Money groups are essentially like book clubs, but instead of discussing Jane Austen plot twists, the focus is on the stock market, 401(k)s, and paying off debt. Women -- and some men -- get together to share financial goals and (hopefully) make them come true.
M.P. Dunleavey, author of Money Can Buy Happiness, will soon be leading a money group in New York with her partner, financial planner Galia Gichon. I recently E-mailed with her about how the groups work, and why the recession seems to be inspiring more women to form them. Excerpts:
What are the benefits of working in a group versus on your own?
There's actually some sociological evidence to suggest that women learn about money better when they are in a group context. And this bolsters my own observations from the Women in Red: Women enjoy the camaraderie of tackling projects together--and this is a natural way to diffuse the tension many women feel about money.
Also, we love swapping information and advice. As researchers have noted in other contexts, women seem to be natural "sorters"--we enjoy compiling information (whether about clothes, dating, child rearing, money) and then picking the approach that best suits our circumstances. This skill helps women to take control of the money issues in their lives. So I guess you could say it's a combination of respect for collective wisdom and the love of community.
What do you talk about when you get together?
Oh my gosh, what don't we talk about? Because the group is private, women feel comfortable coming clean about all kinds of money issues, admitting their hurdles (many women run their own businesses), asking basic money management questions ("What is a Roth IRA?" and "How do I pick a mutual fund?" are both popular).
And Simply Money is also goal-oriented. Everyone is tasked with setting manageable goals for the 12 weeks, and then each week there's a check-in. So during the check-in, people get to ask what their credit score means, or which credit card to pay off first, or how to not overspend when moving apartments, or what question to ask Fidelity about their rollover account.
Why are there an increasing number of money groups forming?
It's one of those silver linings during bad times. People are scared, which is rough emotionally--but at the same time that anxiety is inspiring a lot of women to take control of their finances. Hey, it's what most of us want. But often you need a nudge to take action. This economy has provided a shove in the right direction.
Is this just for women or do men do this too?
At the moment Simply Money is for women only. Women in the NYC metro area can sign up for the March 3 series of classes, which run 6 to 7:30pm in midtown, at www.downtoearthfinance.com/events.