Sarah Strohmeyer, author of The Penny Pinchers Club, September's selection for the Alpha Consumer Book Club, is back with answers to reader questions. (For a Q&A with Strohmeyer, see: "Fearing Divorce, Mom Finds Inner Frugalista.")
What are your writing habits? When you're writing about a character who spends a lot of money, do you go out shopping to help inspire you?
Hah! Very funny. Why...yes! (You don't happen to be that nice Mr. Anderson from the IRS perhaps.) Okay, let me put it this way. It's like when my sister-in-law stopped drinking. Her theory was she'd consumed enough alcohol for a lifetime already. For me it's shopping. (Though I've been falling off the wagon lately, I must admit.) I gotta enough bills for eternity. Don't really need the extra research.
What is your next book about?
Oh, I'm so superstitious about stuff like this that I make it a rule not to talk about what I'm working on. Not that I'm worried anyone would steal the idea. (Laugh at it would be more likely.) But once I put it out there it looks so stupid, I just don't try. But thanks for asking.
Do you think women are worse at managing money than men?
Au contraire! If anything, women are naturally better money managers because they often think long term and of others instead of ourselves. (Aren't we perfect.) The problem as Suze Orman might tell you is that women haven't been empowered to think of themselves as money managers. Once we have the skills—balancing a checkbook, understanding interest, penalties, the downsides of credit cards, investing and diversifying—we can rise to the challenge. Of course, there is no such thing as "all women" just like there is no "all men." At the end of the day, we're individuals and for every man who prudently socks away 15% of his paycheck in a tax-free IRA each month, there's another guy blowing a wad at the track.
Do you think it's ever okay to lie to your husband about money, like the character in the book does?
Actually, one of the fun facts I learned in researching the book is that lying about money is a warning sign of marital trouble because of "why" you're lying about money. For example, did you not tell your husband how much the new such and such cost because you two agreed to save a certain amount each month? Did you not feel that this certain amount was fair, that HE set the limits not YOU? Do you feel you do most of the housework while also holding a paying job and, therefore, you deserve an extra treat? If so, then maybe there's some resentment. Or do you fear his reaction because he can erupt in irrational violent angry outbursts? If so, then you've got a REAL problem. There's always a reason for lying and, aside from planning a birthday surprise, it's not a good idea. Then again...it's your money, right?