Try bringing up this fun financial factoid at the dinner table:
Women are almost twice more likely than men to have a secret stash of money hidden from a spouse.*
That's just one of the findings of the "Women, Money & Power" survey conducted by insurance giant Allianz Life.
But in the opinion of Lisa Resnick, president of the Life and Long-term Care division of the insurance mammoth, the most "incredibly amazing" discovery was "in this time of economic evolution, when women are earning more money, have a higher education level, and control more wealth than ever before," nine out of 10 describe themselves as either "somewhat" or "very" financially insecure.
Here's the kicker: wealthy women — defined as those with incomes of at least $100,000 — are slightly more insecure than women overall.
This was a big study. More than 3,000 individuals were questioned — two-thirds of them women. Participants crossed multiple generations. About a third were either Gen-Xers or Echo Boomers (a.k.a. Gen-Y); a third were between the ages of 42 to 60, making them Baby Boomers; the remainder were age 61 or older.
Here's another shocking — SHOCKING! — discovery: men and women have vastly different perceptions about the role they play when it comes to financial issues. In fact, by a 3:1 margin, women say men exaggerate the contributions they make.
For instance, while almost 50 percent of the men said they take the lead in terms of both researching investments and monitoring performance, less than 20 percent of the women credit the men in their lives for this.
A third of the men said they initiate contacts and meetings with financial advisors; only 11 percent of the women agree.
Although "money" is the root of most marital strife, the top arguments cited are not what you might think. Lack of savings and too much debt are the most common topics of contention, beating out over-spending, not having enough income or disagreements about what to invest in.
Women feel that financial arguments with partners are all about "power" and "control," while men blame "trust" issues.
The study found that working with a financial advisor significantly boosts a woman's confidence level. On average, she feels 50 percent more financially secure and optimistic. Furthermore, both genders agree that it's best if married couples meet with their financial advisors together.
Trouble is, that's not happening. In almost half the cases, only one partner attends meetings with the advisor — usually the man.
When asked what's preventing them from taking a more active role in managing their financial affairs, most women did not cite the answer I expected: "I'm too busy" (with career/children/etc.).
Instead, 41 percent said they don't have the knowledge they feel they need to make decisions. If you add to that the women who mentioned a related reason, i.e. that financial issues are too confusing or complicated, it boils down to more than 60 percent of women are not actively engaged in managing their financial affairs because they don't feel they understand this topic.
And, says Resnick, many women may not be comfortable getting that knowledge from financial advisors because the industry has historically been "predominantly male." As a result, much of the language of investing is "very aggressive."
While discussions about "risk" and "total return" may warm the cockles of a guy's testosterone-flooded heart, they turn off many women. According to this research, women say that the "freedom and security" money offers is "15 to 20 times more important than power or status."
Frankly, it's my experience that women tend to under-rate their financial skills and men tend to over-value theirs. In other words, men aren't as smart about money as they think they are and women are sharper than they give themselves credit for.
Women do tend to talk about money in terms of what it can accomplish: security, educating their children. On the other hand, men (generalizing here, guys), seem to focus more on just getting "more." In other words, for women, money is a means to an end, while for men the end (i.e. how much you have) is the whole point.
Each gender could learn something from the other by taking time to listen!
I admit, money and investing can seem dry and intimidating. But like any specialty (from music to auto mechanics), once you learn what the words mean and digest the basic concepts, it's not that tough.
If you're a woman who has read this far, good for you! I hope you keep coming back.
I leave you with this final fun factoid from the survey:
97 percent of men find financially independent women sexy.
So, ladies, how about initiating a rousing discussion of "compound interest" at your next cocktail party?
Keep the faith,
*Don’t feel too bad, guys. The third most common reason women cite for having a secret stash is that they want to be able to treat their spouse when they want to.
Reason No. 1 is they want to be able to treat themselves.
And, reason No. 2 is they want an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
If you have a question for Gail Buckner and the Your $ Matters column, send them to: email@example.com, along with your name and phone number.