There is a line in this month’s story “Women & Money: Why You Need to Take Control Now” that made me laugh out loud: “Money information just bounces off my brain. It’s like I have a force field that won’t let it in.” So says Amy, a 42-year-old senior manager interviewed by writer Geraldine Sealey for our story.
Ah, Amy. I’m with you. I don’t have a force field, though. For me, money is like James Joyce: I know he is important and that I should appreciate him—and I do, sort of—but I have long given up trying to understand him. Of course, I can just let my copy of Ulysses collect dust on a high shelf for the rest of my life and I will not be materially damaged by it. Such inattention to money, however, might have drastic consequences.
Amy and I are far from alone. In fact, there is a term for this force field/James Joyce phenomenon: the female financial paradox. Meaning a lot of women are very good at small, day-to-day money matters (for example, I won’t buy cherries, my favorite fruit, unless they are less than $3.99 a pound) but lack commitment (and, in my case, interest) when it comes to long-term financial security and wealth building. Which is part of the reason why—despite the fact that women are graduating with more college degrees than men and may become the nation’s primary bread winners within a generation—men retire substantially richer than women do.
It’s sad, and frankly it makes no sense. I’m smart, and I’m sure Amy is, too. I contribute my fair share to our house hold income and try to be practical and proactive in most things. But when it comes to money—well, it’s all Joyce to me.
Part of my problem is that I just think money is boring. There, I said it: boring. However, the things I can accomplish with money are not boring in the least. Another quote from our story, this one from Eleanor Blayney, the president of a financial-advisory firm: “Women need to remember that even the best deal they find is worth far less than a smart investment in their retirement fund.” In other words, I should stop focusing on the price of cherries and spend a lot more time thinking about my 401(k).
Which is very hard for me to do without wanting to take a nap. And so a few years ago I found an excellent financial adviser who is not at all bored by money. And like my outsourcing of other really boring things (my husband fills out school forms, and my children empty the dishwasher), hiring a financial adviser has proved to be both clever and sanity-saving.
Maybe you don’t find money boring or overwhelming or incomprehensible. If so, you can skip the story on page 154 and give yourself a hearty pat on the back. If you are like me and Amy, however, this story could just change your life. Now, and for the many years you will reap the benefits of that healthy 401(k).