A Mad Men Rerun

~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~

Most of us who watched the television show Mad Men know that Peggy Olson is one of the few female characters in this 1960’s era show who actually stands up for herself at work. After watching a recent rerun, I was reminded of a troubling study that I recently saw concerning women and their ability to manage their own financial affairs. Despite the gains women have made in the workplace and many other areas of society since the “Mad Men era,” the study found that no matter which age group they surveyed, confidence in handling big-picture financial matters was overwhelmingly lower than their male counterparts. Even though the women who were surveyed expressed confidence in their ability to earn money and to manage day-to-day matters such as bills and credit payments, when it came to saving for retirement, or overall financial health matters, the gap between women and men was noticeably wide.

Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner

Gerald Rome, Securities Commissioner

We know from our experience that women who are approaching or are in their retirement years, a lack of understanding and confidence regarding financial planning and investing creates a huge target for fraudsters. We see many instances of women who outlive their spouses, and do not know how to manage their financial affairs on their own once their husband has passed. While many helpful advisers and account managers are willing to assist women in what may be a new field of knowledge, many bad apples also take advantage of this lack of knowledge by befriending women, gain their blind trust and then drain their savings or siphon off their investments.

It may not surprise you, but the trend is continuing even with the younger generations. The same study found that even women in the 18-34 age range failed to answer the majority of financial literacy questions when tested, and these same women expressed confusion and lack of confidence when it came to retirement planning and investing. This is a problem, particularly considering that it will take larger contributions over a longer period of time for people in the early years of their careers to save enough for retirement.

So how do we change this trend? First, we need to start having more conversations about the issue will encourage efforts to change it. Second, we need to make financial education more available, to both men and women. This education should start early on, and be available to people throughout their lifetime through required classes in school, work-sponsored education, and community outreach. Finally, we need to inspire confidence in women to take charge of their finances. Knowledge brings power and assurance, and is the surest way to solve this paradox.

Want to learn more about financial security and how to protect yourself from fraud? Join the Division of Securities for a Consumer Protection Open House on March 9, 2016, from 9:00-11:00AM at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center, located at 4005 Kipling Street, Wheat Ridge, CO. For more information, call (303) 894-2878.

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