by Manisha Thakor
What do you think...
Do personal finance books written by women for women perpetuate the myth that women are bad with money?
Why is there a "money management for women" section but no "money management for men" section at Amazon and other booksellers?
What's up with all the diet analogies in these books - could they be any more demeaning?
A recent Slate article entitled "The Shopaholic Myth" and follow up piece at GetRichSlowly called "Women and Money: Slaying Stereotypes and Facing Reality" raised these very important questions. As a 40-something woman who co-authored two personal finance books for women, those questions hit me smack in the gut. These well-written articles (by two journalists I very much admire) forced me to think long and hard about whether my focus on financial literacy for women...was actually hurting women.
My conclusion: With the exception of age-based asset allocation guidelines (where I feel women should invest their retirement funds slightly more aggressively than men to prepare for statistically longer life spans), I'd argue that the fundamentals of personal finance 101 are identical for women and men. The reluctance of some younger women (notably in their 20s and 30s) to read female-oriented finance books is in a sense a victory for the equality movement. So here are the reasons why I still support personal finance books by women for women. (If you prefer video, you can watch me discussing this topic on ABC News Now.)
Women are not worse than men with money. Poor personal finance skills are rampant across gender lines. Why? The financial landscape has increased geometrically in its complexity over the past 20 years while financial education has not kept up. We all can use help.
But modern life still has a tendency to spit in women's eyes as their career paths progress. The twin combinations of what economists call "occupational segregation" (the tendency of women to voluntarily choose to work in less remunerative fields) combined with the time commitments of child rearing and elder care (which lead to women spending an average of 11 more years than men out of the paid workforce) mean learning financial basics are all the more essential for women. It also means we need more dialogue on these areas of inequality...
The default language of finance is still male. As Nicholas Kristoff pointed out our financial system might be in a very different (and better) place had it been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers. As someone who worked in the financial services world for 15 years, I'd argue the reason there is no "money management for men" section at Amazon is that "male" is still the default speak of the industry. Personally, I'm not interested in talking about my personal finances through the lens of football or golf metaphors nor do I want to socialize over cigars and scotch (well, I'd drink the scotch...). Thanks to pioneers ranging from Women & Co. to DailyWorth and LearnVest - there are more organizations focusing on the way in which women enjoy learning and digesting the very same personal finance information as men. As for the prevalence of dieting analogies - personally I just think that's smart. The equation for financial and physical health is identical (inflows vs. outflows). We all eat, we all spend money... so why not compare the two? As Occam's Razor suggests, when faced with choice the simpler the path the better the outcome.
How do you feel about personal finance books written by women for women?
Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor, and enroll in her innovative new online personal finance course called “Money Rules.”