Guest Post: Gender Neutral Financial Security

This is a guest post from Kimberly Palmer, author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back, and personal finance columnist at US News & World Report.

When I first set out to write a personal finance book, I thought it would be for women. After all, I’ve always love writing about feminism, and I planned to incorporate that passion into my full-time job as a personal finance columnist for US News & World Report.

As I started my research, though, something didn’t seem quite right. There were tons of pink-covered books on the market aimed at women, much of which focused on how to spend less money and reign in shopaholic tendencies. I wasn’t sure if I could add anything to that discussion, or if it was even a useful one. Something bothered me about the fact that the books with white and gold covers focused on becoming rich while many of the pink books had a shopping theme. The message had all the subtlety of Ken and Barbie dolls.

No doubt, there are some big ways that women differ when it comes to money: We earn less money, partly because we’re more likely to take job breaks to care for children and aging parents. We’re also less likely to negotiate our salaries and raises. And when it comes to saving for retirement, we need more money than men do, because we live longer.

But we’re the same in many more ways. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, single men and women between the ages of 25 to 34 spend in similar ways, although men spend more on transportation and alcohol and women spend more on apparel and services. Research on credit scores, an indication of how likely people are to pay back their loans on time, shows virtually no gender difference.

Despite the lack of evidence that we have some inherent inability to manage our money relative to men, I think we get saddled with the shopaholic stereotype partly because we do the vast majority of spending for our families. But we’re not buying Gucci bags and True Religion Jeans; we’re spending on food, laundry detergent, and other necessities.

That’s why I ultimately decided write my book, Generation Earn, for men and women – almost all of my advice turned out to be gender-neutral. Part of the reason might be a generational difference. Suze Orman’s very successful Women & Money book seems aimed at women who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, who had a different experience than women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, my target age group.

I still include women-centric advice where it’s relevant, such as how to make sure we save enough for retirement, and how to negotiate salaries better, but otherwise, I figure we all pretty much want to learn the same things: how to be financially secure, how to support our families, and how to give back to the causes we believe in.

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