

In today’s modern world, women need to be able to fend for themselves. Indeed, today’s generation of schoolgirls might not even be able to understand gender-related discrimination in finances or the work field since they are learning that girls, with the right education, can do just as well, if not better, than their male counterparts. However, older women may need to be taught crucial fiscal skills that weren’t the norm when they were growing up. Indeed, if you look at the disparity of income, the prevalence of divorce, and the fact that women live longer than men, it is clear that courses on the topic of women and investing are critical.

Money Matters: Strengthen Your Marriage by Putting Finances in Order

Did you know that 43% of all married couples argue over money issues, making it the major reason couples fight? If you and your spouse handle money differently, now is the time to talk, establish expectations, and draw up a financial plan.

Money is a very big part of a marriage. Having enough to spend, and to do the things each wants to do, is important to both parties. When couples are not able to do that, then other issues pop up in the relationship. When husband and wife are not on the same page as far as family finances go, other difficulties inevitably arise.

Effective communication often emerges as the most difficult obstacle to establishing goals and expectations, and developing a financial plan. Many of us have been taught during childhood that discussing money is somehow inappropriate. Couples must understand that it is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary to managing finances in a marriage. Just as finances must be planned in a business, they must also be planned in a marriage. You must communicate in spite of any difficulty.

For example, how do you get your spouse to understand that he or she will need to curb their spending habits so that you both can begin putting money away?

There s got to be a viable agreement, because most couples discover that a lack of money, a lack of spending control, or a lack of fall-back savings eventually causes other problems in a marriage. Little things grow into much bigger things. However, as emphasized by Daniel Smith a noted financial expert cited in The Marriage Medics, future arguments over finances can be avoided by simply communicating, creating an understanding of expectations, setting objectives and agreeing on a financial roadmap.

The Marriage Medics outlines the following financial plan of attack for couples of any age:

1. Stop living beyond your means.

2. Treat the household like a business.

3. Create an income-and-expense statement.

4. Create a balance sheet.

5. Create a budget.

6. Figure out how to pay down your debt. Agree on a plan of action in which you both share equally in cutbacks.

7. Find ways to cut expenses.

8. Go on a debt diet starting with the little stuff.

9. Have only one credit card for your entire family.

10. Celebrate when you pay off a debt.

There are many resources for help in creating family budgets and living within them. For instance, Jim Miller, a Registered Investment Advisor, author of Retire Dollar Smart, and the host of a financial advice radio show is an excellent source. Visit his web site at: [http://www.retiredollarsmart.com]. In sum, married couples have an important opportunity to plant the seeds for a healthy marriage by simply talking with each other, being realistic about expectations, and making that financial plan. Money matters!

Copyright 2005 Cynthia Cooper

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Controlling Your Finances From the Comfort of Your Home

Are you one of the many people who would you like to have a better handle on and understanding of your personal finances? Would you like to have access to information and decision making tools online to access this from home? If so, the good news is that a number of organizations are now looking at simple to use personal finance software that can provide this online on a single site.

Clearly, there is already the option to go to your banks or to other financial advisers for advice and other guidance and lots of people do. This is the correct approach for many. However, there is a significant group who feel uncomfortable with this or simply do not have the time to do so because of other commitments. Many find it hard to access advice they trust and others simply feel uncomfortable talking about complex products with others. That is not to say they are not looking for help, they would welcome the opportunity to improve their financial literacy and have more peace of mind with their own situation. The difficulty today is that there are few alternative options available.

This where the software mentioned above comes in. It can help answer the four key questions that people want to know about their own financial situation…..

1. Where am I now? – They want to know how much is in their bank accounts today, do they have enough to meet their credit card bills, what their investments are worth, whether they are overspending their budget, what is their level of debt etc.

2. Where am I going? – Looking forward they want to know that there will be sufficient funds for life events, including retirement.

3. How do I get there? – With the direction identified they then need guidance and suggestions on how best to ensure that their goals are achieved through investing, debt management and general financial planning. Specific products can then be presented for potential purchase.

4. Am I on target? – Once on the journey it will be important to stop along the way and check that things have not gone off track. If so, this needs to be flagged and actions taken.

In addition to assisting consumers deal with these questions, these sites can also provide articles and links to help educate them on various financial matters that currently cause confusion as well as tools and wizards to help them better understand the figures. With the benefit of the individual’s financial information they can also be proactive in suggesting money saving tips and ideas on how to save more effectively. All of this will hopefully lead to individuals being more confident in their financial decision making and benefit from the resultant increased security.

This also sits well with planned developments within the UK financial market. The introduction of a Money Guidance service aims to provide people with ‘the knowledge, understanding and confidence to make better decisions about their money’. Very similar aims to the personal finance software in question!

Furthermore, in the latest developments with the Retail Distribution Review, it’s stated that an aim is to have a market which allows as many consumers as possible to have their needs addressed and innovation will be welcomed. By providing a solution for consumers to access this online where this is their preference must lead to increased financial security and understanding. The actions taken by users will almost certainly put them in a better place than where they were before.