Women face unique issues when it comes to money, and whether that's due to cultural bias, educational shortfalls, or other, wilder theories, the fact remains that there is a need to address those issues. We've taken a look at several books that can help female clients learn to handle their own finances effectively, plus one that can help you better serve both male and female clients.
Of primary interest to planners is Carol Ann Wilson's The Financial Guide to Divorce Settlement (Marketplace Books, 2000), aimed at the professional engaged in divorce planning. The insights, suggestions, and strategies included cover everything from pensions and health insurance to property valuations and bankruptcy.
Whether you're preparing a financial plan for a divorcing couple, helping a woman get a fair share of marital assets during a divorce, or considering how to handle her attorney's request that you act as an expert witness on just how much she really needs to survive, you will find this book lucid and detailed, with plenty of examples and case studies.
There is also a useful listing of resources, places to turn for legal and mediation assistance, and blank forms and financial affidavits.
You've read Olivia Mellan's columns in our magazine; her book with Sherry Christie, Money Shy to Money Sure: A Woman's Road Map to Financial Well-Being (Walker & Company, 2001) can help your female clients conquer their fears about handling money and gain the confidence to handle most details of their fiscal lives.
Women in abusive relationships are often denied any access to money, whether it's just spending money or management of the day-to-day household finances. And many women either lack the knowledge to feel comfortable about being responsible for their own finances, or have been taught from childhood that such a capability is somehow unfeminine. They find the path to security fraught with all sorts of unpleasant surprises.
Mellan and Christie address seven myths that are common among women (and perhaps among men, too), and show how to conquer them. Some women think they don't have enough money to do anything. Some think money is too complicated. Others think being savvy about money makes them selfish people. But they shouldn't. One myth after another goes under the magnifying glass, and then strategies are offered to counteract each. The strategies are presented in bite-sized pieces so that even a woman with no previous experience in handling her own money should be able to handle them one at a time.
The book also offers encouraging quotes from various well-known women about their own attitudes toward money, or about the female financial condition. All in all, it's a good place to start a timid client on the road to money knowledge.
Next we have a book in the Everywoman's Money series: Financial Freedom by Dee Lee (Alpha Books, 2001). This is another excellent book for women with little or no knowledge of or experience in handling money. It's particularly comprehensive because of the way Lee approached the topic: she very sensibly asked women what they wanted to know about money.
The beginning sections help you figure out where you are financially, where you want to be, and how to get there. From there, Lee addresses problems ranging from debt to dependence on others, how to plan for retirement, what to do about Social Security, and numerous other topics. Accompanying examples help make the text easier to relate to, although her style is clear and accessible to begin with. She also looks at the stages in a woman's life, whether it be wife, ex-wife, mother, widow, grandmother, or caregiver for dependent parents. Olivia Mellan had a hand in this project as well, offering psychological insights throughout the text on problems and their resolutions.
For a book filled with practical strategies, down-to-earth help, and examples that can help a woman relate to something that she may find intimidating, Financial Freedom is an excellent choice.
On a slightly different slant is How to Say It for Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success, by Phyllis Mindell. (Prentice Hall Press, 2001). This is not a financial book. It is, however, an excellent choice not only for women who have been in abusive relationships and lack self-confidence, but for anyone who feels that his or her verbal style is not what it could be, in business and or in social situations. Its main thrust is toward businesswomen, but the advice is universal.
Confidence can be critical to performance; often, sounding as if we are confident is even more important than being confident. Yet putting ideas across in a clear and forceful manner can be a challenge. This is particularly so for women, who often disable their professional pronouncements with "softening" language such as "I think that" or "I wanted to" or "Would you mind if."
Mindell's book delineates the speech problems that can hold a woman back, both professionally and personally, and explains the rationale behind them. She then offers great examples of how to replace those problems with forthright speech that will get attention, enable the speaker to express herself clearly and with authority, and enhance her confidence level. Exercises on replacing weak speech with strong speech proliferate, as do examples of actual speeches from notable men and women of all callings.
Mindell doesn't stop there. She addresses body language, grooming, voice, and other factors that can affect how audiences perceive us, or by those over whom we have authority. She also devotes attention to what makes an effective presentation--pointing out that details and specifics must be included for the message to be heard. Research, writing, and grammatical skills also serve as grist for this mill, as she educates the reader in effective, concise communication on many levels.
Both men and women can learn a lot from this selection of books; both advisor and client can benefit from taking a look.