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Sound money management is no different for women, men

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Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

“Money management tips for every woman” is how the email heralded a new book.

But why every woman? Men have to play, too.

There is no call for gender prejudice when it comes to managing money. Money is unisex.

Wash your mouth if you're about to say “everybody knows” men spend too much on sports and guns while women throw it away on clothes and hairdos. Or men have a “better head” for stocks and bonds while it takes a woman to cook a meatloaf.

That sort of stereotyping justifies too many businessmen in not talking to their wives about finances until it's too late. Even though in many homes it's the Mrs. who's better at balancing the checkbook.

Both sexes have a lot to learn about money management in this era of longer life expectancies and a government that spends like there are no grandchildren. Old age security looks shakier. People crave more financial cushion in retirement — if retirement's even possible. So here's some advice not gender-specific: Save.

Save something.

Save before you take it home.

After putting away 5 percent or 10 percent, you'll learn not even to consider it part of your income for spending. And it doesn't really matter that much where it's put away.

In stocks or mutual funds, fine; 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) better yet, for the tax advantages.

In insured bank savings, better than nothing, for the ready cash and despite skimpy interest yields. Blame the government's wild spending for that. The Federal Reserve holds interest rates near zero so as not to bust the U.S. Treasury with service charges on the national debt.

The result, though, is that the government discourages thrift, a traditional middle-class strength, nudging people to spend every cent by various forms of stimulus. Inflation lurks down the road for that sin.

Still, managing your money better than Uncle Sam does dictates saving something.

A survey by Larsson Research & Strategy, an Oregon advisory firm, finds nearly half of women fear they'll end up broke in their golden years. Some even foresee homelessness. Yet 54 percent feel not truly welcomed by a financial industry they find “male-oriented.”

The recent recession prodded women to get more involved in saving and investing strategies, the survey found. Nevertheless, financial savvy remains a minority taste. “Only 20 percent of all women have it,” says Luna Jaffe, author of “Wild Money: A Creative Journey to Financial Wisdom.”

She offers tips for women worried how far their money will or won't go:

• Start small. Mastering the little things boosts confidence. If burdened by debt, write down exactly where you are right now, noting each credit account and its interest rate. Once you know where you stand, you can begin paying the monster down.

• Do something every day to tend to your finances; even if it's just five minutes checking on accounts, organizing paperwork.

• Speak up. There are no “dumb” questions to put to bankers, accountants, financial advisers. In fact, they tend to respect clients with the gumption to doubt and question, male or female.

Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist of Trib Total Media. Email

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