Money books have long targeted women as a prime audience, and a slew of new titles takes that focus a step further with pink covers and images of shoes and purses. Recent entrees into the field include Shoo, Jimmy Choo!; A Purse of Your Own; Love It, Live It, Earn It; and Bitches on a Budget. Oldies but goodies include On My Own Two Feet; Nice Girls Don't Get Rich; Smart Women Finish Rich; and Suze Orman's Women & Money.
The first question these books need to answer, before addressing how to make a budget or save for retirement, is why they should exist at all. In other words, why do women need their own money books? As one skeptical reader from Oregon recently noted after reading an interview with the author of Shoo, Jimmy Choo!, "First paragraph and I'm already embarrassed to be female. I'll take the gender-neutral finance books, thanks."
But the fact is that women are different, at least in some ways, when it comes to money. For starters, they live longer than men, which means they'll likely outlive their spouse and manage their money on their own one day. They also tend to earn less, partly because they are often the primary caregivers for children as well as their own parents. In addition, the stereotype of shopaholics being primarily women appears to be true: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that among single men and women ages 25 to 34, single women tend to spend more on apparel and services. (But men spend twice as much on alcohol and $600 more on car purchases.) Bad habits can have devastating consequences: According to a Government Accountability Office report, 12 percent of women over 65 are living in poverty, compared with only 7 percent of men. For divorced and widowed women, the poverty rate is higher, at 21 and 15 percent, respectively.
Given those differences, these authors say women do, in fact, need their own money books, because the advice they need is different. Here's an overview of some of that advice: nine tips from authors of financial books for women:
1. Make goals. "Everyone should make a list of financial goals, which are any goals that cost money—retirement, vacation, buying a home, etc. Once you've done that, figure out how much each goal will cost (Bankrate.com is a great place to start) and then make a step-by-step action plan so you can save enough to make those goals a reality," urges Catey Hill, author of Shoo, Jimmy Choo!.
2. Insure yourself. "Everyone needs health, auto (if you have a car), homeowners' or renters' and disability insurance. If you have kids, you should probably also get life insurance. If you don't have the insurance you need, it can literally bankrupt you," advises Hill.
3. Save for retirement as soon as possible. Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, authors of On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance, recommend that women dedicate 10 percent of their income to retirement savings, starting in their 20s. Saving 10 percent of a $50,000 salary beginning at age 25, for example, would yield $2.2 million at retirement. (That calculation assumes that investments grow at 10 percent a year, gains are reinvested, and annual salary increases offset inflation.)
4. Prepare for emergencies by saving even more. Hill says many women simply don't save enough money, and recommends that they save even more than Thakor and Kedar suggest. "Women need to put away about 13 percent of their income each month for retirement, and they also need to build up an emergency fund that contains about six months' worth of income," she says.
5. Bring a friend shopping with you. Even Gwyneth Paltrow endorses this technique. If you know you have a tendency to overshop, make sure you're not alone. (Paltrow's budgeting expert for her GOOP newsletter, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, also suggests bringing a stopwatch with you on shopping trips so you don't spend too much time browsing the aisles.)