Most women score poorly on finances


Most women score poorly on finances. Why don't most women do something about the sorry state of their finances, such as investing more aggressively for their retirement?

Because they're sidetracked by immediate, pressing matters: taking the kids to soccer practice, ironing clothes, cooking dinner, paying bills and so forth.

"They wear too many hats," said Vivian Banta, vice chairman of Prudential Financial, speaking during a press conference last week in New York.

They're so busy with work and with their family that they procrastinate. They're overloaded, so they focus on the short-term, not the long-term.

That's why most women don't make the financial honor roll. And it's "disturbing" that they have made little progress in recent years, Banta said.

That's the conclusion of a 2006 poll that Prudential Financial took of women and their knowledge of finances.

One way that women can mend the errors of their ways is by taking financial courses, Banta continued.

(There's one from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Firefighters and Police Academy in Parsippany. Cost: $5. Call (973) 285-8302 for a reservation. The forum is sponsored by the Daily Record and Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension of Morris County.)

Some 62 percent of the women polled gave themselves a grade of C or lower in regard to knowledge of financial products and services. Only 1 percent gave themselves an A.

Exactly what do women say they don't know much about?

Stocks and bonds (44 percent); long-term-care insurance (46 percent); estate plans; trusts and wills (46 percent); mutual funds (47 percent); and annuities (59 percent).

Their lack of self-confidence may explain why most of the women polled are so passive, Banta said.

In 2004, 53 percent of those polled expected to raise their savings or invest more money during the next year. They talked a good game.

The 2006 data showed that only 11 percent invested in stocks or mutual funds for the first time and only 14 percent opened a retirement account.

In the 2004 poll, 47 percent of the women intended to make a will; in 2006, only 14 percent had done so.

One positive finding: Almost one of three report that they are more involved in financial decision-making than they were five years ago.

Not only do women earn less than men, and have less retirement money, but they live longer.

Another speaker, Lynette Khalfani, a financial author, joked that when she found out that husbands lived seven to 10 years less than their wives, she didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Many women are making the mistake of relying too much on Social Security to support them later in life, instead of having other sources of income, Khalfani went on.

Nearly 80 percent said they would depend on Social Security in their golden years -- even though the benefits are sure to be cut and the age to qualify is certain to be raised.

Some 44 percent plan to work during retirement. But their health or a lack of available jobs may prevent them. Only 13 percent of current retirees are working.

Still other women suffer from the Cinderella syndrome, thinking that Prince Charming will come along and take care of them. (The speakers referred to a book with a wonderful title, "Prince Charming Isn't Coming" by Barbara Stanny.)

Some of the poll's other findings:

• Some 43 percent said their top financial goal for the year is "getting out of debt."

• Two-thirds have not talked with their husbands about such matters as life insurance and preparing a will.

• If they won $25,000, 56 percent would use the money to pay off debt. Only 6 percent would splurge on a luxury vacation or go on a shopping spree.

• Half of the women had not discussed financial matters, such as long-term-care insurance, with their parents. Most common excuse: parents are sensitive, and "I don't know how to bring up the subject."

Prudential Financial's 2006 Study on the Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women is available at

Some 1,007 American women were questioned at the end of January. They had a 2005 household income of $50,000 or more, were between the ages of 25 and 68, and used the Internet.

Men who took the test had similar scores, a Prudential official reported.

Warren Boroson writes about money matters Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at the Daily Record. is a syndicated financial columnist, the author of over 20 books, and the winner of several prestigious prizes. He can be reached at (973) 428-6647 or He will talk about investing to local organizations at no charge.

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