DOLLARS AND SENSE
WOMEN'S LOWER PAY, LONGER LIVES MAKE IT CRUCIAL FOR
THEM TO MANAGE FINANCES WISELY, EXPERTS SAY
By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe
When Sally Reid teaches algebra to her all-girl
11th-grade class, she doesn't focus just on abstract
math problems. She zeroes in on such real-life issues
as the power of compounding interest and the impact of
income taxes. "The day is long gone when girls are
going to grow up, get married, be sweet and dear" -
and want to be taken care of, said Reid, a math
teacher at the private Stoneleigh-Burnham School in
Greenfield, for 9th- through 12th-graders. "They need
to think about what jobs are lucrative and how they
are going to manage their money."
Despite the booming stock market and national job
growth, women still earn less than men, currently an
average of 73 cents for every dollar men earn.
In addition, women live longer than men, and more
women than men live in poverty.
Indeed, the disparity in income starts young; one
survey found that adolescent girls earn 25 cents an
hour less than boys, on average.
State Treasurer Shannon P. O'Brien wants to help end
the disparity. She's holding a free "Money Conference
for Women at the Sheraton Springfield Hotel Oct. 28.
And in Boston, a "Girls, Women & Money" conference at
Hynes Convention Center runs through tomorrow. It's
sponsored by the Concord-based National Coalition of
"Women tend to make less money than men do," O'Brien
said. "Women are less likely to work in jobs that
provide them with a pension. Women tend to take time
off during childbearing.
"In the end, they live longer, so they have to make
their money last longer. Seventy percent of the
elderly who live in poverty are women."
The numbers cause concern:
- Three out of four working women earn less than
$25,000 a year.
- Forty percent of women aged 51 to 61 lack retirement
plans, while only 29 percent of men lack them.
- The poverty rate for elderly women is nearly twice
that for elderly men.
- On average, retired women received a monthly Social
Security check for $665 in 1998, vs. $864 for men.
It's not just about getting equal pay for equal work,
though. With women more likely to outlive men - and to
take time out from work to raise a family - they need
to be even wiser about managing their money and making
it last longer.
There are places to turn for help.
The Patriots' Trail Girl Scout Council, for instance,
has teamed up with Salomon Smith Barney to host a
financial camp for girls and has started a "Smart
About Money" patch program.
Such efforts appear to be critical when it comes to
teaching girls about finances, said Harvard
sociologist Mariko Chang. She has interviewed Girl
Scouts who went through the financial camp, as part of
her research into financial attitudes of women and
"Their eyes were really opened to a whole new world of
possibilities," said Chang, an assistant professor of
both sociology and social studies.
"Generally," she said, "this financial world has not
been one that women and girls have participated in to
the same frequency that men have. They're
uncomfortable dealing with financial matters."
But because of the disparity between women and men,
she said, "financial planning is particularly
important for young women."
Aria Pierce, 16, of Roslindale, a Girl Scout who
attended the financial camp this summer, said she has
already changed what she does with the paycheck from
her part-time job.
"I used to spend about 99 percent, definitely. Now I
think I spend maybe 50 percent, and I save 50
percent," she said. Pierce, who a Metco student at
Weston High School, is now saving for college and
other big expenses.
This week's "Girls, Women & Money" conference, put on
by Public Information Resources Inc. of Boston, covers
the general topic, but it also delves into the
psychology of money, the best ways to teach girls how
to succeed economically, the fund-raising avenues
available for female entrepreneurs, and the special
nature of women's philanthropy.
"We have to get to the point where money isn't a dirty
word for women," said Whitney Ransome, coexecutive
director of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools,
which represents public and private schools with
nearly 45,000 girls in grades pre-kindergarten through