gender-based advice

I’ve been thinking a little about how financial advice differs based on the target audience.  Men’s and women’s magazines, for example, have very different types of advice between their pages.  A typical financial column in a women’s magazine may be titled, “10 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Fund,” and a typical column in a men’s magazine might be called, “10 Hot Tech Funds You Need to Invest in NOW!”  Why the difference in advice?  Why do they assume women don’t know enough to have even the basics taken care of?  Why do they assume men are only out there to chase returns?

Of course, there are inherent gender differences.  And there is no reason to deny or ignore them in a column about money.  I think it’s safe to admit that women tend to be more concerned with safety of principle than men.  They will take steps to ensure their money will be there when they need it.  On the other hand, men tend to be more risky than women.  They will take steps to ensure their money grows.

But money is gender neutral.  Interest compounds at a known rate, completely blind to the gender of its owner.  And all people, regardless of gender, should have an emergency fund and be investing for the future.  Both safety and growth are necessary if the goal is to have more money later than you have now.

Advice on safety is only one small part of the advice women need.  And usually, safety is the part they already understand very well.  Likewise, few men need to be advised to take more risk with their portfolios.  It’s in our blood.  What we all need, however, is a little more balance.  Being safe is silly if you actually lose ground to inflation.  And being risky is equally as silly, if you lose your principle to dreams of wealth.

So when you come across a guru wanting to tell you what to do with your money, pay special attention to what isn’t being said.  It may be the advice you need the most.

This column originally appeared in the October 24, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

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