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The I Will Teach You To Be Rich series on women and personal finance begins

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Today, I’m launching a short series on women and personal finance as announced here. Why? Part of it is wanting to balance out the ratio of male and female readers. Part of it is anecdotal, with my female friends seeming to pay just as little attention to money as my male friends.

You’ll notice in the comments of my last post that certain commenters were worried about this being a hit job on women. Please, give me a break. That’s exactly why I asked for real women to interview about their money habits. While not scientific, this is hardly about berating women for poor money management. If that were the case, I’d rather berate women and men. Why limit it?

But let’s also keep it real. Too many people tiptoe around the gender issue when it comes to money, pretending that men and women are the same. I prefer to live in a world of what is rather than what should be. The whole idea of men and women being the same is ridiculous — we’re not. We earn different amounts, we worry about different things, we have different attitudes towards money, and we buy different things. So before we begin, I thought we’d just list all the stereotypes about women and money out there so we can dispense with them once and for all. To get these, I asked female iwillteachyoutoberich readers what society thinks of women and money.

Stereotypes about women and money from female iwillteachyoutoberich readers

“Women buy clothes, purses, and makeup”

“Women are flighty and not conscientious about their money”

“Women actually handle their money just as well as men. They just don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“Women just don’t care about money.”

“Women are more generous with their time than men. Men prefer to write a check, but women will donate their time.”

“Women just want a rich guy to take care of them.”

“Financial media is geared towards men. For example, I read Kiplinger’s Magazine and it seems like there’s a guy in the suit on the cover.”

Some of these are patently absurd, like the idea that “women don’t care about money.” Talk to any woman and you’ll see that’s not true. But let’s not be so quick to dismiss all of these stereotypes. I guarantee that there are going to be commenters who flame this post, saying “RAMIT, YOU’RE SO STUPID/INCONSIDERATE/IGNORANT FOR LISTING THOSE STEREOTYPES. DON’T YOU KNOW THEY SET WOMEN BACK 50 YEARS?!?#*%#*@!*#?”

Sorry, but I’d prefer to address these head-on instead of pretending the stereotypes don’t exist. So here’s what I’ve learned from my interviews so far:

Women are intimately concerned with money. Not just the self-selected ones who responded to my post, either, but even their friends. It’s just that many choose to ignore their concerns for another day. Sort of like men.

Emotion and money seems to be inextricably tied together for the women I spoke to, much more so than for men.

There are few good role models for women and money when it comes to sensible banking, budgeting, investing, and saving. I read Oprah, I read Cosmo, I read a bunch of women’s magazines. The pieces of advice are trite and patronizing. “Put aside $10 for a rainy day!” The women I spoke to commented time after time that there are few accessible comprehensive places for women to learn about money. Also, parents don’t seem to instill the idea of financial education into daughters. Almost every woman I spoke to mentioned that she had had to learn about money on her own, a daunting task.

With that said, all the information anyone needs to get started is available online for free. It’s too easy to say “nobody taught me what to do.” The personal-responsibility zealots have a point: We do need to step up and learn this stuff on our own, and it’s easier now than ever before.

I hope you can see that I’m trying to be fair about what I’ve learned so far. But I’m not an expert on women and money: I started researching this about a week ago, I spoke to a few women, and I read a few books/magazines. If you think I’ve stepped over the line or you have data to contradict me, please leave a comment.

But I want to use this to start a dialogue about why I have so few women readers on iwillteachyoutoberich.com (and why few of my female friends talk about money).

Please tell your female friends about this series on iwillteachyoutoberich. If you can do one favor for me, please ask your female friends to come and comment on the series. This should be less about me and more about the comments of real women who can tell us what’s on their mind.

Coming up: interviews with female iwillteachyoutoberich readers, female entrepreneurs, and anything interesting that readers submit.

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61 Comments

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  1. Good concept to get started with. Looking forward to the future posts this will start.

  2. We all have the ability to be better savers and investors no matter who we are. I look forward to reading real life examples of people who are working on and achieving their goals.

  3. I’m looking forward to this. I meant to send in a story, but I’ve been busy.

    Finances are a daunting prospect for me – despite having a decent financial education and a fair amount of common sense, it’s a little scary to think about. It’s partly fear of the unknown and partly fear of making a horrible mistake and having it cost me terribly.

  4. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this series. I have to admit I was on of those women whose parents didn’t teach them about money. I really look forwards to reading what you have to write, and addressing how finances are a bit different for women then men.

    On a separate note, would you ever consider writing about money strategies for people in other countries? While I love to read your page, things like Roth ROA (sp?) aren’t for me. Have you ever considered adding in asides to your articles, e.g. insead of just saying a 401K plan, adding something in brackets like (a tax sheltered retirement vehicle) so that people from other countries could go and research similar products offered in their countries?

  5. Interesting post… Since you asked for a woman’s opinion, here it goes.

    I am also very emotional about my money (as noted in your post). My boyfriend hates when I come home and do my bills because I get instantly depressed afterwards. On the flip side I am excited when I pay of a credit card, have a little padding in my savings, or get a great bargain (on purses, clothing, and makeup of course). I think this is why I generally stay away from all of the information online about personal finance. I prefer not to get myself down about how I could be saving more for retirement or I should have an emergency account (which I don’t). I’d rather know where Paris Hilton is going after prison.

    I know this is a little immature but I have so many stresses about money already I don’t want to think about it anymore than I have to. Oprah and Cosmo finance tips are ok because they are short and to the point. They make you believe that it is easy. I read personal finance blogs and literally don’t understand the content sometimes!

    I didnt learn about personal finance from my parents, but that is because they don’t know a whole lot either — not because I am female. I have learned from some of their mistakes though. I am more active in saving for retirement, stay away from unnecessary credit, and keep an eye on interest rates and my credit score. While I am not looking for a rich man to take care of me maybe I do look for someone that can teach me how to do better with the little money I have (I happen to be with a man who is actively interested in finance) — jf

  6. I’m also interested in this series, and I’m happy to be an interviewee if you need one. I’m terrible with money — I make a decent salary but feel like I never have the money to do what I want and am frustrated with always feeling like I can’t afford to do this or that. I have no savings and lots of debt. I budget, but can’t seem to stick to the budget to save my life. I would love to figure this out. I feel like I have all the tools and information, but it never seems to work out as planned, almost as if it’s not under my control at all (though I know it is all my responsibility.) Please ask me some questions and I’ll be happy to give my perspective.

  7. There is a blog site that addresses this issue today:
    http://the411.typepad.com/weblog/

    You may want to check here for topic ideas.

  8. Wonderful—i am glad too see this concept. I plan to post some of my experiences and lessons learned. I am the perfect example what not to do. But i have been learning and although i was never the type to get in too expensive shoes and bags i do have several because i know how and where to shop–upscale yard sales and clearance

  9. “Too many people tiptoe around the gender issue when it comes to money, pretending that men and women are the same. I prefer to live in a world of what is rather than what should be. The whole idea of men and women being the same is ridiculous — we’re not. We earn different amounts, we worry about different things, we have different attitudes towards money, and we buy different things.”

    I disagree entirely with that paragraph. If you took a random man and a random woman and compared their financial goals and skills, yes, you would probably see lots of differences. But those differences would be based more on the personal circumstances and histories of the individuals, NOT on their membership of a particular gender.

    The fundamentals of good financial management are the same for everybody: figure out what you want to achieve, figure out how to achieve it, and then do it (an oversimplification, I know). You seem to be suggesting that a female’s goals are intrinsically different from a male’s simply by virtue of their differing genders. IF that were the case, then the goals of, for instance, Paris Hilton, would be similar to the goals of a single mother with four children living in government-subsidised housing, simply because they’re both women. I think we can all agree that that is not the case.

    (PS. I love the blog, keep up the good work!!)

  10. I am different apparently – my mom is more into finance and stuff than my dad. i think he probably conceptually knows it all, but does not want to be the one deal with it. my mom’s the one who budgets, pays bills, teaches me about investing, etc.

    Interesting to note that my mom is college-educated, grew up in a stable middle-class household, married relatively late, and was the one who owned real estate before the marriage occurred.

    My dad dropped out of high school (later went back to night school and got his GED, and took some college classes later), grew up in a troubled household where his alcoholic mother and stepfather drank away the money and therefore, at 15, he had to pay his own hard-earned money to keep the lights on for the family. He also had 1 failed marriage before marrying my mom.

    Which I guess is support for the argument of some commenters that it’s sometimes not the gender, but the circumstances of the person that makes the difference.

    (this may sound like an odd match, but they actually are made for each other, BTW. ;))

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