- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2000

The newly installed editor of Meredith Corp.'s Family Money magazine thinks men and women have different needs when it comes to the type of financial information they seek.
Women, writes Caroline Donnelly in the March/April issue, "crave simple solutions not because we are dumb, but because we are busy."
I wonder what she means by this statement. Are men less busy than women? Do men deliberately seek complex solutions for the sake of doing things the hard way?
She continues her view of women: "We tend to look at saving and investing as a means, not an end. We invest to achieve life goals educating our kids, a comfortable retirement not to beat some average or obtain bragging rights."
Hmmm. My husband and I and many other married couples I know share the goals of educating our children and planning for retirement. Her statement seems to imply that men invest only to impress their buddies with their financial prowess. This may be true for men in the financial-services industry, but I know many men who would just as soon brag about their golf handicap than their latest stock coup.
Imposing a cookie-cutter interpretation of sex differences regarding the use of money does not make sense. If one believes the magazine's premise that men view money as a tool of power while women view it as a symbol of love the lines of battle already are drawn. (Women, better tote up your loot annually to make sure your man's love is keeping pace with inflation.)
In fact, attitudes about money are formed in childhood and shaped by family experience. A family with inherited wealth, for example, imbues a child with a far different outlook than a family that struggles with poverty. Parents who run their own businesses show children a different money model than those who draw paychecks from organizations. Out of this complex mix, it would seem impossible to draw any conclusive opinions about how a man or woman might be inclined to think about money.
The magazine includes an interview with Deborah Tannen, whose 1990 book "You Just Don't Understand" maintains that men and women have vastly different styles of communicating. She believes many of the struggles between couples about money are really about the relationship, not the cash.
Communication can get really murky when two independent people get married and start to raise children. Women are certainly capable of out-earning men, but in most cases, they are the primary caretakers of children. This means their earning power may diminish or disappear during the child-rearing years. Couples who do not discuss these types of situations carefully could be sitting on a dormant volcano of resentment.
In marriage, it is often assumed that women are on the losing end of the financial equation, even in cases where the woman feels comfortable turning over the financial responsibility to the man. To remedy this, there are women's investing groups, women's business networking groups, women's job programs and, lately, a slew of Web sites devoted solely to the subject of women and business.
"We want to help women understand what they need to know by bringing them experts and the best resources to their desktop," says Jennifer Openshaw, chief financial officer for Women's Financial Network, a new Web site (www.wfn.com).
The site, while claiming to be unique, is similar to a half-dozen other Internet outlets offering articles on investing, saving for retirement and paying for college. Very little of the information packaged under the "for women only" banner is unavailable in other personal-finance forums.
Arlington business owner Sharon Zaloum finds the woman-and-business niche appealing on some levels, but she gets most of the information she needs for her business in non-sex-specific forums. Mrs. Zaloum owns a company called Market Entry USA, which advises companies on how to direct traffic to Internet sites.
"Some of the women's business organizations are helpful, but not to the point where I couldn't grasp this information if I found it somewhere else," she says. The most difficult thing about running the company is not having firsthand knowledge of what it is like to be a business owner.
"My mother was a teacher, and neither of my parents owned a business," Mrs. Zaloum says. Given that background, she finds it useful to meet other female business owners who have succeeded on their own. Meanwhile, Mrs. Zaloum says she appreciates the calm perspective her husband provides. "He's really kept me going during some of the big decisions," she says.
Have a question on work or family finances? Get in touch with Anne Veigle at 202/636-3014 or e-mail (evie1@wt.infi.net).

More info:

Books

"Prince Charming Isn't Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money," by Barbara Stanny, Penguin Books, 1997.
"Ernst & Young's Financial Planning for Women: A Woman's Guide to Money for All of Life's Major Events," by Jacqueline Hornstein, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1999. This book gives sound advice on budget planning, insurance needs, business planning and investment strategies for all phases of life, from being single to caring for children and elderly parents to managing retirement.
Organizations

The Women's Center offers workshops, networking opportunities and a new program called the Information and Career Advisory Network, which links people seeking to change careers with established professionals in a variety of fields. For more information, contact the center at 133 Park St. NE, Vienna. Phone: 703/281-2657. Web site: www.thewomenscenter.org.

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