Do terms like mutual funds, 401 K, IRA and SEP account give you a splitting head ache? Does the thought of retirement send you into an anxiety attack? Do you keep all your financial documents in unopened envelopes in a drawer somewhere that you promise yourself you will organize one day?
If so, you’re not alone. Especially not if you happen to be female. Although gender equality is inching along nicely on most fronts, the personal finance department is one where women seriously lag behind. And it’s not a good thing. “During my 20+ years in financial services I saw too many bad things happen to too many good women because they took a back seat to their finances,” says top tier financial adviser and corporate executive Susan Hirshman. Which is why she decided to write the comprehensive, accessible and –yes it’s true!- funny book Does This Make my Assets Look Fat?: A Woman's Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success.
As the name indicates, the book compares investing and wealth management to dieting – an experience most women can relate to. It breaks down its subject into a 3-phase personalized plan, talks about investment categories as basic food groups and uses lingo like "stepping on the financial scales". It has received an overwhelmingly positive response from both press and female readers. One of the Amazon reviewers seems almost baffled by how much she likes the book, calling it: “informative, easy to follow and actually enjoyable to read.” Just like your favorite teacher in school, Susan Hirshman understands that humor is an excellent educational tool. “Let’s face it, finance can be boring and it can be hard to keep people’s attention,” she says sagely, “People learn when they are relaxed and when they can relate to the subject matter.”
Speaking of relating, one of our favorite parts of the book is Hirshman’s painfully accurate category breakdown of irresponsible female behavior (personally, we feel that we’re a combo of all five)
Princess: Believes that someone else will take care of them.
Polly Anna – shops till she drops and still thinks it will all work out in the end.
Pauper: Believes that her financial situation is hopeless anyway, so why bother.
Procrastinator – Feels like she’s already stretched so thin and has no time to focus now.
Perfectionist - Feels that finance is too intimidating to learn, and since she thinks she won’t be good at it she avoids it altogether.
But, lest you get up in arms about gender bias, Hirshman is well aware that this isn’t just a women-only issue. “The big secret here is that it’s not just women who are passive about finances,” she says, “Men are guilty as well. It’s just that it is more socially acceptable for women to be irresponsible…so they talk about it a little more.” Well, we’re taking this as a cue to make 2011 the year when we stop yakking and start investing. Because, as they say, talk is cheap.