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Teaching Girls The Ways Of Money


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Teaching Girls the Ways of Money

My experience helps explain why so many women are uncomfortable investing. Starting in high school, I often peppered my dad with questions about personal finance and business. He usually dismissed them, saying he hoped my two sisters and I would never have to worry about those things. Later, he engaged his sons-in-law in long chats about investing while keeping conversations with his daughters light, focused mainly on family matters and ski conditions.

He doesn't do that anymore. Now that I've been a financial journalist for 10 years, my father respects my knowledge and confides in me about investments and business concerns. I don't fault him for not teaching us about investing. He came from a generation that believed men would take care of their daughters' financial needs. Today, more parents are schooling daughters early in the ways of money, and more resources are available to do this. Why do girls need special attention? "Boys have informal economies from age 6 by trading marbles and cards, while girls collect," says Joline Godfrey, founder of Independent Means, a Santa Barbara (Calif.) company that promotes economic independence among girls 14 to 24. "By the time boys start trading stocks and bonds, it's just another part of the game."

According to a 1998 Louis Harris & Associates poll of 1,115 ninth through eleventh graders in 52 schools, girls and boys are equally interested in money and finance, but girls lag behind in knowledge and confidence. Only 48% of girls, vs. 64% of boys, were willing to learn how to make money in the stock market. "A risk-taking girl gets fewer positive cues than a risk-taking boy, and investing is still thought of as a risky operation," says Heather Johnston Nicholson, director of research at Girls Inc., a New York group dedicated to empowering girls, which commissioned the poll. "We need to change the message."

Bibi Schweitzer of Larchmont, N.Y., is one 15-year-old girl who got the right message. When she was 11, her father, George, taught her about the market and gave her $100 to invest in any public company. She picked McDonald's. "I thought it was so cool that I owned a part of McDonald's and that my money could make money without me doing anything," says Schweitzer, the only girl in Mamaroneck High School's 40-member stock market club. Helped by annual contributions and advice from her father, she has since built a $6,000 stock portfolio that includes Gucci, Johnson & Johnson, America Online, Estee Lauder, and Coca-Cola, as well as Stein Roe Young Investors Mutual Fund. "I buy what I know and understand," she says.

Girls-only programs can help. Both ClubInvest and Camp By Toddi GutnerReturn to top

TABLE

Investing 101 for Girls

PROGRAM/SPONSOR COMMENTS

CAMP $TART-UP Independent Means 14-day seminar for 13- to

www.independentmeans.com 19-year-olds; start a

805 965-0475 company and learn about

money management

CLUBINVEST 5-day seminars that teach

Independent Means 14- to 21-year-olds how

to invest

FINANCIAL CAMP FOR GIRLS 5-day camp for 12- to

Salomon Smith Barney, Girl Scouts 16-year-olds that teaches

of America, 617 482-1078 investing basics

GIRLS INC. 10 weekly money-management

www.girlsinc.org, 212 509-8708 sessions at 1,000 sites

nationwide for girls

6 to 18

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