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Women associate money to love, men link it to freedom

Humans aren’t the most reasonable bunch when it comes to cash. Psychologists think a heavy bankroll (or lack thereof) makes us favor our irrational side—think extravagant retail therapy or high-stakes poker tables.

Although men and women both seem to succumb to the madness, money tends to seduce genders in different ways, according to a study published in the September issue of Social Indicators Research. Researchers surveyed more than 100,000 individuals in the United Kingdom about their feelings when it comes to the big bucks.

Some questions asked if participants buy things when they feel anxious, bored, or upset, whereas others revolved around guilt, pride, or power in regard to money.

There are four main categories that we associate with the content of our bank accounts, the researchers say: security, power, love, and freedom. After analyzing the survey results, psychologists split the difference, showing that females, on average, were about twice as likely to associate cash flow with love and emotion, whereas men were about twice as likely to see money as a sign of power and freedom, though the feelings were not mutually exclusive.

The researchers say it’s hard to keep a healthy emotional detachment from the dollars in our pockets, but they hope spotlighting the gender specifics in our infatuation with money will help men and women get a grip on their financial feelings.



Six Tips to Deal With Holiday Spending Stress (that don't involve lying)

November ushers in a great time of year. Who doesn’t look forward to giving gifts, parties and festivity? But it’s also a time of lying and major financial anxiety, according to a survey by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union. Egg nog, mistletoe, and lying to your significant other? Happy Holidays!

The survey polled over 1,000 couples in three different segments: married, same-sex and divorced but remarried/in-a-relationship. It found that about 40% of all couples — and nearly half of all heterosexual couples — have disagreements about how much to spend during the holidays.

In each of the group segments, at least one-in-four couples confessed to lying to their partner about holiday spending habits. More than half of married couples reported paying with cash to cover up large purchases and in 10% of couples, at least one partner has taken a credit card out in their own name to hide their spending.

In an interview with MarketWatch, Shawn Gilfedder, president of McGraw Hill Federal Credit Union, said this type of dishonesty could be a reflection of more complicated relationship issues. “It’s a sign that you have a problem and the problem is probably a lot bigger than managing your budget.”

We spoke with some experts about how to deal with spending stress during the holidays — and get over the temptation to lie.

1. Have “money huddles” with your partner

Mary Beth Storjohann is a CFP and the founder of Workable Wealth, a financial planning firm for Gen Y based out of San Diego, CA. She suggests doing this monthly.”If you’re not checking in on your finances jointly at least once a month, the holidays are a great time to start. It will help both of you zero in on where the money is currently going and pinpoint where there is room for adjustment during this season and going forward,” she says.

2. Create a plan of attack when it comes to gift giving

Make sure you aren’t both buying gifts for the same person. Decide on a dollar amount for the gift before. Designate who will do the shopping and how (online verses in the store). Resist the temptation to do what’s easiest – make sure you research and compare prices. Storjohann also suggests creating a joint goal. “Agree that if you come in within (or under) your budget you’ll celebrate by doing something just the two of you – a date night, lunch outing, or even buying each other an additional small gift. Setting incentives to reach together will help make staying on track fun.”

"More than half of married couples reported paying with cash to cover up large purchases and in 10% of couples, at least one partner has taken a credit card out in their own name to hide their spending"

3. DIY

On her website, Storjohann suggests considering DIY gifting. It can be fun and creative. Still want to spend? Think about ways to fund purchases with credit card points or a side hustle income.

4. Draw names

Imagine if you are one of five children? What about their spouses and children? Casey Bond, the Managing Editor of thinks there’s a smarter (and more affordable) way to do things. “It can be much more economical for everyone to pool their names and draw a single gift recipient, rather than feel obligated to spend something on everyone.”

5. Set limits

Be sure to put spending caps on any gift exchanges you do with friends or family. And Storjohann cautions: resist the temptation to go over.

6. Celebrate another time

Presents plus airfare equals major dinero. Travel gets to be outrageously expensive during the holidays. Bond suggests scheduling visits with family days before or after the actual holiday to save on airfare and hotels.

The holidays, though wonderful, can be incredibly stressful from a financial perspective. Lying about your spending will only make things worse. Taking action now will keep from landing you on Santa’s bad list.



Generation X Women Are Least Confident In Their Financial Future

Women of Generation X are less confident in their financial futures than Millennials or Baby Boomers, according to a study on women and their money by Prudential.

These women, born roughly between 1965 and 1980, are least confident in their ability to achieve the vast majority of their most important financial goals. According to the study, only 50 percent of Generation Xers are confident they will have enough money to maintain their lifestyle through retirement, for example, versus 60 percent of Millennials and 65 percent of Boomers.

Naturally, each generation of women has its weak spot. Millennials, the youngest of the generations surveyed, report being less financially sophisticated and have less understanding of financial products than older generations. This likely reflects on the fact they’ve had less time to learn about them, but also less perceived need for those financial products like long-term care insurance or annuities. For example, only 23 percent of Millennials say they understand annuities versus 41 percent of Boomers.

Baby Boomers, the oldest generation to be surveyed in this poll of men and women 28 to 68 years old, reported the greatest stress about retirement. This is understandable since they are closest to it.

But why should Generation Xers — in the prime of their lives with decades of adult experience, yet plenty of working years ahead — be foundering in their finances and fear their future?

Are we just being hopelessly Gen X and “whatever” about money? Maybe. But for most of us, that’s a stereotype that doesn’t stick. Everyone went through the same Recession and faced the same labor market, even if Gen X’s timing in hitting the dot-com bubble, the housing crash and the recession has taken a deeper toll on our financial fitness.

It may be helpful to look at what we’re not doing that the cohorts ahead and behind us are doing — even if we find them irrelevant and annoying.

Boomers, who are closing in on retirement if not there already, are significantly more likely to use a financial professional (45 percent) than Generation Xers (31 percent) or Millennials (15 percent) — which in this era of investing apps and online banking, may feel irrelevant. But maybe talking to someone makes them feel better.

Millennials, those bright-eyed upstarts, have a stronger focus than we do on buying a home, according to the study. They also express greater interest in reducing personal debt, helping to take care of parents or other family members, and providing college tuition for their children. Millennials also are more interested in obtaining enough money to start or grow a small business (24 percent versus 16 percent for Gen Xers and 4 percent for Boomers). Finally, Millennials are more comfortable than older generations in using technology—including smart devices, webinars and social media websites—to better understand and manage their finances.

So annoying, right? But they are getting busy and feeling better about their future than us, even if it is a little farther off for them.

How can we gain a better grasp on our finances on our we-want-it-the-way-we-want-it terms? By turning our fear of the future in our favor and doing what we can now.

“When women are more involved with their own finances, they feel more in control of their independence and are generally happier, but many seem to suffer a disconnect between what they want in their financial future and their spending habits,” says Lance Drucker, CEO and president of the New York City-based Drucker Wealth Management, a firm that specializes in empowering women to make sound financial decisions.

“While most American women say having enough money to maintain their lifestyle throughout retirement was very important, only 14 percent of those polled said they were very confident that they’d achieve that goal,”

Drucker suggests figuring out the source of your financial insecurity.

“Too many women really don’t want to look too deep as to why finances cause them so much stress – kind of like not getting on a scale because we really don’t want to see how much we weigh,” he says. Before you can come up with a solution to your financial problem, you need to figure out what the problem actually is: lack of income, growth, financial illiteracy or something else entirely.

Another source of fuzziness on the future is not knowing what you have.

“Many times our women clients have no idea what they have as far as financial resources, how their assets have performed, and how much they are paying for someone’s help,” says Drucker. “Creating a balance sheet, collecting all of your statements, and taking an accounting of your life gives you the data to start making smart decisions.”

Ever heard of “Just do it”?

“Hoping things will just get better, or the chocolate-and-wine approach to life, does have its benefits,” he says. “Developing a written plan that lays out what you want financially and when you want it goes a long way toward peace of mind. The wine wouldn’t hurt while writing the plan though.”

You’ve been an adult for a while now and know how best to approach challenges. Are you working freelance or at a firm? Do you go for neighborhood runs on your own or hire a trainer? Are you a do-it-yourself task-master or do you do better hiring someone to keep you in line? Drucker says either approach works in finance, but you need to consciously choose one.

“People who show up at the gym with a vague sense of ‘I’m gonna ride the bike, hit some weights, then take a really long steam,’ typically don’t last,” Drucker says. “By now, you have done the work. You’ve figured out your pain, budget, balance sheet, and a plan. Now you have to implement the strategy.”

Get on it, Gen X, and cheer up.


Ways to Motivate Women on Financial Wellness

Women can be turned off by the financial planning process, often due to a flawed approach by advisers. In an interview with EBA, Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180, a financial planning service designed for women, shares her insight on how to create a successful financial wellness program that best reaches female employees.

How popular are financial wellness programs?

According to a report by Aon Hewitt, 93% of large employers intended to broaden their financial wellness programs in 2015. There’s good reason for this. At a cost of only about $144 per employee, per year (according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), financial wellness programs are a relatively modest investment in improved employee retention and productivity. Financial wellness programs make employees feel more valued and help lower financial stress, and a less stressed employee is a healthier and more productive employee. It’s no different from offering your employees Fitbits, treadmill desks or on-site yoga classes. It’s a no-brainer.

How important is it to have a financial wellness program?

The business value to employers of a less stressed, healthier and more productive workforce is obvious, but the potential benefits of financial wellness programs for employees themselves are significant, too. This is especially true for women, who as a group tend to be less prepared for retirement and more stressed financially than men. As women continue to juggle too many responsibilities both at work and at home, having the option to address financial wellness issues in the workplace, conveniently, without interruption, and with little or no out of pocket cost to employees, can make the difference between doing it or not at all.

What are some best practices to ensure a financial wellness program is successful?

  • Start where they are. Employees who need financial wellness programs most are probably already feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on what they have done wrong in the past or what they “should” already have accomplished, design program materials that reinforce their strengths and build from there.
  • Convenience is key. Workshops that require personal attendance can take place during the daytime, but online resources should be available for after-hours learning as well. Design online resources to be mobile-friendly so that they can be accessed by employees remotely and during lunch and coffee breaks.
  • Design programs in small chunks. Ideally, material should be presented in short, punchy segments. This makes them interruption-proof, but more importantly, easier for busy employees to absorb and implement. An incremental approach builds confidence, so employees will be more motivated to stay with the program.

What, if any, is the difference when advising women on their financial future?

Listen. Unfortunately, many women have been turned off by financial planning in general because of past experiences with advisers who were either condescending or who didn’t have their best interests at heart. One of the keys to overcoming this trust deficit is to listen. Address concerns and answer her questions before attempting to teach or instruct. She needs to understand that you are paying attention and that your advice will be designed for her personal situation.

"Women are motivated by goals and outcomes, and are put off by competitiveness and game playing."

Serve, don’t sell. Women are motivated by goals and outcomes, and are put off by competitiveness and game playing. A big advantage of financial wellness programs is that they provide unbiased information and guidance. They are not sales pitches for financial products. They exist only to help employees get the most out of their benefits and make informed financial decisions that are in their best interests.

What are some best practices for reaching female employees?

  • Make it personal. Every woman is different, so give each employee advice and guidance that’s customized for her.
  • If possible, make personal coaching from women financial planners available. Many women will respond better to financial coaching from another woman “like her.”
  • Make the emotional connection. Money is always emotional, so achieving financial wellness is about more than bank account balances and asset allocation. Often, success comes from identifying and, if necessary, dismantling long-standing money attitudes related to personal experiences or cultural upbringing.
  • Use the power of community. Although financial wellness programs are ostensibly designed to “teach,” they can be more effective and empowering when they also provide opportunities for employees to share, support, and learn from one another.