Archive for the ‘men’ Category


Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Let me tell you the real story of the woman who married Prince Charming.

During their forty years together, he enjoyed a lucrative and secure career. She never asked about their assets or how much they spent or saved. They had kids and lived well.

You can see where this is headed.

The prince died. A huge chunk of his money went to pay various taxes, most of which could have been avoided if he had only managed some basic financial planning. The kids got nothing. The wife had to sell the house. The fairy tale ended.

This isn’t an old wives’ tale, either. Women need to have money in their own name.

While younger working women are moving, inch by inch, toward a tripod model—his money, our money, my money—thousands of women are still leaving their checkbooks at the altar, even when they bring home big salaries.

One nationwide survey found that when couples argue about money, men see it as an issue of “trust.” By contrast, women cite issues of “power and control.” Presumably, lots of women would rather not press that marital hot button. Yet when they do assert their financial independence, women are often surprised by the positive changes in their sense of self and the marriage’s dynamics.

If everything you own and all family bank accounts are jointly held (or worse, in his name alone), consider these commonplace scenarios. Then think about getting your own accounts.

• You ought to be able to buy a gift without it being obvious how much you spent.

• You may need access to cash fast for many reasons, including the tragic ones, when joint accounts can be frozen for a good, long while. Typically, you should have three months’ worth of household and living expenses in an emergency bank account of your own.

• When loans and credit cards are all in your spouse’s name, credit agencies will likely score his record while yours turns inactive. Even if you established a good credit history in your own name before marriage, that rating can lapse in less than a year. That means you’ll have difficulty getting credit in your name because there’s no current track record. In addition, if he has a habit of late payments or defaults entirely, it’s your credit rating that will also suffer.

• It can take several years for bad credit info to disappear from the records.

• Sometimes you just want to make your own decisions. You should be able to spend money on what you want without asking for permission or forgiveness.

• And one more critical byte of advice: Make sure you always know current computer passwords for joint investment and bank accounts.


Friday, March 5th, 2010

A bevy of research projects into how public policies can enlist men and boys in the struggle for gender equality are currently under way in Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Croatia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Tanzania, with more countries in the pipeline.

The goal, according to the International Center for Research on Women, the organization conducting the research, is to provide “insights on how to achieve large-scale impact in promoting more cooperative and equitable relations between women and men, reducing gender inequities and calling attention to men’s gender-related vulnerabilities.”

And findings from the projects, just released in a sort of interim report card, recommend a host of comprehensive policies that could engage men and boys in ways that benefit both sexes.

The report offers eight recommendations for policies that can achieve those aims, including these highlights:

•  Education, especially early childhood programs that create classroom atmospheres where girls are freed from sexual harassment and sexual violence, and where boys are freed from bullying and violence from other boys.

•  Public security, including armed forces, police and real deterrents that act as a force for protection rather than oppression and that take women’s accounts of violence seriously and hold police accountable.

• Health policies that pay heed to the gender-specific needs of women and men.

• Violence- prevention policies that target men and boys, including programs for male perpetrators that are integrated with the judicial sector.

• Engaging men as fathers and caregivers, including paternal leave policies, parenting education courses and programs that promote men’s participation in prenatal care and help them see how their families benefit from men’s greater participation in family life.

All this is helpful and well thought out. Now, how do we put it into action?


Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Too many women haven’t learned to cut their losses and move on. They haven’t realized that to profit from investments you must also lose some bets.

When stocks go wrong, men blame it on advisers, the market or economic conditions. Women blame loss on themselves.

Men assume they’ll somehow make up the loss. Women feel like it’s lost forever or they keep trying to prove themselves right.

While you’re in growing or peak earning years, you can afford to burn some money in order to learn how to invest for yourself. It will give you the power, smarts and confidence to make investing decisions later, when you can’t afford to make money mistakes—at age sixty to, say, ninety.

The path to becoming an educated investor is not to sign up for one of those endlessly proliferating women-only brokerage seminars (which, I should point out, have self-interested agendas). Nor is it to attend a continuing ed course, like “Reading the Wall St. Journal” (though that can’t hurt).

Rather, allocate some dough to invest as a learning exercise and, step by step, educate yourself. “It’s about confidence and the level of socialization,” says one woman entrepreneur, who taught herself about stock trading and says she’s done well, including with early investments in Dell, Yahoo!, Microsoft and RIM.

Start by doing your own research, online and off. Consult the analysts and market gurus, whether in financial trade journals or through online outlets or cable TV business programming. See how what you think jives with what you read or hear. Then start trading with the money you’ve earmarked.

After that, you’ll be more inclined to feel like your financial advisers are working for you rather than the other way round.


Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Beyond the uncertain times and wobbly economy, women are still shying from giving and from defining themselves as philanthropists.

The barriers to women’s giving have proven to be tough and tall. They haven’t changed all that much — or nearly enough — over the past decade.

I believe much of this stems from women’s attitudes toward money. We don’t like to own financial decisions. We’re often uncomfortable being in control of money. We frequently spend and save without any plan at all.

The emotional and psychological sides of money for women rate scant attention. Instead, the fuss and focus typically goes to the rules of personal finances, to investing and budgeting, to issues of asset allocation and growing the portfolio.

Sure, all that’s critical, but those topics still seem to occupy all the air in rooms about money. The emotional side gets lost. But money and means aren’t merely the paper stuff we use to buy and sell things. Money also represents emotions and values that we learn from our families, our bosses, the culture and that we internalize. We all bring individual agendas, histories, fantasies, expectations and anxieties to our financial transactions.

Certainly, we’re a society in transition about male and female roles, yet many of the timeworn stereotypes still hold true in the financial arena. This doesn’t apply to all women and all men, of course, but generally speaking: Women take care. Men take charge.

We’re still living with stereotypes of male and female roles – men are the Tom Cruise or Matt Damon types who go off and have adventures and find treasure. For women, money is what keeps us safe. It’s the anchor and future that comes along with Prince Charming. Among other gender-based characteristics, men look at money as a spigot, something they can control and turn on and off. Women see money as a pool that is finite and can be used up, drained. That’s not altogether off base, because women do earn less than men throughout their lives. Women are in and out of the workforce taking care of children and relatives. So women have less income and less for retirement. In fact, two thirds of American adults who live below the poverty line are women — that’s two out of every three. Men do have more control over the faucet of money.

As women, we must therefore wrestle with the idea that money represents security and how we can find the will and the comfort level to use the money for the things that have meaning for us. Money is power.

And because that’s true, society is not kind to women with wealth. Society is uneasy when women take up the reins of power. Most of the time, images of women who wield money and power in media, in movies, on TV, are depicted as bitchy or indulgent, undeserving or just plain dumb. Of course, men with wealth, are viewed as smart, hardworking, attractive, accomplished and powerful, you know like Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates. They’re players.

Women need to become players too.


Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Recently, at a private gathering to explore women’s giving. There were about 20 or so women, all stellar, all smart, all devoted and dedicated to admirable and challenging missions and all trading off lots of privileges and perks for their cause. Yet, for the most part, the mood of the evening, was questioning and modest. Tentative. Uncertain. Rather than being sympathetic, I found myself losing patience and growing irritable.

Is it just me?

I want more action and less talk these days. I want bolder moves. I want women to step up and take hold of the power they certainly now wield, in skills, in influence, in policy-making, in money, in philanthropy. I want all of us to demand that industry and government – especially the financial services and nonprofit sectors – start fully meeting our needs.

A recent study of women in Boston that looked into attitudes about giving quoted a participant as saying: “I guess I am a philanthropist. I give a lot of time to people and organizations.”

And here’s the kicker: “I never thought of it as philanthropy.”

Why is that? Why do women give and then back up, without recognizing their own power or contributions? Why do women shy from the spotlight. And the corollary: Why do men tend to expect credit for everything they bring to the party?

I have some theories, certainly. And I know this isn’t an easy path to traverse. But isn’t it time to put pedal to the mettle? If not now, then when?

In his just-published nonfiction book, called “Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son,” novelist Michael Chabon writes about the lavish praise he receives from strangers, usually women, about being such a fabulous father when all he’s doing is standing in line to pay for groceries at the supermarket with one of his young kids in tow. He points out that women never get any credit for doing the same chore every day across the country. Why do men deserve so much recognition for so little? Why do women think that’s ok?

Let’s jettison this “recognition” double standard. Let’s praise women: in philanthropy, in the family, at the supermarket – anywhere we find them making a difference. Let’s grow bold and tall.