Fear as the Great Motivator
If your motivation should flag during any part of this book, reread the following statistics. They will keep you going.
Currently, women face a crisis: Regardless of their present earning power, between one-and two-thirds of women thirty-five to fifty-five years old will be impoverished after age sixty-five if they do not immediately start to prepare financially for their later years.
According to data compiled by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research, our society is well on its way to creating another generation of impoverished older women.
Many external forces have put women at a disadvantage when it comes to the accumulation of wealth:
Women still earn less than men, despite the oft-trumpeted gains they have made toward achieving equality in the workplace. The average woman currently earns 74 cents for every dollar a man earns. This puts women at a serious disadvantage when it comes to savings plans and retirement benefits.
INTERMITTENT WORK CAREERS
Women still work more intermittently than men, averaging 11.5 years out of the workforce compared to 1.3 years for men. Women have typically been the ones to rear children, be supportive of husbands' careers, and care for family members, all of which has been enormously costly to them. Reduced opportunity for job income means reduced opportunity for savings and benefits. Although younger women are experiencing fewer career interruptions than their older counterparts, the midlife women in the workforce today will still "pay" for their time out of the workforce.
GENDER BIAS IN PRIVATE PENSION PROGRAMS
Fifty percent of working women currently have no pension program, and those who do will generally have a smaller payout because of lower salaries and interrupted work histories. Today, twice as many men than women receive pension incomes (46 vs. 23.5 percent and in the case of private pensions 32 vs. 13.6 percent). Divorced and separated women have the lowest rate of pension protection. While statistics will shift as more women stay in the workforce longer, the change will be slow because women remain clustered in lower-paying occupations, and their work histories are still subject to interruption. In addition, some innovations such as job sharing and steady part-time employment--which attract more women than men--generally offer no pension benefit.
GENDER BIAS IN SOCIAL SECURITY AND OTHER RETIREMENT PLANS
Though there has been some effort at reform, the Social Security system still favors the single breadwinner. If her payout will be greater by claiming spousal benefits, a working woman must forgo her own benefits. However, the need for retirement equity is apparent and some policies have been adopted to counteract this. The Retirement Equity Act of 1984 has helped by reducing the age at which pension plans begin counting service; by allowing employees to take five years off work without losing pension credit; and by making survivors' benefits automatic.
LACK OF FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY
Within the banking and securities industry, female employees are overwhelmingly clustered in clerical positions. According to recent statistics, only about 15 percent of the roughly 101,500 brokers nationwide are women, and out of twenty-five directors on the New York Stock Exchange, only one is a woman. These statistics reduce the likelihood of women learning to trust a financial advisor through woman-to-woman networking or casual acquaintance.
LACK OF RECOGNITION OF A FEMALE MARKET IN FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
Until the NCWRR began its studies, the financial industry had felt there was no need to market to women. Women were not viewed as a viable customer base, nor were their needs seen as being different from men's. The results of the 1988 NCWRR Survey on Women's Financial Literacy (published in McCall's
) documented the need to present information that addressed a woman's extended life span and her greater need for financial preparedness, but only recently has the impact of addressing women as a separate market begun to be felt.
Widowhood and divorce place large numbers of women in serious financial jeopardy. The average age for widowhood among women in the United States is fifty-six. One out of two current marriages will end in divorce. The number of women divorced in midlife tripled between 1982 and 1996, and studies show that one year following a divorce, the average annual income of divorced midlife women is only $11,000.
The cumulative effect of these circumstances becomes almost unbearable in a woman's later years:
The median monthly Social Security check for women in 1995 was $588.
Only 20 percent of women receive any benefits at all from private pension plans.
Of the elderly poor, nearly 75 percent are women.
Women outnumber men two to one in the over-seventy-five group, for whom health care costs are highest.
This current national crisis is real. Though social reform is desperately needed, it will come too late to help the poor elderly women of today. That's why every woman must come to grips with what she needs to know about money and take charge of her financial future.
But there's more to it than simply learning about money. We must also chip away at the psychological mind-set that has been created by a society that has assumed women needn't trouble themselves with personal finance. When it comes to taking charge of their money, women can't afford to stay on the sidelines. Why Women Are Prepared to Succeed
If women have traditionally been considered society's nurturers, then money management will be something at which they excel, for in truth, financial planning is one of the most loving steps you can take to care for both yourself and others. By planning ahead, you assure that there will be enough money for:
Caring for elderly or ailing parents
Surviving the death of a spouse
Short-term savings for items such as summer vacations
Long-term savings for the children (college tuition)
Long-term savings to provide a comfortable retirement for yourself and your spouse
You can give your family all the love in the world, but if there are day-to-day worries or long-term concerns about money, everyone in the family suffers.
The Women Cents Study and other studies conducted by the NCWRR have shown that women have the potential to be better investors than men if they allow themselves to get beyond years of negative socialization.
For example, some 88 percent of the women who responded to the Women Cents Study profess to be open to new investment opportunities; 80 percent characterize themselves as optimistic; and 58 percent believe they have enough control over the direction of their lives. These attitudes are indicative of people who are capable of planning wisely.
When you consider your own abilities to take charge of your finances, remember that over the course of your lifetime, you've been honing the necessary skills. Don't be put off just because the subject is money! Consider:1. Women are more analytical and are willing to say no if they are dissatisfied with the results.
Women have long been excellent consumers. Whether bargain hunting for groceries or returning a product because the quality is substandard, women know how to get value for their money. Studies of the ways women make financial decisions reveal that some 82 percent are typically slow and methodical when making investment decisions, and 80 percent do considerable research before taking the plunge. 2. Women use their "networks."
Women have always been comfortable relying on their female friends for support. According to the Scudder Baby Boom Generation Retirement Preparation Survey, women are three times more likely than men to consult family and friends about investment choices and financial planning resources. As more and more women take an interest in investing, this networking will provide them with information about everything: from which financial planner comes highly recommended to what stock has good potential. Networking at its finest is exemplified by the all-female investment clubs that have been created, and the numbers prove their success: All-female clubs have outperformed all-male clubs between 1992 and 1996. 3. Women have a tendency to be more "honest" about what they know and what they don't know.
Men have a much greater ego need to be perceived as financially literate, and they have a tendency to bluff about their financial prowess. On the other hand, women are more reality-based about their lack of financial expertise and are more willing to seek out information and education. This is why women are three times more likely than men to take a financial seminar. 4. Women have been socialized to nurture.
As women begin to understand that money management is the height of nurturing--and they become more comfortable with the concept of self-nurturing--they will step in and take control. 5. Women are "nesters."
Women put a great deal of energy into their home setting. To establish a solid financial future, you have to "build" a set of investments that reflects your tastes. Women can utilize their nesting instinct in the financial arena by selecting investments that create a solid financial foundation and then building on top of this base. 6. Women can juggle multiple roles.
A woman would think it odd if all she had to worry about were her job. On any given day, a woman is routinely balancing many things in her life--work, planning a child's birthday party, picking up something for dinner, stopping at the dry cleaners, and checking on an aging relative might all be a normal part of her day. This ability to diversify one's energies is an important aspect of investing. A good portfolio is going to consist of several elements, not just one, and a good investor will be able to keep track of them all. 7. Women have a sixth sense when sizing up people and things, and this can be a powerful tool.
When it comes to money and investing, this quality can help with everything from selecting a broker or financial advisor to listening to a "gut feeling" about whether or not to buy a stock.8. Women are good at setting and reaching goals.
Whether it's selecting a pediatrician or planning a major presentation at work, they know how to get things done. Women have proved to be excellent at establishing financial goals once they come to terms with the importance of planning for their financial future. 9. Women can be good savers.
Because women are very security conscious, they tend to be savings-oriented, but they have rarely received realistic guidance about what to do with their money. Those who have kept it in savings accounts will benefit by shifting their money to more profitable investments. 10. Women are patient.
Money management requires patience--patience to explore various financial avenues, and patience to let the money grow. Because women are less likely than men to act impulsively, their money will increase over time.
There's no doubt that women have what it takes to become good money managers. While it is distressing that societal forces have made money management the "last frontier," understanding what has happened--and that you have the skills and ability to learn about investing and money management--is your first step toward taking charge of your finances. From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Money Makeovers by Christopher L. Hayes. . Excerpted by permission of Main Street Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.