Men and women look at money, think about money and treat money, differently. Women don't like to talk about money and the issues surrounding it. They think about money in broad terms of what it can do for them and their family. Men look at money more narrowly. They see it as having worth all on its own, something tangible that should be corralled, cornered and even horded for its own sake.
That's the basic synopsis that Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr offer up about why women have different needs regarding money and why, in part, they started WIFE.org more than 20 years ago. WIFE, which stands for Women's Institute for Financial Education, is today the oldest non-profit organization that provides financial education to women.
"It's true that money is money, but women look at money differently. Women look at money holistically," Wall says. "For women, money revolves around security."
"Men want to be rich. Women are interested in what money can do for them and their family," adds Bahr.
During the last major stock market crisis in the late 1980s, both women, who live in San Diego and work as financial consultants, began seeing a trend in a short amount of time among some women. They were coming to Bahr's and Wall's offices, either newly divorced or widowed, seeking help in understanding their newly independent financial status. Married women, the two noticed, would always defer to their husbands when questioned about their money.
"The stock market crash was like a wake-up call to some women," Bahr says.
When the two consultants began searching for information to help these women, they were surprised, and alarmed, to find a dearth of data. That lead them to begin a series of seminars to help women understand money issues and from there WIFE was born. In the early 1990s they launched their Web site, wife.org, which has become so well known nationally that the Visa corporation recently awarded it a grant to help underwrite some of its services.
The Web site is designed to make money and finances more approachable and less intimidating for women. At this time of year, for instance, there's an entire section of the site devoted to taxes, including what to do with a refund, tax tips and information on Roth IRAs.
Some articles address basic financial topics, such as Finance 101 for Graduates. Others tackle more sophisticated issues, such as things to avoid to hurt your credit rating and how to improve your credit rating.
Despite the gains women have made in the workplace and at home in the last 30 years, the two women say, the financial arena remains a difficult hurdle for many women.
"It's not because of women's capacity to learn or their experience. It's women's confidence and discomfort regarding money," Bahr says.
Even married women whose husbands are financially savvy and handle the home budget should be more involved with monetary decision-making. After all, they say, chances are you could end up divorced or widowed one day.
That's why one of their favorite sayings is, "A man is not a financial plan."