Not Oprah’s Book Club: Get Financially Naked

Did you know that 80% of men die married while 80% of women die single?

This isn’t to depress anyone, and no, I’m not going to follow this up with some bogus stat about how it’s harder for a woman in New York City to find a partner than it is to find a unicorn on the Great Lawn. The fear mongers have been there, done that. What I am going to tell you is that it’s critical that you understand your finances and start making informed choices about them. Not because you’ll potentially be alone, sadsadsniffsniff, but because you’ll potentially be alone, and think of all the incredible adventures you could have!
That’s where this new book, by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, comes in. It’s called Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with your Honey. While the cover and some of the language inside is regrettably hetero, it really can apply to any kind of relationship.
Thakor and Kedar take you through some new agey visualization and some nitty gritty education to help you get to “financial strength,” as they put it. They emphasize that partners so often talk about shared values in almost all ways, except for where it comes up with money, and that’s the unspoken conversation that ends up biting them in the ass later. They argue: “The bottom line is that financial compatibility is as important as emotional and physical compatibility when it comes to the success of a serious, committed relationship.” (They even have a financial compatibility quiz. Fun times.)
So get naked, people. As if you needed another good reason.

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22 Comments

  1. Jenga
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “Did you know that 80% of men die married while 80% of women die single?”
    Wouldn’t that very likely have something to do with life expectancy? ie: The husband would die first, as on average a man has a lower life expectancy? Or was that part of the implication and that it means that women should know how to handle the finances because regards of how work was split up in the marriage, it all (on average) falls to the women to take care of once she’s widowed?
    Either way this book sounds somewhat useful, nice call.

  2. ScottRock
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I think both are true. Grandpas tend to die before grandmas. The latter’s also a discussion that’s been heretofore neglected–how finances are split in a marriage, regardless of how “equal” the partners strive to be.

  3. ShareseL
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I think that it is part of the implication. The stat is not to say that women are single more than men but rather referring to the life expectancy. Therefore, you should talk frankly with your partner and fully understand what happens to money when a spouse dies.
    At least that is what I hope that stat is trying to say.

  4. Athenia
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    “Not because you’ll potentially be alone, sadsadsniffsniff, but because you’ll potentially be alone, and think of all the incredible adventures you could have!”
    BEST.LINE.EVER!

  5. KBZ
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    If I can recommend another book — Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” has been supremely helpful in my husband and me getting our finances under control. It was among the best $25 I’ve ever spent (I think he’s having a holiday sale on his website — you can get the book for $10).
    His philosophy is simple — almost to the point of being simplistic — but it works. No debt, and payoff any existing debts as fast as you can. Live on less than you make. Buy in cash. Budget every dollar before you make it (give every dollar a place). Give a lot. Save a lot.
    I will forewarn, however — Ramsey is no progressive. His writings are tinged with Christian overtones, and are entirely heterocentric. Many of his classes are taught in churches, and he often calls his financial counseling a “ministry”. He doesn’t evangelize (that I’ve heard), but he isn’t shy about his faith either. If that would bother you to the point of distraction, I’d skip it.
    However, if you can tolerate the Christian overtones, I cannot recommend the program highly enough. The financial philosophies he espouses, and the program he recommends for fixing financial problems have completely changed our financial outlook. And, depite the Christian overtones and heterocentrism — the principles would work for anyone.
    I’ll have to give the “Financially naked” book a look. I’m always looking to learn more with regard to this subject.
    kbz

  6. agreenballoon
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    As much as I appreciate solid financial advice, I have to say I’m beginning to think of the “financial guidance” industry the same way I think about the weight loss industry.
    Everyone is claiming to have a “solution” to the problem of burgeoning debt and financial instability, when the real problem seems to be predatory institutions and the wholesale misconduct of lending institutions.
    My partner and I are married, and we both have student loan debt up to our eyeballs. We’re fortunate enough to be employed (though I’m only working part-time) and in good standing on our loan repayments most of the time. We budget, but the barest necessities often result in a negative number.
    I’m beginning to subscribe to more of a “debt acceptance” philosophy, where I accept that I have mounds of debt, steadily accruing interest that makes it increasingly difficult to deal with. I try to pay on time and stay above water, but I don’t really have the privilege of a safety net right now. Rather than spend $20 on a book that will just make me feel insecure, I’d rather spend it on a treat for myself (preferably a purchase from a company whose ethics I support) to reaffirm that it’s the system, not me, that’s the problem.
    If they really want to come and claim my thrift store wardrobe and evict me from my one-bedroom-serving-two-people apartment or garnish my minimum wage salary, so be it. I feel like I’d rather admit defeat to a corrupt and unjust system than try and work within its limits.
    I understand that this book is about couples, and women, planning for their own futures, where some often don’t have the same access to financial education as the wealthy, or men. For that very reason, I’d rather read a book about resisting a capitalist system that too often manifests in the oppression of women, people of color, and poor people.

  7. katemoore
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I don’t appreciate the mocking. Potentially being alone is something REALLY FUCKING SCARY. Most people in this boat don’t get to have adventures. They usually end up sitting in their rooms by themselves, trying to make sixteen hours pass somehow.
    So this is not something that should be dismissed with a cutesy “sadsadsniffsniff.” Unless you don’t have empathy. Tear tear.

  8. nobody
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    80% of men die married and 80% of women die single?
    How on earth are these statistics possible…

  9. KBZ
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    If a man dies married, his widow will be far more likely to die single.
    kbz

  10. Jenga
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Very simple, read my first comment.

  11. JessWin
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Looks like Courtney was responding to that particular hetero meme that involves women’s self-worth being attached to having a man. In discourses about women and money, it’s not incomprehensible to cover that base. No, it doesn’t cover every woman’s experience of being alone, but it’s not trying to – it’s only one construction addressing another. There’s room to talk about other experiences.

  12. Comrade Kevin
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    When I wrote some weeks ago that I had heard from other women in my immediate orbit that DC was not especially kind to single women, I could only go on what had been told me. The problem is when perception becomes reinforcing. And this goes also for the perception that women derive their self-worth
    Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between fear mongering or fact, particularly when one has to rely on second-hand information. But the pursuit of a decent relationship partner is certainly something with which we all struggle, and dating of any sort puts us out of our comfort zone. As for finances and discussion of our own perception of value, I think removing gender from the equation altogether might do us best.

  13. FrumiousB
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Not all debt is equal. Debt from education is not the same as debt from buying more house than you can afford or debt from living beyond your means via credit cards and home equity loans.
    I agree that some types of education can be seen as a false bill of goods in the same way that a mortgage can be. I’m always astounded at liberal arts PhDs who can’t believe they are in so much debt and make so little with a PhD !!11!1! On the one hand, did you not know that liberal arts majors make squat and have to pay for grad school on their own (ie, not with a research assistantship as natural sciences majors get). On the other hand, academic departments sell the PhD idea as though there is no other option that any reasonable person could consider. Really, a reasonable person might consider that the pay increase they will get by having a PhD will be eaten up by the increased debt over the course of their lifetime. In that sense, education can, sometimes, be bad debt. Most of the time, however it is an investment which simply can’t be compared to going into debt by living on a credit card and paying only the minimum every month, or by buying a house that is above your ability to pay. Whether a person got into the above situations by lack of planning, by lack of money, or credit made easy, the debt is still bad, and learning how to get out of it, if possible, is still good.
    And it is possible for a person to dig themselves out of debt and learn to avoid future debt while also agitating against easy credit. It’s not an either-or proposition.

  14. Honeybee
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s clear the stat is all about life expectancy. I certainly didn’t read anything more then that into the stat of the post.

  15. jellyleelips
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    That depends on what school you go to. I’m getting a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies with a full tuition waiver and a teaching assistanceship with stipend. Of course, my program is highly competitive and hella rich. I don’t know if that’s the case with other liberal artsy fartsy majors, where only the super rich competitive programs can fund their students, but such programs do exist.

  16. filiasilvae
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with katemoore. When I first read Courtney’s post, I didn’t even notice that particular mocking jab, but now that I have, I’m horrified. That was insensitive and uncalled for.
    Age has everything to do with the statistics given. Somehow I doubt that most 70 year old women who lose their spouses and have money tucked away are thinking about all the great adventures upon which they can embark without those cumbersome men holding them back. If a lesbian woman lost her partner after, say, 40 years, would you tell her ‘good riddance’ and invite her on a world tour? Sure, many of these women may have been in bad relationships and may even welcome the relief, especially if they have other loved ones to support them – but others are simply going to miss their partners. Many are, like katemoore said, going to wonder how to get through their day without that familiar voice – knowing they will never hear it again. It’s not because they’re women and need male support to survive – it’s because they were human beings in relationships. When that connection is severed, it hurts like hell.
    I’m sure missed ‘adventures’ are also far from the minds of most elderly women who don’t have money. Most are probably worrying a lot more about spending their last, lonely days on earth on the street without medical care than the lost opportunity to go backpacking in the Alps. If they’re lucky, a child might give them a spare room to live in or pay for a nursing home, but has anyone ever considered the trauma of these massive, sudden changes at the end of one’s life? Living alone for the first time is hard enough when you’re 18 – when you’re at the other end of your life and have much less time to look forward to, coming out of those emotional setbacks is a lot harder. This is absolutely not about women who ‘need a man’ to survive when they’re in their 20s and 30s and have time to make something of themselves. This is about the sudden upheaval of decades of already established life. I agree that women need to take charge of their finances and prepare for their own futures, but could we have a lot less flippancy? I don’t buy the idea that anyone, male or female, should be expected to go through life indifferent to relationships (be they romantic or otherwise). When did being an independent woman who takes care of her own financial future mean *not being sad about the loss of her life partner*?
    If there’s such a thing as ‘emotional privilege’ I am here to point it out – people who don’t ‘need’ their spouses generally have friends and family around to support them in case that relationship fails. But not everyone has that network. Some romantic relationships do take on primary importance in a person’s life and can be devastating if lost, because there aren’t that many people around to care about the survivor. And that’s not always the survivor’s fault. Courtney, your post reads as though you’ve never considered the idea that women who are devastated to lose their spouses may have toxic family and unreliable friends. Surely you don’t blame those women for being unable to spread their support networks wider – it’s not always that easy.

  17. JessWin
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, there’s room to talk about other experiences. Courtney wasn’t being flippant about being alone in the sense katemoore is describing. Remember that this conversation is about women who pass while they’re single – includes widows, but not completely.
    Plus, like I said before, it’s possible that the mocking jab you describe is directed at the sexist belief that women are worthless without a partner. That definitely exists in discourses about women and money. There are multiple readings, I’m sure. One experience of being alone or single doesn’t preclude the existence of others.

  18. Courtney
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t attempting to mock women who are single. I was attempting to take on the stereotype that women who are alone (particularly if they are older) are cat food eating, miserable spinsters rather than, as is so often the case, adventurous, happy, spirited human beings who happened to, yes, live alone.

  19. dondo.myopenid.com
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I endorse the idea of fiscal literacy; being able to deal competently with numbers is a basic part of being a functional, critical thinker. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender, but if the idea of being alone is what it takes to make people take stock of their money, more power to you.
    However, the lede here is… well, not trustworthy. Any unsourced statistic is suspect, and a truly startling unsourced statistic doubly so. This one appears to be simply hooey. Per the census bureau only 52.2% of the male population in the US is married in the first place (http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ACSSAFFFacts); there’s no conceivable pattern which allows 80% of a population to die married when only 50% is married in the first place.
    Courtney, you should probably check your source and correct your headline. The faux statistic undermines your thesis.

  20. KBZ
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Not that I necessarily believe the statistic is fully accurate … but it is possible for 50% of the male population to be married at a particular time, and 80% to be married at death. Simply stated, some of the unmarried 50% would have to be married before they die (i.e. if 60% of the currently unmarried get married before they die, then there you go).
    If men are more likely to be married as they get older, it is logical to assume that they a male approaching the end of his life expectancy is more likely to be married than a male randomly drawn from the overall population.
    kbz

  21. dondo.myopenid.com
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. Fair point, KBZ. …and lookie here, looks like I owe Courtney an apology. Thanks for prodding me! Not sure why I couldn’t find this data in my first search.
    The remainder of this post is purely because I’m an unapologetic geek at heart:
    The numbers are a little startling. I’m not sure the reality that women are likely to die alone …at age 85… …after 30-40 years of marriage… will convince many young women that they should learn about finance. The simple reality that they should be prepared to be alone well into their thirties, however, might.

    %male %fem %mortality
    alone alone
    15-19: 98.4% 97.5%
    20-24: 84.7% 75.1%
    25-29: 56.8% 45.6%
    30-34: 37.0% 31.9%
    35-39: 31.5% 28.8% 1%
    40-49: 29.4% 29.9% 2%
    50-59: 26.3% 32.7% 4%
    60-69: 22.0% 37.3% 9%
    70+ : 28.3% 63.7%
    75-84: 22%
    85+ : 56%

    Notes:
    1. “alone” = sum of %never married, %currently divorced, and %currently widowed.
    2. The remaining 6% mortality is essentially all infant mortality; the gap at ’70+’ is because the data sources don’t use the same age ranges.
    So more than half of all deaths in 2006 were people — presumably women — over the age of 85, and fully 78% of all deaths were adults over the age of 75. Fascinating.
    http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/marr-div/2004detailed_tables.html
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality/gmwk23r.htm

  22. Posted December 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow, thanks to all for the lively discussion. As the co-author of GET FINANCIALLY NAKED, I wanted to share some background on that 80%/80% stat & thoughts about the book in general…
    My coauthor & I originally came across this stat back in 2000-ish in a WISER piece (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement). Since then, we’ve struggled to find meaty hardcore data to replicate this analysis across various populations. However, we have been routinely looking at the obituaries across the country. Depending upon the data set you use, the numbers may be 70%/70% or 68%/78%… but what comes across crystal clear is that more women than men die alone. Why? Well, it appears to be a combination of both women’s longer life expectancy and the higher propensity of men who divorce in mid-life to remarry (and to remarry younger women). Our point with this statistic is simply to highlight that on one end or the other of your lifespan, as a woman, you will likely be in sole control of your finances – and the earlier you learn solid personal finance skills, the better. If I could highlight the pieces of the book that I personally as a feminist feel most strongly about they would be…
    (1) FINANCIAL HEADWINDS: On average women still earn less than men & spend more years out of the paid work force caring for children and parents without adequate remuneration. Given these headwinds [which make my blood boil...] it’s extra important for us to pay attention to our money.
    (2) BUCK THE TREND: Given these headwinds, the earlier in our lives that we women buck the trend and talk openly and honestly about money with our partners, the better off we will all be. Money is a huge source of stress for virtually everyone, so the main point of the book is a broad call to action to discuss it boldly in the one place society still does not actively encouraged us to have the conversation – in our primary relationship. [Note: Totally agree with Courtney on the "regrettably hetero" focus - we tried our darndest to make the book as inclusive as possible within the context of the modern publishing world. Wherever we could, we use the word partner, and our comments in the book are intended to resonate for ALL relationships.]
    (3) SIMPLE IS GOOD: There are enormous similarities between the “financial guru” world and the “weight loss” world. If you want to get in better financial shape you need to earn more and/or spend less. If you want to get in better physical shape you need to eat less and/or exercise more. It’s that straight forward. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s EASY, but what needs to be done is CLEAR. Any “guru” who tries to make it more complicated than that, skepticism is absolutely in order. Said slightly differently, the right financial advice is out there, the key is how do we as humans encourage ourselves to act on it. That’s why in the book we have various exercises designed to highlight the upside of living your life from a position of financial strength.
    Two last points:
    * Dave Ramsey’s book THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER is phenomenal. Highly recommend it. If you are struggling with credit card debt Jean Chatzky’s PAY IT DOWN is a great resource. If you are trying to live a financially simpler life, I strongly recommend YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE by Joe Dominquez & Vicki Robin. If you want to learn more about money and relationships, I’d recommend FINANCIAL INTIMACY by Jacquette Timmons and THE SECRET CURRENCY OF LOVE edited by Hilary Black.
    * As a staunch feminist, it warms my heart to see such a spirited dialogue here about money & I’d like to thank Courtney, who is such a gifted writer, thought-leader, and inspiration to all women for putting up this review!

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