Five Ways Women Sabotage Their Financial FuturesWhat good will it be for a woman if she saves the whole world, yet forfeits her financial future?

While both men and women can make a variety of costly financial blunders, many women seem to be plagued with a gender-specific set of tendencies that sabotages their relationship with money.

"I call it the Statue of Liberty or Mother Theresa syndrome. Women want to save the world," explains Lynn Ballou, a certified financial planner with Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors. "I think women are just hard-wired that way."

For example, despite the broad economic gains women have made in recent years, they still lag in saving for retirement, according to the sixth annual Retirement Survey from Wells Fargo & Company. Although both men and women are underfunded for retirement, of those surveyed, women had saved less than men -- a median of $20,000, compared to $25,000 for men, the survey showed. Women also set their sights lower than men: Whether married or single, when asked how much they thought they would require in savings to support them during retirement, women said they were aiming for a median of $200,000, whereas men predicted they would need retirement savings of $400,000.

Those statistics are troubling because if longevity is a race, women are usually the winners, says Mitchell Kauffman, a certified financial planner with Kauffman Wealth Services. The average woman lives 80.2 years, vs. just 74.5 years for men. Wives live 8 to 10 years longer than their husbands if they are married when they're the same age. And more than 75% of women will eventually be widows. Given those odds, it's abundantly clear, says Kauffman: "Women must take hold of their financial futures."

But to do so, many of them will need to make some changes in their heads and hearts.

Learn to Just Say No

A bleeding heart can be murder on a budget -- especially when it comes to our offspring.

"We women are more willing to support adult children, even if we can't afford it," says Marilyn Capelli Dimitroff, a certified financial with Capelli Financial Services. " We provide help when 'children' run into difficulties, like losing a job, get divorced or need a new car. We bail them out, even when the problem is of their own making."

"It's hard for women to sympathize with their children and not offer financial help," she adds. "I've had women clients literally impoverish themselves to help adult children who have not taken responsibility for their own actions."

Likewise, says Kauffman, a woman will often fund her children's education before her own retirement, or loan money to relatives that may never be repaid. But making the needs of everyone else a higher priority than your own is a mistake.

"Pay yourself first," he says. "I tell clients if they have ever flown, they have heard the flight attendant remind them to put the life vest and oxygen mask on themselves first, even before they help family members."

Face Your Fear and Fight Procrastination

"One of the most common pitfalls I see with women is their choice to do nothing at all," says Christine Nigro, president of AXA Advisors. Some don't have the confidence to take on financial matters, others leave it to their significant others and some, like the 36% of married women surveyed by Prudential in 2008 who said "the immediate needs of my family/my children take priority". Nearly 40% of single women agreed with the statement: "I just don't want to spend the effort." Among those within five years of retirement, 34% said, "I'm afraid to make the wrong decision, so I tend to avoid thinking about it."

Also, 72% admitted to procrastinating about financial decisions. "Women are busy, raising children, working, taking care of aging parents," says Theresa Harezlak, a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management. "I hear many women say they will start paying attention to their financial life some time later. The problem is, the time doesn't happen."

Some studies have suggested that stereotyping and cultural imprinting may also play a role in women's reluctance to take action to secure their financial futures, says Mary Quist Newins, a certified financial planner and professor at The American College, which offers financial education for securities, banking and insurance professionals. She points to a 1997 Dreyfus Gender Investment Comparison Survey that found that "parents encourage their sons to start earning money at a far younger age (13) than girls (16-18), and twice as many boys are encouraged by their parents to save their money."

Like anything else, managing personal finances is a learned skill and must be practiced, says Nigro. "Ask questions. Get as much information as possible, and keep asking until all your questions are answered. Don't ever feel you are bothering your financial professional with too many questions. It's their job to answer them." Knowledge will bring confidence and action.

Secondly, get comfortable with change. "Money is not a person, you cannot hurt its feelings," says Nigro. "If you don't like what your investments are doing, change them -- but don't be too hasty. Evaluate your investment strategy by taking another look at your current situation, future goals and appetite for risk."

"Procrastination is not a strategy," she adds. "Your money will not take care of itself."

Falling Into the Style Trap

"Materialism is at an all time high. I've interviewed women of all ages who say they'll purchase the 'in' item, be it a designer bag or jacket, despite that it's not affordable," says Susan Shapiro Barash, a gender expert and author of You're Grounded Forever ... But First, Let's Go Shopping. Some only go for the best, be it in travel, dining or even the gym.

"Money is power, and some women covet this since our society emphasizes financial status. It is part of how we define ourselves, those with money have clout," she says. "We are very influenced by the media and by celebrities to purchase stylish clothes and accessories. Women are motivated to be stylish, to express themselves through their appearance."

That message is handed down to their daughters, who by grade school also want the "in" pair of sneakers. By high school, mothers say they could go broke at the mall with their daughters, notes Shapiro Barash.

Take the Emotions Out of Your Finances

Women are emotional beings, and when feelings are left unchecked in the financial realm, the results can be disastrous.

"Emotional money decisions are almost always bad money decisions," says Deana Arnett, a certified financial planner with Financial Planning Services. "Whether the emotion is fear, greed, jealousy, anxiety, happiness, it can cause women to make imprudent money decisions."
When emotions rule, it's easy to justify all sorts of things. "I deserve to take this expensive vacation. So what if I have to put it on a credit card," says Arnett.

"You can't spend money to compensate for emotional needs," says Kauffman. Retail therapy is no substitute for dealing head-on with whatever the real issue is. "Create ways to get through difficult times that don't require spending money," he says.

Money also can't buy you love. Resist the urge to express your love by lavishing expensive gifts on the kids -- especially to ease guilt after divorce. Likewise, don't ply boyfriends and husbands with pricey presents. Girls in shopping overdrive can bust even the best-planned budgets.

Also, while you may want to be a "helpmate," joint accounts and giving a partner an authorized user credit card are no-nos, warns Tracy Becker, president of North Shore Advisory, a credit restoration company. And co-signing for a car "is a kiss of death," financially speaking. "I've seen many women ruin their credit because they were helping a partner," says Becker.

Money isn't just about money.

"How we relate to money is a statement about our inner emotional world, like overeating, depression, and drinking to excess," says Pegi Burdick, The Financial Whisperer. "Staying on a budget is impossible for any length of time because it does not address the root of the problem. You cannot fix something from the outside in that needs to be from the inside out."

"The surefire way to take emotions out of the money dance is to dig deep and see where the original damage of their childhood happened," she explains.

Believe in Yourself and Move Forward

"Women are smart. They need to trust themselves and their ability to manage their financial life," says Harezlak.

Sometimes, it's about patience.

"I have been working with a divorced woman who cried at every meeting over the course of the first year," recounts Constance Stone, president of Stepping Stone Financial. "Her former husband was a CPA who handled all family finances, investing and tax preparation. My client was totally at a loss when trying to understand her finances and felt frustrated by her lack of knowledge."

After about 18 months of working together, she stood up one day and gave the touchdown sign with her arms. She exclaimed to her husband (who was not present) "I don't need you anymore to handle this!" Says Stone: "It was very rewarding to see how confident she had become over time. At one point, she lost her job and was again distraught. She began consulting while job-hunting. She now earns much more than she did while employed and is socking away a substantial part of her earnings through an individual 401(k) plan. She feels confident about her financial security."

Experts like Hilary Kramer of GameChangersStocks believe women can be better than men in the investing arena.

Women need to trust their instincts because their instincts are good, says Kent Thune, who blogs on Change who's on top of the priority list.

"Force yourself to save for retirement and to educate yourself. Teach your daughters the same," advises Shapiro Barish.
Women hold more than half of high-paying management and professional positions in the U.S., and three women are in college now for every two men. With all the gains they've made in other arenas, there's no reason women can't conquer the money management game too.

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My mom is one of these women who neglects her financial needs. It is sad that she does not even take time to think about it. She lives day by day finding ways to support her children,but it is never about her. I think most mothers have this bad mentality, because they "baby" their children until they get old. For example I have an aunt who has two sons who live in far from her and they are always getting into trouble by the police. By the way her sons are in their early thirties. So my aunt is always avaliable for them to call for help. This is the problem some mothers don't know how to put their foot down and say no. Their are also different cases of why woman are in so much financial stress, it is because they also supporting their family and boyfriend/ husband, so they are viewed as the head of household. No one else in the family will help them in the family, poor women. These type of women can have a better life if they have ways of organizing their life wisely without being taken advantage of. If these women had full control of their lives dividing their relationships & family, balencing money, and themselves their life would go more smoothly.

July 28 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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May 29 2011 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I divorced in 1980. No alimony. "just take care of the kids". I eventually had put into three pensions funds. Two hospitals, and SS. One hospital, went bankrupt, the other hospital was shut down by the goverment, for playing with Medicaid and medicare. And all I have is SS.
I really didn't know much about the whole thing back then. So I helped the kids he disappeared from them. This article should be sent to every woman in America. I am now forced lif=ve with a son, and pay half a mortgage, my other children don't help my son with the extras I need, they have distance themselves from us completely. Ladies as the article says,PUT YOUR MONEY AWAY!! FOR YOURSELF!

March 13 2011 at 5:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't see my ex in that article. She thought money grew on trees and she was in the middle of a forest. She saw stars in every fly by night scam that came along. In the 16 years we were together she worked off and on at various jobs that might have totaled a year and a half. Her paycheck was hers, my paycheck was ours, but I wasn't allowed to buy anything without her approval or she went bananas. I made out like a bandit when she left and she only got half my pension.

March 13 2011 at 3:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What the article neglects to address is how many, many women have been displaced in this robber baron corporate economy. Women in their fifties were disproportionately the easiest targets when it came to layoffs, kinda giving new meaning to the term pink slipped. These fifty something women have slim to no chance of reestablishing their former status (Not that they couldn't, but they don't get hired over young and eager in an ageist, sexist world). These women were depending on another decade of income to nest their retirement eggs after child rearing through college was expedited. Even before being decimated by this latest economic debacle, women endured the yoke of a glass ceiling and suppressed wages.

March 13 2011 at 12:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What do you have to say about the husband sabotageing the money matters? My husband brings home some times less than $1,000 a mo. and he thinks that he's contributing to the house hold, out of that money I only get $200.00 toward the mortgage, I have to pay EVERY thing eles, I even have to pay for his life insur, and his medication and doctor bills, and then he has the NERVE to say something to me when I buy my self some thing, plus he's a none stop eater, like a teenager he's hollow, so my food bill is enormouse. I'd save more than $400.00 a mo if he'd just leave. I'm the saver, he's the spender.

March 12 2011 at 11:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Well, I'm a woman and I had good advice from a woman who was a CPA. I listened to her and it started to accumulate (SR401). Then again, I do not buy fancy cars, or fancy clothes or jewelry or drink alcohol. Just the savings from that alone will get you ahead of the game. Recent advice on the web was to make sure your financial advisor was a woman. Another thing, don't let men control your money. For that matter, don't let anyone else control your money. Trust yourself. Steady accumulation is better than going for broke.

March 12 2011 at 9:46 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Elizabeth's comment

Elizabeth wrote: I do not buy . . . fancy clothes . . .

Perhaps you should share your comment with vlady's wife.

March 13 2011 at 1:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, viady1000. One reason for writing your kids a check is because whatever money you give them now, they won't have to pay taxes on when they inherit. Or did you plan on taking it with you?

March 12 2011 at 9:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Elizabeth's comment

Elizabeth: your reply to vlady demonstrates something akin to obtuseness, ignorance, or spite. Your comment is totally irrelevant to what he wrote.

March 13 2011 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Women want to save the world. Well, that's why we should be having Matriarcal governments. With men doing everything they can to destroy the world, we should not let them be in charge of anything. I'm sure women will take care of anyone who spent their money helping others. Trust women, they care about the world. Somebody has to.

March 12 2011 at 9:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Elizabeth's comment

Hey Elizabeth, GROW UP! Either people take everything out on the president and government or take it out on other races and genders. You have done your job well and let everyone know that you are a p**sy loving dyke by now, so go somewhere else and take out your hatred on men. No one wants to hear it here. Im not a female hater by any means, but you have to admit that men played a major part in building this country and have done a lot of good for this world and humankind as well as women. Its people like you that keep the hatred stirring in this world.

March 12 2011 at 10:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I know where every penny of mine goes and it certainly isn't towards an $800 pocketbook. I am amazed how many "material girls" there are. Most of them think that men are sugar daddies. It's so disgusting.

March 12 2011 at 9:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply