The Boston Globe

Since Sept. 11, women have grown more worried about
their personal finances - more so than men - polling
51 percent vs. 36 percent in a new study by the
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

And perhaps with good reason, as other statistics
compiled by the institute from a variety of sources

Women make up a bigger share of bankruptcy filings,
increasing from 17 percent in 1981 to 40 percent in

Women save only half of what men do for retirement,
and 32 percent of women don't even know how much
they've socked away.
About 75 percent of all elderly Americans living in
poverty are women.

In an attempt to help women with money, especially
now, with New Year's resolutions fresh on people's
minds, the institute and Money for Women magazine have
teamed for a Women's Financial Health Week beginning

"For too many women, taking control of personal
finances is not as large a priority as it should be,"
said Ernst & Young partner Barbara Raasch, a certified
public accountant with the additional designation of
personal financial specialist, in a statement
announcing the effort.

"Because no two women face the same financial
situation or outlook, we designed this week to help
motivate women of all ages and from all walks of life
to become the masters of their own financial destiny,
by providing real-life, sound advice that will help
them get there," Raasch said.

The centerpiece of the joint effort is a Web site,
www.womens financialhealthweek.com. Here, women can
participate in an online chat on such scheduled topics
as "Top Prescriptions for Change: Key Areas for
Women's Financial Growth"; and "Happily Single:
Fitness Regimens to Ensure You Meet Your Long-Term

The site also offers an interactive "financial fitness
test," which "prescribes" tips based on the answers
you give, with such titles as "Keeping `Fit' Financial
Records," "Financing a Wedding and a Future Together:
A Heartfelt Investment," "Building Financial Strength
to Endure a Divorce," and "Growing a Strong and
Healthy 401(k) or IRA."

(When I previewed the site last week and answered the
questions for a "diagnostic test," I first thought the
site hadn't been properly programmed, because the
response I got, in red print, was "Sorry, there are
currently no tips sheets that match your answers!"
I later realized that because I don't live paycheck to
paycheck and I don't have burdensome credit-card debt
or any of the other financial problems listed, the
program had no tips for me. But it would have been
nice to get an upbeat response such as
"Congratulations, you're in good financial health!"
People need positive reinforcement, too.)

The Web site also offers a "Financial Faux Pas
Contest," the winner judged on the uniqueness of her
financial horror story, her need for financial help,
and the lessons that can be learned. The prize is a
free financial makeover, including three hours of
financial consultation with a CPA/PFS (the certified
public accountant's personal financial specialist
credential), Quicken 2002 software, and a year's
subscription to Money magazine, which publishes Money
for Women as a special issue.

Other features of the site: A daily women and money
poll, financial calculators, and a link to a database
for finding a CPA/ PFS by state, although the site
acknowledges there are other well- qualified financial
advisers with other credentials.

Financial aid help

For anyone with a college-bound student in the family,
this month is the start of the financial aid process,
as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA) forms are due.

Applying for financial aid can be an intimidating
process, fraught with bewildering terms, an alphabet
soup of acronyms, and a morass of forms.

But there's online help, particularly through two Web
sites: www.wiredscholar.com, by Sallie Mae, the
nation's largest source of education funding; and
www.Fin Aid.org, created by Mark Kantrowitz, a
financial aid and college planning author and
Brookline native.
Among the valuable aspects of the sites:

Dispelling financial aid myths. For instance, families
should apply for aid even if they think their income
is too high, since there are some sources that don't
depend on financial need yet still require the FAFSA
to be filled out as soon after Jan. 1 as possible and
before the college application deadline.

College financing calculators.

Explanations of the different kinds of student loans,
scholarships, and military aid available. FinAid.org
even mentions an unusual scholarship of up to $1,000
for left-handed students who will be attending Juniata
College in Huntington, Pa.

Students and their families can get a copy of FAFSA
through high school guidance offices, local libraries,
or www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Clearing cellular static

My column last week on becoming a first-time cellphone
owner prompted many e-mails, from the warm climes of
Scottsdale, Ariz., to the freshly snow-covered
Jackson, N.H.

It seems everyone has a story to tell about a bad
cellphone experience, whether it be in terms of cost
or service, as well as advice about how to get a
better deal.

Among the notable tips from the e-mails:

Check with family and friends in your calling area to
learn their experiences with a particular service
provider. Some providers have better coverage in some
areas than in others.

Get the February issue of Consumer Reports, now on
newsstands. The magazine, comprehensive as usual,
rates service performance in major cities including
Boston, reviews state proposals to ban cellphone use
while driving, analyzes ways to control calling costs,
looks at headsets for comfort and convenience, and
compares cellphone models for performance.


- 54.8 percent of women worry about their debt.

- 32 percent of women don't know how much they've
saved for retirement, compared with 19 percent of men.

- 54 percent of women in their 20s and 30s are more
likely to acquire 30 pairs of shoes before saving
$30,000 for retirement.

- 18 percent of new-home purchases in 1999 were by
single women, up from 14 percent in 1995.

- 31.8 percent of women call themselves conservative
investors, compared with 21.7 percent of men.

- A woman's standard of living drops 45 percent on
average in the year after divorce, while a man's rises
15 percent.