Panelists urge women to take financial charge

Panelists urge women to take financial charge

One bright spot in today’s dismal economic picture is that Americans may become less materialistic, less money-minded, and their children may no longer deserve being called the Entitlement Generation.

That was the contention of Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical Center, speaking last week at a forum held by the Women’s Division of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and the federation’s Endowment Foundation.

Having more money doesn’t translate into happiness, Saltz warned. “The number one source of happiness,” she said, “is relationships. Money doesn’t buy happiness. And people are moving away from that idea.”

Lori Sacker, left, and Dr. Gail Saltz urged women at a panel on Friday to take more interest in financial matters.

She and another panelist, Lori Sackler, a Certified Financial Planner and first vice president of Citi Smith Barney in Paramus, agreed that women should become more responsible and more knowledgeable about financial matters. The two spoke during a seminar on “Women, Family, and Finances.”

The trouble, said Saltz, is that many women have been shaped by their families to feel that being in control of money matters is “not terribly feminine,” and they are not comfortable with it.

Sackler pointed out that women generally outlive men – “We kill them off,” she joked – and because they may be taking over for them, “they need to be informed.” Besides, husbands may say that they are taking care of things, “But they aren’t. You should know what’s going on.”

The moderator, Gail Billig, president of the Endowment Foundation, summarized their views by saying women should take their heads out of the sand and “open a dialogue” with their husbands.

Couples should have regular discussions about money matters, Saltz recommended, perhaps once a week. “Don’t do it as you get into bed – do it after dinner,” she advised. The sooner you have these discussions the better, she added. As death approaches, people get anxious – and may think illogically. “But young people think that they will never die.”

Saltz, a regular on the Today show, reported that money matters are the No. 1 source of marital arguments and “a huge cause of divorce.” One reason, she explained, is that men and women think differently. Women express their feelings more, she said, and are more conservative; men are risk-takers.

Sackler, who has a radio program on finance on WOR, added that men don’t like taking directions or working with outside advisers, whereas women view such advisers as useful resources.

Women are also more subject to anxiety than men, said Saltz, and anxiety interferes with good decision-making. Studies of people with brain damage that dulled their anxiety found that they put together more profitable investment portfolios.

In dealing with stress, Saltz continued, men tend to seek immediate relief – they may want sex or to go to a gym. Women want to discuss things and understand differences of opinion.

As for the tough economy, Sackler suggested that people might decide to work longer, or if retired, consider taking a part-time job. Regarding college for the kids, perhaps an Ivy League school is now too expensive. And she urged people to buy long-term care insurance.

Regarding children, Saltz said that in these hard times parents should reassure them that you will be there for them, though the family may have to cut back its spending. “Offer them a way to help, too, like a little job – some empowerment. Teach them resilience, that they can postpone what they want now and benefit later.”

Sackler said, “You need an adult-to-adult relationship with your older children. You want to be supportive, and not just hand out money.” Help them, for example, find employment.

Saltz warned that when people lose jobs, as many are doing these days, they may also lose their sense of identity and become depressed – and perhaps suicidal. Look for warning signs, she advised, such as lack of sleep or loss of appetite. And consider taking someone who seems depressed to a therapist or to an emergency room.

Some 40 people attended the meeting, held at the UJA-NNJ building in Paramus.

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