Magazine article Working Mother

It Pays to Talk about It

Magazine article Working Mother

It Pays to Talk about It

Article excerpt

Talking about how we spend and invest our money is up there with politics and religion in the don't-go- there-if-you-want-to-keep- this-friendship category. Yet the silver lining of the economic crisis is that we're reminded how critical it is to talk about our patterns of spending, borrow- ing and risk-taking. "The continuing pauperization of women is at stake," says Allison Acken, a clinical psycholo- gist and the author of It's Only Money: A Primer for Women. "We earn roughly $35,000 to men's $45,000! Let's talk about that." The financial experts and psychologists we interviewed agree that women would benefit tremendously from starting to engage one another in more conversations about college funds, retirement accounts and other savings and investment choices.

"Women are natural networkers and social creatures," says Kelley Keehn, an On the Money contributor at CNBC. "But we often waste our time together discussing issues that won't change our lives. Aside from our health, the one area that's too precious to completely trust someone else with is our money."

If you feel you have a lot to learn before you start talking the talk, brush up on the topic. "I hear so many women say, 'I'm not good with numbers. I'm not interested in finances. It's my spouse's responsibility,'" says Keehn. But you don't have to be good at math to negotiate a mortgage rate, know where your investments are or open your credit card statement.

Some of us also may be overcoming lessons we learned growing up. "Parents and the rest of society put a lot of pressure on girls not to be greedy," says Sara Laschever, author of Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want. "We don't like girls that we perceive to be too bossy or grabby or entitled." The result is that we may shortchange ourselves when it comes to getting the knowledge we need to have smart conversations about money so we can make informed decisions.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Start by reading the business section of your daily newspaper on a regular basis to get comfortable with the jargon, suggests Barbara Stanny, a leading authority on women and money. Plus, there are plenty of beginner books on finances, budgets and managing money - including those written specifically for women.

If it's easier to listen to a financial program on the radio during your morning commute, try that, says Keehn. "Hearing the financial vernacular over and over again will help it sink in." She also recommends waking up 15 minutes earlier once a week to do some light research: "Sit at your computer with a cup of coffee and Google key financial terms such as 'compound interest' and 'appreciation.' Once you have even a basic understanding of what a 401 (k) plan is, for example, you'll feel more confident asking questions about it. A basic grasp of financial concepts will help spark your interest in that unfamiliar world."

ASK QUESTIONS

Every week, have a conversation about money, preferably with someone who knows more than you do, Stanny suggests. Start small - with someone you trust, such as your sister or best friend. Then move on to people within your larger social circle with whom you feel comfortable, says Laschever.

It's our secrecy and silence about our finances that keep us stuck, Stanny says. Of course, this doesn't mean you ask a friend who seems financially well off how much she earns, she adds. …

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