Look how men’s and women’s magazines write about money

October 18th, 2007 - 68 Comments

I read Oprah’s magazine once in a while. Yes, I said it. And my jaw drops when I see an article like the recent, “25 things you don’t have to worry about.” What? Why do I need a magazine to tell me what I don’t need to worry about?

But I’m not the target audience. It turns out men and women’s magazines are very different in the way they present money. Whether that’s good or bad is the subject of a guest post by Nina Smith from Queercents. I love how she’s used excerpts to point out the differences in how men’s and women’s magazines write about money.

-Ramit

* * *

Investment advice comes in all shapes and sizes. Grab a few back issues of Esquire and a quick scan of its “investing” columns reveals “investing” advice. For example, they give opinions on buying Wal-Mart, selling Apple, and buying the Baby Bells vs. Cable Companies.

But do the same with O, the Oprah Magazine and this is what the editors categorize as “investing”:Oprah on Investing

  • How to buy life insurance
  • The basics of financial planning and investing
  • Home finance basics everyone should know
  • Know how much home you can afford
  • How to play rollover with your 401(k)

So here’s my Aha! moment: why do men get “investing” advice in their magazines and we get financial basics in ours?

Women get touchy-feely encouragement
Suze Orman is an O Magazine columnist and typically I like her advice. She’s spot on when it comes to buying a used car and term life insurance. But when speaking to women, is she talking down to us?

Case in point: look at what she says about establishing a rainy day fund in this O article. She writes, “Ideally, you will have eight months of living expenses stashed in a savings account. I know that sounds daunting, but make it a goal. Start putting away a little each month. Every penny you save is a step toward building your own personal insurance plan.”

Ahem… “I know that sounds daunting but make it a goal.”

Would a male personal finance expert ever instruct a man this way?

Men get hard-hitting advice
Ken Kurson, the columnist at Esquire and author of The Green Magazine Guide to Personal Finance: A No B.S. Money Book for Your Twenties and Thirties writes, “You’re keeping your emergency cash in a money market fund. In other words, don’t fund the expansion of your portfolio into stocks and bonds with the money you’re keeping on reserve, but feel free to consider that money part of your portfolio.”

See the difference? First let’s consider the demographics of O Magazine: The median age is 45, readership is predictably female (91%), married (66%), and a median household income of $88,000. Their readers aren’t exactly females fresh out of college.

So Orman is encouraging forty year old women to make sure they have an emergency fund and Kurson assumes twentysomething guys already have a stash in reserve. Perhaps this is why CNBC gets Jim Cramer and The Today Show has Jean Chatzky.

A commenter at BloggingStocks had this analysis of Orman’s writings by saying, “When someone is talking to me about money, I want math. I bought one of Suze’s books and when she started talking about how I ‘felt’ about my money, I put the book down in disgust. Behavior patterns as applied to money fall under psychology; everything else is quantifiable. I don’t need to have a good relationship with my money; I need to understand how the stock market, the housing market and my 401K work.”

Gender-specific behaviors with money
But do female money experts talk down to us or are we inviting the tone by behavior? After all, according to Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, authors of On My Own Two Feet, the average woman between ages 24 and 35 has only $500 in savings.

Woman’s Day acts like their readers only have $500 in savings as well and I don’t know any women under fifty subscribing to that magazine. Mary Hunt is their columnist and a quick glance at her 2007 columns reveal topics like “Big Online Bargains” and “Slash Your Food Bills”.

Kay Bell, the blogger at Don’t Mess with Taxes, gives her perception on the male vs. female financial behaviors. She writes, “Even today, some gender-specific societal expectations manage to persist… That is, a lot of women take a more ‘supportive’ fiscal approach, focusing on money maintenance, holding on to what they have, instead of taking steps to advance it.”

“We need to get over that right now and get more aggressive when it comes to money – making it, saving it, investing it. The go-for-it approach seems to be more typical of male financial bloggers. Men, at least in my anecdotal observations, are more apt to be risk takers with their money. They embrace the idea that to make more money you sometimes have to take some financial risks with what you’ve got.”

And it’s not just Oprah
I couldn’t find any money advice in InStyle magazine, but they offer plenty of ideas on how to spend it. Glamour claims to have a money expert, but the only thing I could find was an online debt quiz. Take it and see how you stack up with their readers. If you’re a regular follower of personal finance blogs then it’s likely you’re way of ahead of these well-heeled and in style consumers.

Just to be fair and balanced, I reviewed some other men’s magazines and money was either missing or sexualized and presented by young, attractive female writers. Check out the article by Anya Kamenetz in Men’s Health called, 7 Financial Habits of Highly Laid Men. Enough said – otherwise this might segue into a different discussion.

But maybe money is missing from general interest magazines because men go to the source for their financial advice by subscribing to the money periodicals. As an example here is the male / female readership break down for Fortune and Money:

Money: Male/Female (64% / 36%)
Fortune: Male/Female (79% / 21%)

And guess who is reading The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times?

Money spends the same whether it’s carried in a purse or wallet
So does tone and depth of the advice really matter? In the end, money is money and basic truths are better than nothing at all. But if empowerment and financial independence are what Suze Orman wants for the ladies, then maybe it’s time to butch up the advice. Don’t sugarcoat or wrap it in a soft, pretty package. We’re ready to take it like a man! That’s how you turn women savers into women investors!

Finally, for the sake of starting a conversation below, do you agree that women get fed the softer side of money from women’s magazines? Or will some of you accuse me of gender-generalizing? If you agree, then what should we do about it? Write to Oprah? Or just subscribe to Fortune and Money like the big boys?

—————
Nina blogs about money at Queercents.

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68 Comments

 

Comments

  1. Having read way too many women’s magazines in my time, I certainly can’t disagree with anything you’ve said about what they say about money. I haven’t read enough men’s magazines to know if what they say is different, but I’ll take your word for it.

    I want to learn more about investing (I would say I have a good grasp of the basics but that’s it). However, I find that my eyes gloss over when I pick up Forbes, Fortune, etc. That said, my husband reads them but not for the investing advice but rather for the profiles and features.

  2. To play devil’s advocate here, they are just writing for their core demographic. Their studies/research/feedback tell them that to write a financial article geared to women, it should be done in such a way. This may seem demeaning to women who are educated in finance (or who just crave the hard facts), but for the majority of readers I bet it is just perfect. My wife, for example, would enjoy the article in the O Magazine than one with hard hitting facts. And let’s face it, these magazines are primarily written for entertainment.

    My wife reminded me of this when I balked at Parenting magazine, which by the title you would assume is written for “parents”. But their readership is primarily female, so almost all of their articles are geared towards women. The articles written for men? They talk down to us like kids, as if we couldn’t possibly change a diaper or raise a child without serious help. It’s all basic information.

    My advice? Ditch the gender-specific magazines and pick up a real financial publication. All the “mens” magazines have the same junk articles.

    PS: Men’s Health magazine is a joke!

  3. I am a regular reader of O Magazine. For some context, I am a 27 year old woman, I cohabitate with my fiance, I am employed full time and we have a household income above the average quoted for the typical O Magazine reader. I am a lot younger than her typical readers, but otherwise have quite a bit in common with them.

    I don’t read men’s magazines, so I can’t really say whether or not financial advice is presented differently to men or women. But I do think it is presented in a somewhat touchy-feely manner to women. And you know what? I think it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s because of my younger age than the average O reader, but I don’t consider Suze’s advice style to be condescending or talking down to me. I appreciate that she bothers to acknowledge that her advice can seem daunting. I have about one month’s worth of living expenses in my emergency fund and it’s taken a long time to build it up because I have a lot of fixed expenses to deal with, so if someone told me to build up 8 months’ worth of living expenses in my emergency fund, I would probably just write it off as over-ambitious advice not based in reality. But she brings some reality to it by acknowledging that it will be difficult, and then she boosts your confidence by telling you that you can do it anyway. I like that style.

    I don’t like the hard-hitting, facts-only style that you describe for men’s magazines. I’m just as smart as the men I know, but I have a different communication style from most men. So if the advice is spot-on and being delivered in a column I find well-written, realistic and interesting to read, I’m more likely to pay attention. Men don’t seem to appreciate this style. They want just the facts, so their magazines provide that. I’m not saying that my preference would hold true for all women, but there are a lot of women who prefer their financial advice packaged that way. I don’t care if that makes it “softer;” ultimately if I follow the advice, I’ll still end up making smart financial moves regardless of how the suggestions were phrased.

  4. “We’re ready to take it like a man” – coming from a women who I’m guessing is a lesbian, is this any surprise?

  5. We talk down to women about money for the same reason we give our daughters names like “Tiffany” and “Amber” whilie naming our sons things like “Robert” and “David”. Our expectation is that they will be homemakers or trophies and nothing else. How many physicians have you known named “Amber”? Mine is named Mary.

  6. Women’s magazines are made to provide a touchy feeling, with anything they write about. I like them for exactly this, just a lazy afternoon and a comforting talk. They are not meant to be educational.
    If I want facts, I’ll get them somewhere else. Usually, this would be a decent book that covers the basics properly and shows where to get more knowledge on special topics afterwards.
    And just a word on the ‘hard’ investing advice in men’s magazines. I don’t consider ‘sell apple and buy … (you choose)’ as such.

  7. I just watched yesterday’s Oprah where Suze Orman and two families in deep debt were on. I did observe that she spoke more like a motivational speaker and only gave two or three good tips to each family. With the kind of debt they were in, they need more than a general “get a job and sell your house” or “your car is not your baby, the baby is the baby” advice.

    She did address that people keep on buying things to define themselves and that ignorance is not an excuse. That’s good advice, especially when you look at what’s being spouted in women’s magazines these days. The information is out there but sometimes the wakeup call is what is needed first.

    I think the traditional attitude towards money roles is that the women take care of the day-to-day money while men make the decisions for the big purchases and investments. I remember asking a 60-something lady about finances (asking from a 20-ish year old female’s point of view) and she said that women in her generation were taught to rely on their husbands about money. Household money was theirs but they had no idea what to do with $1 million and what investment risk meant. I replied that was also the last generation that people believed politicians had their best interests in mind.

    It’d be great if parents would teach their children finances in a genderless manner, just like men and women should know how to use a screwdriver, boil water, and check their oil. It is crucial to being self-sufficient. If parents don’t want to raise their child to depend on a spouse, they need to teach them everything they’d teach either gender.

  8. I agree that women get the softer side of finance and I think its more of that supportive, nurturing stuff that I’m not such a big fan of. Its interesting that I don’t know any of the female personal finance bloggers who put forward that sort of tone.

    I think we should stop getting our financial advice from second-rate sources and start using better sources – someone will market something better to us if we create a demand.

  9. Suze seems to take a certain tone in her books as well, not unlike the one in O. You’re right that it feels a bit patronizing. But I think her books are intended for both genders and not trying to be sexist.

    That said, I’ve never read anything really financially useful in a womens’ magazine. Some basic stuff, but that’s it. Female PF bloggers rock, though, even if the guys are still on top.

  10. Women’s magazines in general have decided that I am a shallow idiot. They are not funny or clever, they offer advice on how to please my man, but not on how to be pleased, and they are constantly trying to convince me that I am ugly and need their beauty tips. Because of this, I started subscribing to men’s general interest magazines.

  11. I agree that women shouldn’t be coddled–and we certainly need to be more aggressive about earning and investing money. There’s no reason to avoid investing jargon and a little bit of math when writing to a female audience.

    HOWEVER, if you want to talk stereotypes, I think men get the short end of the financial stick. Men are conditioned to care only about “sexy” financial matters like day trading, flipping houses, entrepreneurship, hedge funds, and investing in commodities.

    Most men need to worry less about today’s hot stock and worry more about so-called “womanly” financial issues: how to cut food costs, how (and why) to invest in a Roth IRA, why credit is important, why you should have an emergency fund (or “cash reserves” as a men’s magazine would refer to it).

    I’m a private banker and work with a lot of rich (or wanna-be rich) men. These guys are really smart for the most part. But most men I know have NO idea what their credit score is or why it should matter, little to no cash, tons of expensive electronics/cars, and no plan for the future.

    Today’s men are eager to start trading stocks as soon as they have savings. They assume they’ll “make it big” eventually and don’t need to save now. Women may be too conservative, but they’re learning valuable lessons: like how to make do on what you’re earning now and that boring index funds beat day trading every year.

  12. I found this article to be quite thought provoking.
    Sure I would generally agree that women are talked to differently about money. I would also agree that women want a more relatable and interesting read, otherwise they would read the numbers. What I wonder is if the type of advice comes from elsewhere.
    What I mean by this, is the assupmtion that women let the men in their lives control their joint finances (not the case with my partner and me). Also not wanting to go into that whole gender gap discussion but women are reported to have more to lose in the event of divorce, death of spouse etc. Factors like these could influence why the advice is not based on accumulating more wealth but rather building and saving wealth. (Not that I’m denying the accumulation of more wealth could improve a woman’s standing, the message’s priority 1.) safety net 2.) investing.)
    Frankly I find the state of women’s savings alarming (both the stats most give and personal experiences) and yes I want to shake some of them and tell them to wake up and save, so when that battle is so far from over, how the heck would you start trying to convince them to invest? (My mom is quite proud of herself that not one penny of hers is in stocks, she also lacks what I would call adequate savings, in fact she just now at age 50 decided she should start saving for retirement. Seriously she needs to read about saving, she needed to read about saving 30 years ago. Although investing now may make up for her poor saving habits, the first battle is to get her to save enough money that she could invest without fear of the 1929 stock market crash or whatever it is that scares her about investing.)
    As a young woman, I enjoy reading Cosmo and O. I like magazines that acknowledge the changes involved with being a woman and trying to give women the tools to empower themselves. The difficulty for women magazines, is there are many faces of women just as there are many different faces of feminism. (I’m not saying that men aren’t diverse and aren’t changing their roles in society.) Consider the feminists that prefer to act more “masculine” to prove equality through sameness vs. the feminists who embrace and act more “feminine” to prove different but equal. Women’s mags tend to try to reach them all. They’re not saying women should be like x; but rather saying if you’re a woman trying to be like x here are some helpful hints to get you there. It seems to be the same with money in these mags. Cosmo will talk about the babe’s budget, why women are whimps with money, how these women became rich etc. (Again, I’m not saying men don’t spend money differently, my partner spends money on videogames and technotoys, while others would spend it on cd’s and cars.) What I am saying is women mags seem to make reaching a diverse female audience a priority and that needs to be taken into consideration when critiquing them.
    Also Suze Orman will give that same advice to men. It is just her style. It is also her way of being tough, give acknowledgement of understanding first and then say too bad do it anyway. A lot of people hate that in her, men and women alike; but some actually respond to it better because it humanizes the process. I agree with the other comments, if women want sound financial advice, go to a better source. If women are looking for a mag that they can relate to and may have financial pointers, career advice, etc, then enjoy your O, Cosmo, Self or whatever it is they enjoy reading.

  13. “Household money was theirs but they had no idea what to do with $1 million and what investment risk meant. I replied that was also the last generation that people believed politicians had their best interests in mind.”

    Wow. That’s kinda harsh. The reason she married her husband is because she loved and trusted him…you can’t have that type of skepticism with your husband like you do with politicians…crikey.

    Shoot, I think it’d be great to be a house dad. Not have to worry about money, listening to the boss, ladeda…go on little lunch dates and have the day to myself and my hyperactive children. Hell yeah!

  14. blah blah blah. Thats all I got from the above article. If there was a point to be made it was lost in the first paragraph. Was it: are men and woman presented money differently? or maybe, Why are men and woman presented personal finance differently? In either case, I must say, are you kidding?? Sorry to be harsh but what you are saying isn’t anything resembling an original thought; the prime reason I visit this site.

    So let’s take what you wrote about. O magazine takes it easy on females while Esquire doesn’t. Is that about it? Wow, we should write Oprah and let her know that we have finished some crazy research and came to some crazy conclusions that she should know about. If you think for a second that big magazines like O and Esquire do not have a team of market analysts that know the precise makeup of their readers you need to go back to school (Chris I liked your comment).

    So while you were offended by not getting the “hard-hitting” facts in O magazine, there are a thousand 40 year-old house wives nodding at the interesting article. It’s called business and Oprah is not in the business of turning readers/viewers away.

    Did you not realize that women and men are different in almost every aspect of money? Did you notice the guy to girl ratio in finance and econ majors. Or the ratio in the investment management, banking or trading industries? Because if you hadn’t let me tell you, your average girl doesn’t give a crap about your “hard hitting” facts. They want to feel good about what they are doing with money. They want that “positive relationship” with their money. They want to be taken care of. I loved the Mens Health article, exactly zero females in the survey prefer to make more than their husband.

    Believe me, I taught about 30 co-workers, one-on-one about how their employee stock purchase plan works and how exactly stock options, 401k and ROTH IRAs work and not one female maintained interest. They wanted to know “What should I do? When should I sell?” They want to be told how and what to do, and not be bothered with details. Guys on the other hand, maintained interest, asked me about different strategies and craved more and more information.

    Why is that? Well, that answer would actually be something worth reading. I believe Ramit is working on that.

    But just to say that women and men are presented money differently? Give me a break, this isn’t a high school paper were you simply regurgitate facts and include pictures and quotes.

  15. I’m a feminist in that I believe in equality between men and women. But I don’t believe that equality must be delivered in the same package. Men and women are different, and things that appeal to men don’t always appeal to women, and vice versa. Many women above have expressed that they are pleased with the status quo of financial advice geared toward women, and that their eyes glaze over when they read financial advice geared toward men. Why should men and women try to be the same when they aren’t? We will always be different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be equal. If the financial advice in O Magazine appeals to women over that in Esquire, then let the ladies read O!

  16. Not that I took most of your comment seriously, JP, but I do want to point out one thing to you–

    Your personal experience counseling all of 30 coworkers about their finances (talk about in-depth research, btw) taught you that women aren’t interested in finance. I don’t suppose you ever considered that the women were unsure? That because women are NOT exposed to as much financial information as men, and that because women are simply different, that they were looking for some advice? Women tend to do that, y’know. It doesn’t mean we’re lazy.

    I have to wonder, also, if your own attitude had anything to do with what you observed. Self-fulfilling prophecy, and all that. Based on what you’ve said here, after all, you’re pretty much an a** when it comes to women.

  17. I checked out that Online Debt Quiz from Glamour and found some of the questions to be especially telling. Under “how do you pay your credit card bills?”, the last answer is “I don’t have any credit cards.” But the very next question is about the average interest rate your cards give you, and there’s no way to opt out and say you have no cards there. Oh – but you CAN say you don’t know.

    I’ve noticed that the more patronizing financial advice is, the more firmly it assumes that the reader has credit cards and is in debt to them. But then it got even worse. One of the final questions is “If you carry debt, how often do you think about your financial issues?” I checked off “every day” because I do have debt that I am paying off, and I do something every day to improve my finances.

    Then I saw their response. They called it “financial worries” and sternly informed me that “Credit counselors say that obsessing about debt is a warning sign.” Hello, I KNOW – but are they trying to say that it’s a warning sign about my mental health or my debt? It’s really irresponsible of them to dictate how often their readers should think about financial issues and assume that there is no way that they could be thinking about them healthily. And I don’t appreciate financial quiz lectures from a magazine that can’t even articulate what a healthy relationship with money or debt would be.

  18. It’s no big secret that generalist entertainment sources like (wo)men’s magazines and MSN aren’t the best place to get accurate, reliable financial advice (10 hot gifts this holiday season!), but what consistently amazes me is that this phenomenon also holds true for ‘respectable’ publications like the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. They’re constantly pushing the idea that financial success comes through sexy
    trading strategies, ownership of the hottest hedge funds, and sophisticated tax management (think Cayman Islands). It’s just another case of telling your target demographic what they want to hear (in this case the wannabe-Masters of the Universe set), but when I see it in publications that are supposed to have some stature in these matters it goes a long way toward explaining why, for example, men trade their stocks far too often and vastly overrate their own ability to predict the future given the benefit of hindsight. I also blame Rich Dad Poor Dad for this, may its name be cursed to the thousandth generation.

    Personal finance isn’t that complicated but it’s sometimes counterintuitive, and as long as people dislike being told their innate prejudices are wrong I wouldn’t expect to see much solid advice in the mainstream media.

  19. Let me ask a tangential question which might be of interest to a queer writer or reader:

    What message(s) do these men’s magazines send poor men? I don’t subscribe to any, but I read a lot since I work in a convenience store and get to take mags home to read. I constantly get the message that if I don’t have a hefty portfolio and the latest tech gadgets, I’m a big zero.

    p.s. I’d be thrilled to have an emergency fund with $500.

  20. I think that the noted advice sent through the O mag channel is relatively sound for your average North American:
    How to buy life insurance
    The basics of financial planning and investing
    Home finance basics everyone should know
    Know how much home you can afford
    How to play rollover with your 401(k)
    Most people who work full time jobs outside the financial industry, have a spouse or significant other, and have children do not really have time to do the necessary work to decide whether or not the current price of a stock = the future value.

    I agree that Womens magazines have a feel good aspect to them and make them feel that buying 1000 items under $100 is a great deal! but Mens mags have their feel good touch to them. Do you think reading an article in Esquire about Walmart being a good buy is a good enough source for any investor to leap on? I hope not. These articles make the men feel like men and allow them to say to their friends “you know this stock took a dive of late and let me tell you why and if I had enough money to make this investment worthwhile while having even more money to be able to risk this investment without doing further research I would be first to jump in”. Give me a break. The majority of these magazines mentioned tailor to materialism and commercialism not a source for particularly sound information.

    O Mag is close to providing good advice on what should be done by most North Americans and that is to find a financial planner who understands what the financial market is, what your needs are, what you want in terms of wealth and freedom, and will tell you what you need to do to get there.

    I do not want to hear or read ‘Esquire is a good source for investment advice’ again. Because it is shallow, much like its content.

  21. On further reflection, this post might have been a better analysis if I compared the advice found in women’s magazine to what is written in money magazines with a predominantly male readership. This in turn would change the call to action and question why more women don’t subscribe to magazines offering investment advice instead of just catching the basics found in women’s magazines.

    With that in mind, here are a few thoughts in response to some of the comments:

    Chris: I like your example about how the parenting magazines talk down to men when they try to write father-specific content. Interesting point and I agree with your suggestion.

    John M: My doctor’s name is Chris as in Christina. Someone should write a post about how your name impacts earning potential!

    Katie: There aren’t demographics about book readership, but if the money magazines are an indication, then the financial seekers tend to be men. Perhaps, the buy/sell example is weak, but the point I meant to make is that I’ve never seen financial advice in a women’s magazine go beyond a “play it safe” strategy. I understand it’s a generalization but women save (play it safe) and men invest (take risks). I’m just trying to figure out why.

    Freecia: I love the point that gender-specific views are often learned at home as a child. Hopefully, more parents in my generation and beyond will focus on teaching their kids to be self-sufficient.

    Meg: — “Most men need to worry less about today’s hot stock and worry more about so-called ‘womanly’ financial issues.” — I hadn’t thought about it from this perspective. Thanks for raising that question.

    JP: Your point about men maintaining interest is well taken. So why is that? Is their inquisitive nature innate or was it learned? If so, how was it learned and why aren’t young girls getting these same lessons? Perhaps Ramit will let you write a guest post and we’ll see how well you fared in high school.

    Cady: I’m glad you clicked through and took the quiz. I was surprised by their analysis of the results.

    Pete: You’re right about “sexy” financial advice in the mainstream media. Sensationalism is what sells magazines when it’s served up with an enticing headline.

    - Nina

  22. Men and Women are different but money is always money.

    Hopefully most people read Esquire, Men’s Health, Cosmo and Glamor for entertainment and NOT sound financial guidance. Extrapolating that the financial advice in those mags is geared toward their gender specific demographic is not brain surgery, it’s obvious. Esquire is for wanna-be stylish, gadget lusting, young men – at least in my opinion. I’d never read it for financial advice.

    Aren’t there gender neutral financial magazines? What about Kiplinger’s?

  23. Some good points, but I don’t think most of the magazines you mentioned are really read for financial advice.

  24. A nice follow-up to this piece might be to try contacting some of the writers mentioned and asking them why they write that way.

    They might be willing to take a few minutes to answer. You can usually get columnist e-mails in a magazines’s masthead, or maybe try calling a magazine’s PR department and explaining you’d like to interview one of their writers.

    Could work, and would be interesting to hear different magazine writers talk about why they write about finance in a particular way.

    I’d read it.

  25. I am female and have always been very interested in finance. Some girls get trips to Cancun or a new car for their 18th birthday, I got “The Richest Man in Babylon,” some Suze Orman books, $1000 and a financial advisor. Maybe women don’t go to O or money to get advice on finance, but women are talkers and knowing my friends we talk about our investments. Of course, we never talk amounts but the other day a friend of mine asked me, “I know you used to own shares in Wild Oats and now that Whole Foods bought them out what am I supposed to do with my Wild Oats shares? What did you do?” O magazine (and the other women’s magazines) only skim the surface of a multitude of topics. That’s why they are called lifestyle magazines and not financial magazines. Who cares what kind of advice women are getting in women’s magazines? Smart women who are intelligent enough to get real financial advice aren’t going to go to O to get their facts just like smart men don’t go to Esquire. I don’t believe that any true women’s or men’s magazines really offer hard hitting financial advice. They just know how to package their stories for their demographics.

  26. “On further reflection, this post might have been a better analysis if I compared the advice found in women’s magazine to what is written in money magazines with a predominantly male readership”

    - Comparing womens to mens magazines is fair, although if you have read many men’s magazines you should realize that in my opinion Suzie Orman’s advice is probably more practical then Ivonka Trump’s (stuff magazine)

    - Comparing entertainment magazines with finical magazines is however not a fair comparison. This would be like me comparing men’s entertainment magazines take on travel to a travel magazine

    - The bottom line is that I do not think that you picked a topic that had the potential to be what you wanted it to be. Although I think you did a good job researching and writing this article.

  27. [...] Click to continue reading. Oct 22 2007 Investing, Wealth Building [...]

  28. [...] Look How Men’s and Women’s Magazines Write About Money For the most part, magazines write as though you have an infinite budget to spend on stuff – I wrote about this a while back. (@ i will teach you to be rich) [...]

  29. Interesting how this topic brings out some people’s fundamental hostility to women. And sad.

    As a moderately savvy but math-challenged woman, I never have been able to stomach Suze Orman’s saccharine, touchy-feely advice that is full of commonplaces and says little or nothing that anyone who is awake shouldn’t already know. When PBS’s cameras pan over her audiences, you can see that many of the entranced folks gazing slack-jawed and nodding as they lap up her pearls of wisdom are men, and so I assume it’s not just women she speaks to and not just women whose level of financial sophistication is alarmingly low.

    That said, the fact is that a vast proportion of American women spend their old age in poverty. And I have had women university students in my classes who do not know what a CD is, refuse to read about personal financial matters because they think it’s “boring” (they’ll find eating cat food pretty interesting when they get to be about 75), and who never have balanced their checking accounts–ever.

    Among the current generation of elderly women, an important reason for widespread poverty is having spent a large portion their adult lives as fulltime homemakers and having unwisely depended on a husband’s income and generosity to support them. The next generation of elderly women, though, is likely to face poverty because of ignorance, bad financial planning, and spending habits fostered by those very women’s magazines that dispense sugar-coated grade-school-level advice.

    Whether or not gender differences in communication style exist, women as well as men clearly need competent training in how to handle money if they are to survive and grow in the economy we have today. I personally don’t find patronizing advice helpful, but if others do, evidently there’s a place for it.

  30. I am a female personal finance blogger that talks about the “hard stuff” and doesn’t have much of a female following. I wonder if this stuff is hardwired! It frustrates me to no end:(

  31. I am a female PF blogger and do agree with you. Most of the advice for women is “how to save money at the grocery store” crap and alot of the advice for men is “the top 5 hot stocks right now!”.

    I volunteer as a financial counselor and do find that many women are lazy when it comes to finances.

    They don’t take the initiative to learn this very essential life skill and many are still thinking “it’ll all work out somehow”.

    sigh.

    Oh, can’t stand O Magazine (or Oprah, for that matter).

    There was a Finance issue she did a couple of years ago that made me nutty, it was very emotive and basically had a theme of “don’t sweat it, money isn’t what’s important in life anyway, it’s the relationships you have”

    Thus totally marginalizing the empowerment women could have if they learned this very essential life skill.

  32. [...] with futurologist Ray Hammond The Primerica Paradox: The Conclusion Part 2 The Perfect Incentive Look how men’s and women’s magazines write about money Deteriorating lending standards The Anatomy of Crazy Bosses Software Programming and the Economics [...]

  33. Men and women are different – plain and simple, and this it’s reflected in the different writing styles typical of men and women magazines. But a lesbian may have a diffcult time understanding this, not surprisingly.

  34. [...] at I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Ramit has a guest post from Nina at Queercents. She takes a look at how men’s and women’s magazines write about money. “Women get touchy-feely encouragement,” writes Nina. “Men get hard-hitting [...]

  35. JP: You have got to be kidding. You are a complete moron if you think your “statistics” based on advising *30* people is anywhere near an accurate sampling of women. If you do, it just proves you’re a narrow-minded, sexist neanderthal.

    As someone else pointed out, think about how girls and boys are educated about money.

    My girlfriends and I discuss stocks and investing, *and we actually invest.* Imagine!

    By your own admission, you missed the point of the article. Yes, men and women have different approaches to money. But have you considered that one of the reasons more men tend to have more money is that they are, hmmm, presented with more INVESTING advice, instead of the SAVING advice presented to women? That’s a significant factor.

    While I don’t read O, I do read other women’s magazines. I’ve not noticed any hard advice on how to really invest money — it really is more about curbing spending (in a fashion magazine!!), dealing with debt, and other uber-basic topics. Nothing about whether or not investing in tech is still viable, lists of dividend stocks, etc.

  36. [...] from what I’ve read, it might be worth sticking around for.  I know the Suze Orman folks (TeachToRich, Queercents, Flexo, Select Quote) folks will tell me always recommends term life insurance and [...]

  37. [...] from what I’ve read, it might be worth sticking around for.  I know the Suze Orman folks (TeachToRich, Queercents, Flexo, Select Quote) folks will tell me always recommends term life insurance and [...]

  38. SR: it’s funny how you slam JP’s use of anecdotal personal evidence, yet rely on it in a later paragraph.

    The first rule of writing is to know your audience. Oprah didn’t build her empire by ignoring who her audience is – quite the contrary. I bet the editor and writers of her magazine spend inordinate amount of time and money figuring out what the fears and dreams of their readers are, and write to exploit those fears and dreams. Just because there is a minority group of women who know or would like to know about the hard financial facts doesn’t mean they go to O for those facts.

    Finally, writing “buy Walmart” is more useless advice than “don’t buy branded commodities,” despite the former being “hard” advice. If you want real, valuable financial advice, read a book or take a course. And pick up O or Esquire if you want to fry your brain.

  39. I don’t with the assessment of Suze Orman. I know she can be kind of annoying and definitely talks about relationships with money in a way that sounds kind of girly, but she is definitely all about female empowerment when it comes to finances. She is not afraid to tell a female caller on her show to leave a boyfriend who is causing her financial problems, or to sign a pre-nup to protect what’s hers, to not lend money to friends, etc. She also talks about why it’s hard because of social pressures to do these things sometimes even when it’s in the person’s best interest. She has her faults (and God it’s annoying how she calls everyone Boyfriend and Girlfriend), but I think she’s one of the few PF people who is both accessible to ALL women (i.e., those who aren’t already well-versed in finances), and also gives sound (and serious) advice that goes way beyond saving a rainy day fund.

  40. Seriously, gender-specific magazines are all crap.

  41. Ok, I am seeing a lot of posting about what is NOT a good source for financial advice, so here’s my question.

    I know nothing about finances, except how to spend money really well! I am attempting for the first time in my life (I am 27) to get control of my finances. I have a sneaking suspicion that those “O” magazine articles are geared toward my dumb @ss.

    So I ask you, good readers, where do I go?? I don’t want touchy feely junk, I need sound advice. I have a child, I’d like to continue to feed and clothe her. Where does someone like me start? Nearly every place I was looking has been slammed today, so where do you recommend?

    I’m reading this blog, for one, and I get the daily feed from the Motley Fool, but frankly, until I have some savings and actual security, I am just reading that to learn the jargon.

    Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Lei

  42. As a women in her late twenties who has been investing for 10+ years and has well over $500 in emergency savings, my reply is that I do not look for financial advice in Glamour, Cosmo, Self or any other “female” magazine. I read Kiplinger’s, Money or another finance oriented magazibe when I want to read about finances, just as I read T+L or Budget Travel when I want to read about travel. If you want to read about financial stuff, read a different magazine…you will not find what you are looking for in O!! (And yes, the financial industry does NOT treat men and women the same, but who cares…seek out the information you need and find an advisor that respects you and your needs)!

  43. Lei: amazon.com. There are hundreds of great books on personal finance and investing, which are much better at giving a thorough and well-rounded understanding of money management than any blog could. Reading websites or blogs is good for filling gaps or keeping up with the times, but not a substitute to books. Amazon has excellent lists by readers on any subject – pick a list which caters to your interests, read a lot of reviews, and order a few books.

    It sounds like you would most benefit from books on “simple living” or “voluntary simplicity.” While many of the books claim they are not about eschewing the comforts of modern living, they go on advocating making your own soap or hugging trees. Nevertheless, many of them have excellent advice for those trying to get out of a debt spiral or to increase their savings. The best book on the subject I’ve read was “Voluntary Simplicity” by Duane Elgin. Although it’s mostly feel-good throw-away fluff, it’s thankfully not full of verbose anecdotes used to poorly illuminate a point which pollute modern writing.

    The chapter about how to calculate the true cost of widgets _to you_ was the biggest eye-opener I’ve had in years. Instead of looking at how much a widget costs, he looks at how much time you have to invest in earning enough money to buy that widget. When you realize that you spend 90 minutes of your life earning money to pay for that mocchachino, it really makes you rethink your priorities.

    Or the other alternative is to enroll in classes at your local college.

  44. Lei,
    If you’re just starting out on your financial journey, I would recommend Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. (Yes Ramit he has the Latte Factor in there.)
    What I, a 26 year-old female (25 when I first read the book), found to be helpful in this book is it did change my relationship with the world around me, in terms of money, goals etc. Prior to reading the book I knew I wanted a house someday and I picked 2 years as a good measure of time to get a house. I read the book (somewhere in it, it had things you wanted to accomplish within 3 years, so buying a house was one of them) and within four months I bought a house. How/Why? Because it made me spell out for myself what is preventing me from buying a house and how do I overcome that, it also makes you write down for every goal (even if it is five years off) what is an action that you will take toward that goal within the next 48 hours. Essentially it taught me that two years, still starts right now. Other things that happened after reading that book was that I got a promotion to a position the company created for me. I’m now in charge of Human Resources. I credit the book for this because in my pursuit of getting the company to offer a 403B, my boss listened to me ask questions about whether Roth options were available (terms I never would have known had I not read the book) etc and I became the person with authority on these topics. (Prior to my promotion, I was a weldor so HR wasn’t a natural progression.) Was the David Bach book the last thing on finances I’ve read? No. Do I go back to his book? Yep. I find it helpful, easy to understand and motivational.
    I also read somewhere to “Read something/anything about money everyday.” I like that advice and wish more people used it. There are so many people who have real shame when they ask questions about money. Should they know it on their own? Most likely; but everyone needs to start somewhere. Most people assume they won’t be able to grasp the concepts before they even really try. (Then there’s people like my partner… He has no shame in saying, “You deal with the money because you’re smart and then you tell me what to do with mine.”) Along those lines, I’m glad to hear that you read things just to get comfortable with the jargon for now. That’s more than what most do.
    Long answer to your question but I hope you find something useful in it.

  45. I don’t think anyone should bash women’s magazines for getting touchy-feely. I don’t think that having more quantitative articles like those found in men’s magazines results in bigger nest eggs. In fact, I have seen studies showing how women outperform men with investments primarily because they follow a more basic path. Rather than picking stocks, women tend to create more diversified portfolios. They trade less so they incur fewer transaction fees and pay less in capital gains. All of this adds up to more money. I will have to find the study, but I know it exists because it stuck with me.

    So bash the women’s magazines all you want for not giving enough hard core quantitative analysis. When it is all said and done, the only thing that matters is performance. And, women tend to top men.

    Kirk

  46. This has been an area of great frustration for me since I was in high school. I agree that gender issues continue to be a problem and a difference between men and women. I got a deal for a free subscription to Smart Money which of course came with a solicitation to subscribe to another magazine. My choices were Esquire and Motor Week. It was assumed that I am a man because I subscribed to Smart Money instead of Cosmo.

    When I tried to find a mentor to help me learn more about investing, I was met with either women telling me they left the investing up to their husbands or the men telling me that I shouldn’t bother with such a small sum. Occassionally, I would find a guy my age that would discuss investments and industries, but that was rare.

    Finally, I agree with your observations on Suzie Orman and her tendency to go for the touchy feely version of money, but there is a population that it serves. While I would really like to see more writers addressing starting out small and growing smart, I can’t deny that everyone has their own learning style. I look forward to the day that women can be more confident in the financial arena beyond keeping a home and family.

  47. I believe that for a person who’s still trying to figure out things, finance magazines have a way of intimidating you with information and jargon I have no clue about. It’s the same if I try to watch a finance TV channel like CNBC. So I guess I prefer a mix of down-to-brass-tacks stuff like that on oprah.com and blogs like yours where the advice though not sugar-coated isn’t really whizzing way above my head.

  48. From Lei: “So I ask you, good readers, where do I go?? I don’t want touchy feely junk, I need sound advice.”

    I first became aware of money matters by reading Consumer Reports. It not only has consumer reviews and advice, it also occasionally provides easy-to-understand financial advice. Money Magazine is also pretty easy to follow and seems to have good information. Is Kiplinger’s still out there? I used to read that now & again and found it interesting. If you listen to NPR or go to the NPR website, The Motley Fool is pretty good.

    Also, my financial adviser was doing a short course on personal finance for women at a local community college. Turns out a lot of financial managers do this–it was inexpensive, and what she had to say was a real eye-opener. You might want to check community colleges near you for offerings like this.

    And I learn a surprising amount, painlessly, by cruising the personal finance blogs. Sometimes you pick up as much from the comments as from the bloggers’ posts–especially if you google the subjects and try to learn as much as you can from reliable online reference sources. There’s a site with links to 100 PF blogs…it’s fun to go back there once every month or so and see what’s new on the sites that you don’t visit often: http://www.yourcreditadvisor.com/blog/2007/02/top_100_persona.html

  49. [...] Will Teach You to Be Rich wrote an interesting post called “Look How Men’s and Women’s Magazines Write About Money.” Definitely worth a [...]

  50. I agree that women are fed the softer side. What we can do about it is teach our young girls to manage their money just like the big boys do.

    Also, we can go after what we want by reading our boyfriend, brother, or husband’s magazines for financial guidance.

  51. People seem to think of an average women as a “financially dumb” person. We can argue about whether thats true or not. Its not relevant. I am sure Oprah magazine does enough surveys to make sure their magazine sells well, so there are definitely a lot of females who like some parts of that magazine.
    The relevant fact is there are MANY females who want bare facts and not some BS about touchy feely finance topics. I for one am not impressed by Suze (and the likes), she doesn’t tell me something I don’t know already.
    I do read WSJ/Fortune/Money/blogs for personanl finance which have something decent. So my advice to females out there…don’t depend on women mags to tell you everything about finance. Infact somethings you only come to know by doing.

    wrt JP’s comment, I do have some female co-workers who are HIGHLY interested in what their 401k is doing and how they can invest further in different ways to increase their networth. If I were to generalize based on this, females are more interested in hard facts and numbers. Moral of the story, generalizations don’t help. Each person had a different way of looking at an article/information.

  52. A hidden premise in this discussion is that writing aimed at men is somehow the standard. The truth may be that the style of writing to men has its codes and modes.
    It seems to go a bit like this: It says: “Take your 7/16″ crescent wrench ….”
    It means: “You are supposed to have a 7/16″ crescent wrench, dumbass. We won’t overtly insult you in public by telling you this, but we’re content if you are ashamed that you don’t have one.
    Kurson may not actually assume twentysomething guys have cash in reserve (I’ll bet they don’t) – he just assumes that that’s the way you must write for men.
    I have to question that wisdom as well. The ‘for dummies’ series of books probably sells just as well to men as to women (that’s my own conjecture.)

    ps Chris is right. Men’s health is an absolute joke. I’d rather guests find a cache of 3rd rate porn at my house than a copy of men’s health.

  53. As a woman, I can relate to this article. I hate it when I read articles on money when the audience is women. I feel as if I’m talked down to, and that I have to be “emotional” about my money. Give me the financial info straight up without the fluffy bs. I read articles in men’s magazines, and yes, I do read the wall street journal, in order to get the latest info on what’s happening on the street. I want to be informed the same as men, not made to feel that just because I’m a woman, everything about money has to be glossed over like lipstick and butterflies. It’s about time someone recognized this annoying issue!

  54. One reason women give for not taking control of their investing future is that they lack confidence. Evidence suggests that this is unfounded. For those women who want to build up their confidence, the following article and podcast can help. The article gives the scientific reasons women are good investors. The podcast gives information about the neurobiology behind the skill. This knowledge helps women go forward with their investing futures, which is so important today when women control more and more investable dollars.

    ARTICLE http://mymoneymd.com/Newsletter07312007.pdf

    PODCAST http://www.pmdlive.com/feed.cfm?feed=http://www.pmdlive.com/podcast/ExpertInsight.xml

  55. Men and women are different, yes, but saying that women aren’t smart enough to pick up a men-geared magazine and she is not be able to understand it is just as bad as saying women are scared of finances anyway. While traditional men vs. women roles are still in flux – women these days are super-women, sexy, feminine, sensitive, yet strong, financially savvy and independent, as opposed to dependent and submissive. Some women still want to carry on the predecessors roles and read “O Magazine” that’s fine for them, but women who are breaking the mold are smart enough to know that real financial advice is not found in a fluffy magazine. If your looking for hard facts I give men and women alike enough credit to look in the right places, despite the gender it’s geared for. Get over it, femenists who get mad at the way things are…the more cross-gender reading there is publisher’s will realize times are changing. well said “mark0157″.

  56. I couldn’t agree with this more!!!! I use beauty/fashion mags for the beauty/fashion and financial/money mags for just that – financial/money!

  57. [...] men get popular financial advice, there’s a complete change of language. They don’t get “saving” advice, they’re told how to “invest.” Most [...]

  58. at least we (women bored of womens mags) have the internet where there are so many ways people of both genders write about money.

  59. For Lei, start with your local library and read everything they have in the finance/investing section. And I do mean everything. The reason is because the more you read the more discerning you will become and be able to differentiate good advice from BS. Just start. Read some of the financial magazines too, maybe subscribe to one or two that appeal to you. Watch financial shows on TV. It is like learning a new language, you learn it a lot faster if you immerse yourself in it.
    For now, just set some savings goals, and start setting aside something, as much and as often as possible. When you are ready to invest in say mutual funds or 401 k you will not only have a knowledge base but actual cash to use.

  60. Excellent (and thoughtful) choice for a source!

  61. I really enjoyed reading Suze Orman’s books and enjoy her show as well because it gave me a general overview of personal fianance and the courage to go out and buy Money and Fortune magazine. I also enjoy Jim Cramer’s Mad Money and his books and recently purchased my first stocks which I feel very proud about. A woman has to begin somewhere and Orman’s style helped give me the kick in the ass I needed to begin my journey. We all have to start somewhere.

  62. I am a forty plus female, I have never read “O” magazine and do not feel inclined to do so. I like just the facts when it comes to money and investing. Leave off the sugar coating, I can do without it. I read The Wall Street Journal because I enjoy it, and The New Yorker also. Who cares where the advice comes from so long as you get the right information? I’ve read Money and Fortune because I’m interested in what they have to say (again) about money and investing.

  63. [...] and we can partly blame the media. Look no further than the magazines lined up at the newsstand. Women get touchy-feely encouragement and men get hard-hitting [...]

  64. I would have to agree that a lot of gender-specific magazines give pretty vague advice but they ARE just magazines, and mostly general interest magazines, after all. No one should expect in-depth advice from O or any other non-financial magazine. If it gets women (or men, for that matter) thinking about their finances, that’s all I’d expect. If you want solid, in-depth advice, take a hard look at your finances with a trusted, educated financial counsellor. (Personally, I hate all things Oprah, Martha Stewart, etc.) Suze Orman always leaves me with mixed feelings. She is a great advocate for women taking control of their finances and I admire her for that, especially since she’s been there-done that. But I do find her condescending, especially calling everyone “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” all the time. I guess it’s just her style but.. enough already!

    As for the “touchy feely” approach used by many to address female readers or viewers… To some extent I get why they do this. Women, in general, are more likely to express their money worries as “feelings”- it makes them anxious, nervous, scared (or if they’re not worried and doing well, they’re confident, happy, etc.). Men do tend to just want to know facts and seem less inclined to get into the emotions of an issue. It’s not that women don’t want the facts; it’s that they need to express and address their feelings about it before they can get to what to do and how to do it. (And no I’m not trying to be sexist. I’ve encountered this is many different areas other than finances. And for the record, I am 45 years old and in charge of my family’s finances. I tend to view finances and many other things more in the way men do- maybe because I had 5 older brothers and spent 8 years in the army reserves in a nearly all-male unit.) I think women have been conditioned this way and only now are we waking up to it and the implications of how it affects us.

    If the tone of an article troubles you, write the publisher or author and tell them so. The only way changes will be made is if they know they’re not addressing what they’re readership wants.

  65. Women are actually hard-wired to be better investors than men. Think of it from an evolutionary standpoint: men are built to run around distributing sperm (hence greater tendency to take risks) and women are meant to be the acquirers and managers of resources in order to care for children (both younger and older women). Thus, men may take bigger risks, but women have the right mix of rational thinking, risk balance, and appreciation of life needs to make better investment decisions.

    According to the data, women make more money in the stock market than men, make fewer investment errors and overall make gains of 1.5% to 3% over men in an investment portfolio. There is also really good research-based evidence that women serve their fiduciary duty better than men and negotiate better deals on behalf of clients/investors than men do for their clients/investors. This is so much the case that investing institutions have started to look at the number of women who run finances at a company as a major plus for profitability.

    So our assumptions and behavior run counter to good allocation of ability and are quite biologically contrary. We have an irrational male hero-fetish and it manifests itself in stupid behavior. In a rational world, more women should manage money than men! At any rate, I would rather put my money with a so-called boring housewife than a big badass risk taker, like…Madoff? Who was that guy who ran Enron? Henry Paulson? Don’t get me started on men screwing up the government…

  66. Why does she assume that Suze Orman is writing to a female audience? Of course “O” is full of wishy-washy advice, but Orman’s blog and books probably just reflect the way she writes.

  67. Interesting stats on how few women read publications dedicated to finance, especially if you believe the other, older stat of women being responsible for 80% of household spending decisions. If that’s the case, then are husbands/boyfriends assigned an investment budget by their ladies, who then typically let them invest it however they want?

    Maybe.

    And I know this is totally contrary to the spirit of Ramit’s blog, but women’s more “protective” attitude towards money (and I am totally generalizing here) may end up resulting in fewer investment gains in the long run, but less family money squandered by idiot husbands/boyfriends on stupid, ill-conceived investment schemes. There’s your yin/yang moment of the day.

    As for being talked down to – as a woman, I do tend to read women’s magazines and I would resent the tone of the occasional nugget of finance wisdom except that I’m an accounting grad who spent several years working in finance and I’d say that even stuff I read in the New York Times can sound dumb-ed down to me sometimes. It’s not people’s fault that most of them are clueless about finance. I couldn’t read a medical brief unless a doctor held my hand through the whole thing and kept me from passing out of boredom.

    I could, however, do with a little less of Suzie O’s “hey Girfrieeeend” and “boyfrieeeend” references, and her book on women and money was the first book I ever owned that I would have happily set on fire. That was the single worst purchase I ever made (worse that the $300 Marc Jacobs dress I hated two hours after I bought it… at least I re-sold that on ebay!)

  68. [...] Notice how my content has been translated for a female audience. Same material, but it’s completely different than the way I write. It reminds me of some of my previous articles on prior guest post on women and money, specifically an article on how women’s magazines and men’s magazines write about money. [...]