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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

The bag lady bogeyman

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First, the good news: Allianz Life’s 2013 Women, Money & Power Study recently found that 60 percent of women say they’re the primary breadwinner in their household today. And 57 percent of all women surveyed said they have more earning power than ever before.

Yay, women! Right?

Well, hold on. There’s also this: almost half of the women surveyed — 49 percent — said they still fear becoming a “bag lady.” Even among those earning more than $200,000 a year, 27 percent said they’re afraid they’ll eventually wind up broke and homeless.

Many of the women also seemed embarrassed by financial empowerment, with 42 percent saying financially independent women are intimidating to men and will likely end up alone. And 31 percent said those women are hard to relate to and don’t have many friends.

What’s more, single women were the most vulnerable-feeling and judgy of all, with 56 percent confessing bag-lady fears and fully 47 percent — almost half! — painting financially confident women as unmarriageable.

What?! So, basically, we have more control over more money than ever today. Yet, many of us aren’t confident we can handle the responsibility — and even if we can, we’re pretty sure we’ll become lonely spinsters in the process.

I’m going to go ahead and blame romantic comedies for at least part of this. We’ve watched too many movies where wimpy women solve their problems with marriage and every tough single woman is painted as a shoulder-pad-wearing harpy.

See also: 7 reasons women biz owners should start thinking big

How do we fix this? We can start by divorcing ourselves of the Paleolithic notion that husband = financial stability. Matrimony is not a panacea; a single girl’s financial problems don’t disappear as soon as she’s got a ring. What’s more, a marriage that ends in divorce can ruin finances, and the children that often follow marriage can create their own financial strain.

We can also take a few confidence cues from men. We all suffered through the same recession, but you don’t see any Men-Who-Fear-Becoming-Hobos surveys floating around out there. Multiple studies have shown a significant self-assurance gap between men and women when it comes to financial matters. Which means guys are out there making investments and touting their accomplishments at work, while we’re sitting around filling out bag-lady surveys and worrying.

But planning is the real answer here — and advisors, that’s where you come in. Because single or married, financially confident or not, today’s women need at least some basic budgeting skills and the financial products — life insurance, disability insurance — to ensure their bag-lady fears remain unfounded.

Sitting down with a financial pro could not only help us sleep easier, it might also make us realize that financially stable women are actually pretty great. Heck, we’ll likely even become one of them — shoulder pads optional, of course.

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

JC Penniless?

The education disconnect

Make it (less) work


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