Invest in the Future: Women, Finances, and Work

“Live for Today: Gen X Women Focus More on Shopping Than On Investing.” That was the title of a May 18, 2001 article in the Insider Business Daily. The gist of the article is that young single women between the ages of 21 and 35 significantly lag behind their married counterparts and men in financial planning and investing. According to a study conducted by the Sutra Foundation and Oppenheimer Funds, 53% of these women live paycheck to paycheck, have credit card debt, and wish they had better control of their finances. In fact, two-thirds of the respondents said getting rid of credit card debt was of higher priority than finding a spouse or having an active social life.

So what’s this got to do with the workplace? For one thing, it suggests that this parenting connection is once again making an appearance in the workplace. Yes, you may have to teach them about handling their finances. Many of your younger employees, male or female, are not really aware of how important investments are–and especially of how much of a difference it can make to start saving early. They’re living in the here and now, excited about getting a regular paycheck. The concept of SAVING isn’t really a priority when there are so many things to buy: houses, cars, vacations, clothes, things for the kids. Yet, one of the recurring themes I hear from the mid-to-late 30s age group is that they wish they had started investing when they got their first job. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of ‘missed opportunity’ have been lost to the lure of youthful spending.

So while the employer doesn’t have any true “responsibility” toward making sure employees are savvy money managers, it certainly makes sense from a retention and loyalty standpoint. Helping employees understand all your savings and investment opportunities can create bonds of appreciation and loyalty. From a purely business viewpoint, the employee who is worried about personal finances is often distracted or unpleasant at work–not good for your other employees or your customers. Productivity and service may suffer as they burn the candle at both ends by working more than one job.

Orientation programs tend to have an information package about the various investment and retirement programs available to your new employees. However, this may not be enough. For young people who are not at all familiar with investing, there may be a hesitancy to ask questions. Or there may be a total disregard for the information just because they don’t understand the importance of long-term financial planning.

Take the lead. Help your new employees understand all you have to offer and give them the information they need to make informed decisions that will positively impact their lives and careers.

Posted by Pam Wyess in Generation X Issues.

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