If you’ve been reading my column with any frequency, you’ve heard me proclaim time and again, “OUT with the OLD, IN with the NEW.” Well, here I go again.
In order to rectify the inequality in retirement benefits between men and women, every womanregardless of age, earning power, or marital status needs to take charge of both their current finances and their future retirement plans.
The most vital step to accomplishing this necessitates a major shift in attitude. It’s time to say OUT with the OLD societal misconception that, “women are not good at math” or “men are better money managers” and IN with the NEW understanding, backed by empirical evidence, that women are as good as men with figures and that men are no better at financial matters than women.
In her book "Money Confidence," Kerry Hannon argues that the widely held view about women and math not mixing is actually used as an excuse by many women who don’t want to concern themselves with money issues. Hannon believes this attitude is perpetuated by the 20th Century societal idea that talking about finances is somehow not lady like and inappropriate. This antiquated attitude is a sure-fire recipe for impoverishment in later life.
The author counsels women that rather than avoiding talking about money matters, they should do everything they can to be part of the planning and management of their current finances and future retirement. From Hannon’s perspective, it’s time that women move from passively riding shot gun to actively being behind the wheel and in control.
Now you may be skeptical about the above position because several national surveys report that only 9% of the people canvassed thought women were equal to men when it came to stock market investments and financial decisions. Current empirical data however suggests that women are actually better at the above. Skeptical? Then try these results on for size.
Researchers at Cal Berkeley analyzed 35,000 households and found that women outperformed men by 0.94% per year in their stock market investments. The Warwick Business School surveyed 2,456 investors and found women outperformed men by 1.2% per year. Fidelity conducted a study of more than 8 million investment accounts and concluded that women were higher earners and better savers.
Several other studies revealed that the reason why women consistently beat men at the money game was because they were far less impulsive about stock market decisions and better at seeking out advice and information before investing. As one senior financial advisor said, “They don’t let their ego get in the way of their logic.” Need I go on?
So why does society continue to support the idea that women take a second seat to men when it comes to wealth management? Perhaps because it’s because many long-standing gender roles run deep. The male breadwinner model is still the model of choice, but it belongs in the past. Additionally, the idea of reliance on male role models — fathers or husbands — for advice on financial wealth management needs to be revamped.
One major societal attitude that needs to be immediately challenged and changed concerns child rearing. Currently the majority of child rearing expenses, according to several national studies, is shouldered by the woman. It’s time that information be provided to couples that will enable them to discuss how they wish to share the impact of reduced contributions for one of the partners during maternity leave.
It might be considered a radical idea but it’s only fair that when one partner chooses to stop working to care for their child, then the other partner should contribute to the non-working partners pension to enable them to build long term security in their own right. That way the true cost of having a family is shared between that couple and does not fall primarily on the main caregiver, which is usually the woman.
I promised that this would be the final column on retirement inequity but we need to write one more in order to examine some concrete changes to promote balancing the pension scales and leveling the playing field as men and women advance Full Speed Ahead into retirement.
Allan Goldstein is a retirement coach and Long Beach resident.