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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Investment Anxiety Spurs Bag-Lady Fears by Gail MarksJarvis

Can it be that smart, capable women are so worried about investing and planning for their future that they actually think they will end up living retirement as bag ladies?

A recent survey suggests that a substantial number of successful women are thinking that way. Harris Interactive recently sampled attitudes from about 1,925 women in its database. The sample involved women who have responded to previous polls, not women randomly plucked from the U.S. population, so I cannot tell you if the survey reflects the nation's women as a whole. But the findings are startling.

About 46 percent of the women surveyed said they worry about losing all their money and becoming bag ladies. And high incomes apparently are no cure. Among women with incomes over $100,000, 48 percent imagined themselves digging through the garbage, or whatever else bag ladies do.

The research was done for Allianz Life Insurance Co., so of course you can read an agenda into this. But the findings mesh with what I have been hearing from financial planners and investment managers for years. The planners tell me that even women with millions worry about money and live in fear of running out of it. Even when the professionals lay out the facts in dollars and cents, some of these women are afraid to relax. If you have thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them.

According to the Harris researchers, only 10 percent of women said they feel extremely secure about their finances. And 54 percent of women surveyed who said they "are always struggling to make ends meet" said they were "hoping that Prince Charming will make everything OK."

Harris also surveyed 1,258 men and found significantly different responses.

Women were almost twice as likely as the men to worry about money and doubt their abilities to invest and plan for the future. Of course, that did not include all women. About 20 percent described themselves as "Wonder Women" "capable of handling whatever comes their way."

Still, 62 percent said they were so confused or unknowledgeable about investing that they deferred decisions to others, procrastinated or stayed away from financial planning and investing. About 57 percent said they wished they had learned about money and finance in school.

The women want financial security, rating it 15 to 20 times more important to them than money-related status or respect.

Among those surveyed, white women were the most nervous; Hispanic women and African-American women were more confident.

When questioned about their approach to investing and handling money, 40 percent of Hispanic women and 32 percent of African-American women described themselves as "analytical." But only 24 percent of white women displayed that confidence. On the other end of the spectrum, 24 percent of white women described themselves as "pessimistic" about handling money, while less than 4 percent of Hispanic and African-American women were that skeptical of their ability.

Allianz said that by 2010, women are expected to control 60 percent of the wealth in the nation. But while many women consider themselves perceptive and intuitive in other aspects of their life, they lacked that confidence when it came to money.

For example, 51 percent said they considered themselves "perceptive" in some matters, but only 13 percent felt that way about money. Among the men surveyed, significantly more had confidence about handling money. About 40 percent described themselves as "analytical" about investing and financial matters, and only 23 percent said they worried.

Meanwhile, very few parents are doing much to put the next generation of women on a better footing. Only 18 percent of the women surveyed said they had "spent a lot of time teaching my daughter or daughters to be financially independent." And only 4 percent of fathers had tried to help their daughter understand how to plan for their futures or invest money.

Gail MarksJarvis can be reached at This article was published by the Chicago Tribune.

Gail MarksJarvis

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

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