No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men prefer to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1892
These words were uttered by one of America's most prominent women's rights leaders 110 years ago. Yet they are as appropriate in 2002 as they were during the late 19th century. For a variety of reasons, some women have not had experience making financial and/or investment decisions. For men and women alike, financial knowledge and economic self-sufficiency are important life skills to develop.
Lack of financial savvy can put women (and men) at a substantial disadvantage. Statistics tell us that it is only a matter of time before most (85% to 90%) women will be on their own financially. Some will never marry, some will see their marriages end in divorce, and many will outlive their husbands.
Increasingly, financial institutions, such as banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies are recognizing that women have unique financial needs for the following reasons:
They live longer, on average than men, so their money has to last longer.
They earn less, on average, than men do.
They may have gaps in their employment history, due to child rearing and/or care of elderly parents, that will impact future retirement benefits.
They are impacted more severely than most men are by events like widowhood and divorce.
Some women rely on a spouse for income and are at risk for becoming a "displaced homemaker" if the relationship ends (e.g., death and divorce).
Some women lack financial experience because they were taught "the man is supposed to handle the money."
Rutgers Cooperative Extension has a number of programs and services to help women (and men) gain the knowledge and skills needed to make sound financial decisions. Available services include classes and speaking engagements, fact sheets, personal financial consultations, newspaper articles, computerized debt reduction analyses, and newsletters. Increasingly, Rutgers Cooperative Extension information can also be found on the Internet. Available Web resources include the following sites:
Simply reading printed material or attending a seminar will not change anyone's financial situation, however. You need to take action (e.g., starting an IRA) to achieve your financial goals. A more contemporary twist on Ms. Stanton's quote is "If it is to be, it is up to me." Today is the first day of the rest of your financial life. Make the most of it.