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TitlePound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size1.4 MB
Total Pages274
Table of Contents
                            CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER ONE
WHAT HATH SYLVIA WROUGHT?
The Invention of Personal Finance
CHAPTER TWO
THE TAO OF SUZE
Suze Orman’s Self-Help
CHAPTER THREE
THE LATTE IS A LIE
Selling the Myth of the Fiscally Promiscuous American
CHAPTER FOUR
SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY
The Coming Retirement Train Wreck
CHAPTER FIVE
THE ROAD TO PAS TINA
The Culture of Commission in the Financial Services Sector
CHAPTER SIX
I’VE GOT THE HORSE RIGHT HERE
The Hopeless Quest for the Perfect Investment
CHAPTER SEVEN
AN EMPIRE OF HER OWN
The Truth About Women and Money
CHAPTER EIGHT
WHO WANTS TO BE A REAL ESTATE MILLIONAIRE?
The Selling of Home Ownership as a Cure for Income and Investment Stagnation
CHAPTER NINE
ELMO IS B(r)OUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER P
The Myth of Financial Literacy
CONCLUSION
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT OUR MONEY
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
NOTES
INDEX
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

POUND
FOOLISH

Page 137

Women are financially challenged, she explained. After all, Prudential’s
surveyors found that 53 percent of women did not understand what an annuity
was, with another 43 percent unable to identify a mutual fund, all of which, in
her view, points to the fact that “they really needed help in understanding the
vast array of financial products that are available to them.” The percentage of
men? There’s no answer. No one thought to survey them. “Maybe that’s
something we should look at going forward in the future,” Cleveland said when I
asked why Prudential ignored men.

It’s likely that a purveyor of a women-and-money financial services program
is less interested in getting an answer to this question because it might not be the
one they like. To look at more objective data than that provided by Prudential,
we can turn to the work of academics Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia Mitchell,
generally considered to be among the deans of the financial literacy movement.
When they asked their sample subjects whether placing money in a mutual fund
is safer than purchasing an individual stock, just under 60 percent of men and 50
percent of women got the answer right. As Manisha Thakor, a specialist in
women’s personal finance, put it, “Both genders are woefully financially
ignorant.”

Yet the financial services sector is not the only industry peddling the notion
that women’s financial stupidity is a large part of their money woes, though
many have a more specific enemy in mind: shopping.

The book industry has made a mint promulgating what can be termed the
approach to female finances: those silly girls run into financial

trouble because they buy Jimmy Choo shoes when they should be giving money
to Chuck Schwab instead. Take

. According to author Catey Hill, the modern
woman’s financial woes come from an inability to resist a good sale at Barneys.
“I was just like you—slaving away at a job that didn’t pay me enough, buying
shoes I couldn’t afford on my credit card and with no savings to speak of,” Hill
writes on the first page. Or maybe you prefer

, penned by a group of Canadian women who bonded
together in a group setting to beat back their debt, and went on to found a media
empire, with books, tapes, a radio show, and public appearances. “Women seem
particularly susceptible to messages encouraging us to spend; perhaps, because
so often they appeared to be aimed at us.” Their evidence: the fact that women
are more likely to file for bankruptcy than men.

In reality, men surpass those mall-hopping gals when it comes to tossing the
bucks around on booze and car ownership. Gallup found that men spent $11
more a day than women in 2011. They are also easier online marks, quicker to

Page 138

click the “buy it now” button and less likely to comparison shop or return items.
Men are more likely to buy Groupon and other online coupon deals for fun,
while women use the services to purchase needed goods at a discount. As for
that pesky bankruptcy statistic, the Smart Cookies might want to look at another
bit of data. The group most likely to declare bankruptcy is single mothers. No
doubt these spendthrifts got carried away charging diapers and pacifiers to their
credit cards.

There are, needless to say, no male equivalents of this stuff. No books with
titles like or . Women, it seems,
want to hear their problems are a result of overspending. Perhaps it gives them
hope that their problems are not insurmountable, that they are actually in control
of their financial fates.

Or, perhaps, they are getting their information from Prudential’s Women &
Money Web site, where in a section entitled “Could you be saving more money
for tomorrow?” the advice includes the words “Beware of impulse buying.” Or,
if they are under thirty-five, perhaps they are checking out online startup
LearnVest, a women’s financial information site founded by Alexa von Tobel in
late 2009. LearnVest’s contribution to the discussion on women and spending?
They put together a riff on the popular YouTube Sh*t meme entitled “Sh*t Girls
Say about Money,” which had almost everything to do with shopping, spending,
and not knowing how much is in your bank account when you go to the ATM to
withdraw money. Of course, no one in the video complained how the guy at the
next desk earns more money than she does for performing the exact same work.

LEAN ON ME

In the 1950s, the New York Stock Exchange ran numerous ads promoting the
stock market to shaky Americans who still had bad memories of the Great
Depression. One ad, in the view of Christine Sgarlata Chung, a professor at
Albany Law School and author of

, was particularly telling. It showed a woman resting her
head on the shoulder of her competent-looking spouse. He was, it implied,
capable of taking care of her. This was no misunderstanding. Internal NYSE
memos reveal requests that advertising geared toward female investors should
feature “even greater emphasis on…the desirability of getting good advice from
a member firm and a registered representative.”

The financial services industry has been pushing variations on the idea that
women are helpless in the face of the investment culture pretty much as long as
the financial services industry has been around. Women are routinely told they

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Women and Money

You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It

Page 274

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