Women Still Struggle To Manage Their Money
March 21, 2013 2:07 p.m.
Candace Bahr, Financial Expert, Founder of Women's Institute for Financial Education
Ginita Wall, Financial Expert, Founder of Women's Institute for Financial Education
CAVANAUGH: It's well known that women were pretty good at multitasking. They juggle jobs, kids, and home life with crate success every day. But when it comes to finances, many women are dropping the ball. Financial planners say women remain in the background when it comes to understanding the family finances and making decisions about investments. During women's history month, two San Diego financial planners want to make sure women know their motto, that a man is not a financial plan. My guests, Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall. They are financial experts and founders of WIFE, women's institute for financial education. Welcome.
BAHR: Thank you, Maureen.
WALL: It's a pleasure to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Candice, could it be that women just have so much else to do that they'd rather let someone else handle the money?
BAHR: It absolutely has to do with that. We are so busy, and we are multitaskers, but each of us in a relationship tends to go toward a thing that you are most strongly equipped for or feel most comfortable. So for instance, I wash the dishes my husband takes out the garbage. When it comes to finances, often women don't feel comfortable around making the decisions, investment decisions, but they may be involved in paying the bills or looking at the family budget. So it's not that we're not involved. It's just that we're not as involved in perhaps the investment decisions as we could be.
CAVANAUGH: And Ginita, what are some of the aspects of financial management and investment that put women off? For instance, isn't the world of investment advice still largely a man's world?
WALL: It certainly is. Fewer than 20% of financial advisors are women, for example. And it's quite true that women do have their hands in the financial pot. 80% of the buying decisions are made by women. They're handling the money most of the time in the household. But they're still leaving the choices about the 401K and where to put the investment funds up to their husband by and large. That's not always the case. But it often is. Women tend to feel a little bit more perhaps intimidated going into an austere financial planner's office and speaking to a financial planner in a 3-piece suit, perhaps. But some of that is changing.
CAVANAUGH: Now a report was released today by the California Budget Project, and the Women's Foundation of California, and that shows that women are having a harder time recovering from the great recession. Their median income in California has dropped by $2,000 since 2006. And Candice, I guess therefore one of the impediments for women to invest might be because they just don't have enough money!
BAHR: Well, that's true. Actually everybody's median income went down since 2006. So it's not only women. We've all suffered through this recession. But one of the things that we've found that women especially who are heads of households, women who have been divorced find their financial status decreasing by as much as 28% while their husband's financial status may increase by as much as 10%. So it's very difficult, especially if you're a single woman, head of household with children to get ahead.
CAVANAUGH: Now, you and Candice started this organization called WIFE, Women's Institution for Financial Education 25 years ago right here in San Diego. What inspired you to start the group?
WALL: Back in the day when we started it, which was 1988, women were entering the workforce as a tremendous clip. But what we found was that women, though they were bringing home the bacon weren't necessarily frying it up in the pan. They weren't as involved in the financial will decisions. And frankly, women have a lot more financial decisions that they need to make that are top-most. But women are not thinking about how much their investments are going to return. They're thinking about how are they going to educate the kids, how are they going to buy the new car next year, how are they going to pay for the college education? Those kinds of things are really the family decisions are what drives women's experiences, and they weren't getting that in the standard male-dominated venues. So we decided to start an organization that would create education for women that would be responsive to the way that women learn and the things that they wanted to know.
CAVANAUGH: One of the most -- one of those areas that expose financial ignorance most astonishingly at times is when someone goes through a divorce. When a woman goes through a divorce. You have opened that world up in a series of informational programs called "second Saturday" and what do women need to know about the money end of ending a marriage?
BAHR: A lot of people think that divorce is simply about the legal. And really it's about three things. It is about the legal because that's the way to untie the knot. But it's also about the psychological and financial issues. So we created a program that's offered every second Saturday, first of all so that women know it's available. You never know when you're going to be in crisis. It's at Mira Costa College. And we cover the legal with an attorney, and all of the people in the program are volunteer. So the attorney is volunteer, and they talk about things like what is a retainer, how do you go through a divorce, can you do a divorce yourself? Then we have a therapist or a psychologist talking about some of the issues that women might be facing with their family. How does it feel if you're the person who's leaving versus if you've been left? What are your children going through? Then Ginita is the one who typically does the financial. And she goes through not only some of the issues about what should you take, what should you give up, because again in a community property state, we divide the assets in half but we don't necessarily divide them down the middle. One person may choose to take the retirement while another person may choose to take the house. So Ginita not only goes through the kinds of asset division you might have, but also what are the tax ramifications of it? Then we also have a mediator there talking about a mediated divorce. We do now also have a program for men, and as a result of this success and the need in the community, we also have a program for parenting after divorce. Divorce is frankly probably one of the largest financial transactions that anyone will go through.
CAVANAUGH: We were all raised on comedians who would joke about paying alimony after the divorce. Do most women's witnesses improve after the divorce?
WALL: No, it's the opposite. Women's finances actually go down by 27-28%. Whereas a man's actually, the statistics show that it increases slightly by about 10%. That may seem puzzling if women are receiving support, and sometimes they're paying it, how could women be getting more money and still their standard of living going down? It has to do with the children. It has to do with childcare, it has to do with furnishing a home for the child, needing a bigger home perhaps than she would have otherwise. And often women have the primary custody of the children, which is -- creates also a hardship picking them up by 5:30 so she can't work late so she may not be able to advance at that job. Or she may be picking a job that is lower paid but, allows her the flexibility in the workplace.
CAVANAUGH: Women who have been married for a long time and have either not worked outside the home or have not had substantial careers, what can they expect after a divorce?
WALL: If they're going to stay in California, they can expect to be creating a career of some sort because you just -- for most jobs, they don't pay enough to support two households in California. So we need to have extra income coming in. My advice to women who are in that position and thinking of divorce or in the early throws of divorce is that they create a plan for themselves of what kind of a career they would really enjoy doing and how they're going to accomplish that.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Candice, you mentioned that you also have a workshop for men who are either going through or contemplating a divorce. Are there differences in what the two groups need to know?
BAHR: Yes, there are. The women's program is much more extensive, it's about 4.5 hours. The men's program is about 2.5 hours because it doesn't have the psychological component to it. We've found that women in our workshops tend to bond, tend to get-together during the recess, they tend to exchange their e-mails, telephone numbers, to create a community. We find the men during the breaks get on their cellphone, look the other way, men and women are just simply different. And they need to have the information but it's delivered in a different way.
CAVANAUGH: Whether a woman is contemplating a divorce or just looking at their finances, I'm wondering if you might both be able to share with us what types of questions you hear most from women when it comes to their money. Candice?
BAHR: One of the major things that women are concerned about is really understanding how their money intertwines with their lives. Men often -- and I've managed money for over 33 years, are more competitive, looking at their rate of return. Women care about their rate of return, but they care about what they money means to them and their family and the significance of having a retirement or putting their children through college. It's very important for them to be goal-oriented, and that's what motivates them, not making an extra 1%.
CAVANAUGH: And what kind. Questions do you get, Ginita?
WALL: How can I keep the house? That's a big question. How can I keep the house? Should I keep the house? What kind of housing can I afford? The house sometimes I refer to as the marriage museum. Because it embodies what the marriage should have been and what it isn't now. Sometimes you need to let that house go, and the children would become attached to a different neighborhood and a different house.
CAVANAUGH: Sounds like everybody has a lot to learn about this. I want to let everyone know the next second Saturday workshop is coming up on April13th, at Mira Costa College.