Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Men, Women See Investments from Different Perspectives Series: YOUR MONEY

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Men, Women See Investments from Different Perspectives Series: YOUR MONEY

Article excerpt

ANN BENSON is a woman with mission.

As "national investor information specialist" with Merrill Lynch & Co., a New York-based brokerage firm, Ms. Benson conducts scores of seminars throughout the United States each year for women on investing.

"I leave no stone unturned" in trying to show women how to invest and how financial planners can help women manage financial assets, she says.

The pool of potential women investors is growing. Almost 60 percent of adult women are collecting a pay check -- up from 43 percent in 1970. Yet women represent only about 37 percent of all shareholders of stock, according to the New York Stock Exchange.

Benson, a former actress and mother of actor/director Robby Benson (the voice of the "Beast" in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"), admits she uses every theatrical trick in her repertoire to make her seminars lively. Her goal is to educate and show women that investing is "exciting."

"There's been a lot of progress in informing women about financial matters, but there is still a tremendous need," says Margaret Daly, features editor and a veteran personal finance writer at Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Guidance is "especially important now," she says, since so many companies are switching from company-managed retirement plans to defined benefits contribution plans, where employees must make their own investment decisions. And because women tend to outlive men by many years, they need to save more.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that men and women have considerably different perspectives on investing. Fear of failure and fear of the unknown keep many women from jumping into the investment game, according to a landmark national study released earlier this year by Long Island University's National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR).

"Women have been socialized into believing that money means security," not a tool for investing, says Christopher Hayes, director of NCWRR. "For most women, money is something used for the caretaking of others. Women are far less likely {than men} to ask the question, 'What can money do for me?' "

This "mattress stuffing" philosophy, Mr. …

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