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Financial Planning and Long-Term Saving Guide

Women and Money

Why you need to take control now. The good news: More than a third of American women are now the family breadwinner (look at that!). The bad news: We still tend to pass the buck on important money matters, such as investing and retirement. Ready to take charge of your financial future? Start right here.  

By Geraldine Sealey
Real Simple March 2008Lucas Allen

Financial Barrier No. 2: We Sweat the Small Stuff

For women, being smart with money traditionally meant knowing how to stretch the family dollar. (Think of all those ladies who managed to turn out amazing multicourse meals during the years of World War II rationing and victory gardens.) “For generations, the idea was that men earned the money and women decided how to spend it,” says Laura Vanderkam, the author of All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending ($27,

Today not much has changed. Women still make most of the household purchases, and many are master deal finders. The overwhelming majority of women—76 percent—regularly clip coupons, and 38 percent buy in bulk, according to a recent Citi Economic Pulse survey. “Sales and coupons provide the instant gratification of saving,” says Gichon.

“When they find themselves hitting up the sale racks, women need to remember that even the best deal they find is worth far less than a smart investment in their retirement fund,” says Eleanor Blayney, the president of the Washington, D.C.–based financial-advisory firm Directions for Women. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting your money’s worth, experts say that women need to move beyond worrying about nickels and dimes and start thinking big.


Financial Barrier No. 3: We’re Waiting for Someone Else to Fix the Problem

Remember that the Mad Men era wasn’t that long ago. Most women were raised to believe that their husbands would handle the finances. Few people now in their 40s and older were raised by mothers who were the key financial decision-makers, says Gichon. “Often neither parent counseled daughters about saving or investing,” she says. And even some women in their 30s or younger have grown up “with the idea that they would be secondary earners and a man would be responsible for investing and long-term saving,” says Vanderkam.

Single women raised with this mind-set typically learn to take charge of their finances out of necessity, experts say. But even today some married women ignore such issues until they are forced to pay attention. For many, that reckoning may come when they are least emotionally prepared to deal with it: after they lose a spouse through death or divorce. “Unfortunately, for many of my clients, it takes a major life event to change their behavior,” says Gichon.


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