Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's Not Enough to Wear Pants

Not long ago, a colleague turned me onto a book called Women Don't Ask, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003). It suggests that, for historical, cultural, social, and psychological reasons, women have great difficulty telling other people what they want. According to the authors, society pays a heavy price for this problem. How can we fix it?

Historically speaking, Western women were a long time getting the right to own property, to attend college, to vote, and to control their reproductive capacity. For millennia, women's lives were controlled by external forces. The tradition of subservience permeates social customs to this day, because the old-time gender roles, being familiar, seem correct and appropriate to everyone.

Health Today

For eons, women were supposed to let men handle invitations on a date and the proposal of marriage. Men, not women, were widely seen as heads of household. Even now, when children are born, they usually take the surname of the father, not the mother, suggesting that he rather than she principally shapes the family's collective identity.

It's Not Enough to Wear Pants

The chores assigned to girls usually emphasize dependence, are performed daily or routinely, and tend to go uncompensated; examples are cooking, cleaning, and washing dishes. In contrast, those given to boys encourage independence, are less frequently performed, and are more likely to command pay; examples are leaf raking, snow shoveling, and washing the car.

And just think of all the things American children may see fathers but not mothers doing-carpentry, plumbing repair, financial planning, woodcutting, and automotive work. (If your family includes kids, do they see their parents as equally willing and able to do all or most of the same kinds of work?)

Despite significant gains by women, domestic tasks are still generally theirs; employee jobs are more often men's territory. Disproportionate numbers of women teach school, nurse the sick, do word processing, and provide child care. Men fill the ranks of corporate officers, construction workers, financial managers, and engineers. Workplace etiquette and protocols continue to echo time-honored gender stereotypes.

Men are regarded as stronger, more rational, and more independent; women, as weaker, more emotional, and more interdependent. Independent types focus on individual achievement and are less concerned with how their actions affect the people around them. Interdependent people are keenly aware of others at all times; for them, a primary goal is to develop and protect strong relationships.

In negotiations, men think the issue at hand is "just business," gone and forgotten once agreement is reached. Women, in contrast, tend to worry about possible damage to the parties' future relationship. As a result, women-but not men-may feel uncomfortable negotiating because of fears about promoting conflict. Women generally accept employers' initial salary offers without negotiating, whereas men more often up the ante right away. (The gap in pay widens later.) Like other cultural and ethnic groups, women see themselves closed out of most positions of power and governed by forces outside their control.

The problem? It's women's sense of entitlement and self-esteem. So why don't women get together and demand their rights? Wasn't that what the twentieth-century feminist movement was all about?

The answer isn't so easy. Assertive women may be treated as bitchy or aggressive. They may be excluded socially or on the job, or they may be criticized until anxiety undermines their ability to make requests or deters them altogether from doing so. Women who resist the stereotype pay a big price. But rigid gender-based standards aren't just imposed on women. They are also perpetuated by women. And we all tend to ignore or forget evidence that is inconsistent with our beliefs.

For one thing, women often don't realize that change is possible. They don't know that they can ask for more. Worse, they have been taught, and have come to believe, that women

o are not entitled to receive more than they have been getting,

o should be content to receive less than men do, and

o should give away more than men would in their shoes.

Even in the bedroom, according to the supermarket magazines, women's needs are likely not to be met much of the time!

Overall, Babcock and Laschever tell us, the gender role divide carries huge costs for everyone. The undervaluing of women, by themselves and by society, is bad for women's psychological and physical health-and in the United States today, health care costs are skyrocketing. Second, when women are unequally rewarded for their work, they receive inadequate benefits-social security, disability insurance, pensions, unemployment insurance, and the like. At retirement age, women in the United States are twice as likely to be poor as men. The economic burden on society of caring for indigent elderly women is substantial.

Then too, when employers routinely assume that applicants with better salary histories are more capable, and when women are systematically denied better pay and better jobs at all levels of all businesses, the losers are not just women but society as a whole. Business growth and related gains in productivity are hampered when more than 50 percent of the citizenry is underemployed.

The authors ask, "Why should we tolerate a society in which half our citizens are arbitrarily undervalued and underpaid? Fairness . . . must be safeguarded and promoted even when its beneficiaries don't realize what they are missing" (pp. 54-55). When women's talents are underutilized, those talents are wasted and women are prevented from reaching their full potential. Last and particularly disturbing, some researchers have found that people who are not appropriately rewarded for their efforts cease to aim high (p. 57).

There are even more powerful reasons why women should assert themselves and why society should accept more assertive women. As we rub shoulders more often with virtual neighbors who live farther and farther away, it makes sense to heed new research showing that the best way to negotiate or to resolve conflict is to collaborate. We need to focus not on win-lose but on win-win. The parties' respective positions are less important than their needs, for there may be a way to accommodate everyone.

In this area-reconciliation and compromise-women's relationship skills have particular value for society. Women

o try to understand the other side's problem as the other side experiences it.

o report on the problem as it appears to them.

o analyze the issues to see whether a compromise might suit everyone.

o brainstorm solutions instead of insisting on one particular course of action.

Before women can realize these and other talents to the full, however, they must understand the historical, cultural, and psychological obstacles confronting them.

The authors offer a few helpful tips designed to facilitate change.

o Acknowledge that a negotiation almost always has both issue-related and relationship goals.

o Trust other negotiators to take care of their own needs (just worry about your own).

o Recognize that emotions needn't be completely absent from negotiations; while yelling and tears aren't recommended, a smiling and calm demeanor can be an asset.

In this area, as in so many others, society needs to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.

It's Not Enough to Wear Pants

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Terror-Proof Your Money

"To drift is to be in hell, to be in heaven is to steer." --George
Bernard Shaw

Former Homeland Security Director,
Tom Ridge, has said it's not a matter of "if"
we'll have another terrorist attack, but when.
Like the attack of 9/11, the financial effects of
another terror attack will be felt by almost
everyone who lives in the United States. If you
have been lulled into a false sense of complacency
because we haven't been attacked yet, think for a
moment about what you could lose if a major attack
occurred in the not too distant future.
After September 11th, 2001, major economic shifts
occurred, and that was a relatively minor event.
If a nuclear or dirty bomb went off in New York
City, the economic "fall out" would be much, much
greater. Fortunately, there are simple, effective
ways to "terrorproof" your savings if you know
what to do.

Health Today

After the events of 9/11, I felt a
need to re-think how I allocated my own
investments. As a Certified Financial Planner and
investment educator, I also had many students that
were concerned about protecting their portfolio. I
looked for books that could be of help, but
couldn't find one that was useful and reasonably
priced. Therefore, I decided to write my own. With
the help of my co-author Jonathan Robinson, we
wrote "Terror-Proof Your Mind and Money: Create
Physical, Financial and Mental Security in
Dangerous Times."

How to Terror-Proof Your Money

In the book, we discuss many
practical ways to easily take the "terror" out of
terrorism by relieving one's anxiety, securing
one's home, and protecting one's financial assets.
Although I can't discuss all the suggestions
outlined in our book in a brief article such as this, I can
offer you many helpful guidelines for protecting
your assets in the event of another tragedy. When
the time of another attack occurs, if your
investments are in the right places, you'll
weather the ensuing storm just fine. Yet, if your
assets are badly positioned, you could face the
prospect of financial (as well as emotional)


If you honestly look
at our current economic climate, you can see there
are many vulnerabilities. In the event of a major
terrorist attack in the U.S., our economy could
fall like a "House of Cards." Consider the

1. The stock market, especially tech
stocks like Google, Yahoo and EBay are trading at
higher valuations than tech stock prices during
the bubble in the late 1990's. Many
commentators are even calling the early 2005
market an "echo bubble."

2. The benchmark 10 year
Treasury bond is yielding less than 5% in a world
that has been promised higher interest rates by
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. (Higher
interest rates will cause the value of your long
term bonds to automatically drop in value.)

3. The
housing market is certainly overpriced on both
coasts, and is probably unsustainable in the
middle of the country too. Home sales have begun
to slow down in light of higher mortgage rates,
outlandish prices, too much speculation, and buyer
exhaustion. If current homeowners can't borrow
more money out of their ever increasingly valuable
residence, will they keep spending at the mall? It
has largely been money borrowed out of housing
that has helped consumer buying the last three years...and
without it, the U.S. could easily fall into a
recession--causing even more problems.

4. The
value of the dollar--looked at by the rest of the
world as a share of stock in the USA Inc.--has been
falling for almost three years. Do you think the
world will continue to put 0-600 billion
dollars worth of their savings into our economy
each year? If foreigners decide not to send their
money to us, our interest rates will rise even
faster than the promised "gradualism" promised by
Mr. Greenspan. Most Americans don't really care
about the value of the dollar in world markets,
but I assure you if the dollar becomes some sort
of "American Peso," we will all quickly learn how
a weak dollar can hurt. For example, we have to
buy oil in dollars, and if dollars aren't worth
anything, how will we afford to fill the tank of
our nice new SUV?

5. And finally, the rate of
inflation (classically defined as too much of an
increase in the amount of money in circulation),
is rising. And if that kind of inflation
(monetary) is rising, then price inflation won't
be far behind. A rerun of price inflation would
essentially be a rerun of the entirely troublesome

Yes, there is undoubtedly some good news
on the investment front, but overpriced markets
are inherently risky in any kind of era, and they
perform very badly in panicky, terror stricken
financial markets. An act of terrorism would
exaggerate problems in all of these markets.


I have been teaching investment workshops since 1979. In 1999 and early
2000 I couldn't get my adult students to be worried about ridiculous stock
prices. My allegedly savvy adult students all thought, "This time it's different."
Well, live and learn. Warren Buffett, the best investor of our era has said,
"Investment knowledge is cumulative."
Mr. Buffet
has seemingly learned that the U.S. stock market
is not a good bet now. He has recently publicly
stated that he's not buying anything in the U.S.
stock market, but instead is focusing on buying
foreign currencies.

In studying what happened to
financial markets after the attack of 9/11, I
learned that investors who had money diversified
into various asset allocations did pretty well. So
if history is any lesson, you'll probably do fine
in the event of a future attack if you invest
"relatively" equal percentages of your investment
money in the categories of stocks, short term
bonds, cash, commercial real estate and
commodities (including gold and silver). Once
you've moved your money into these different asset
classes, the next thing to focus on is to start
picking specific mutual funds or individual
equities that you believe will perform well in
turbulent kinds of markets. For example, in an
increasingly dangerous world, certain "security"
stocks would likely be good investments (if other
value considerations are present.) Such classic
defense stocks as Boeing and Lockeed have done
well since 9/11. Of course, I'm not your financial
advisor and this is not the forum to be touting
any particular companies, so I'm not recommending
anything without knowing more about you. Rather,
my goal here is to get you to look at allocation
of assets - the big areas your assets are invested

Besides detailing how certain industries
did after 9/11, I devote significant attention in
our book to encouraging investors to include
precious metals in their portfolios. Gold and
silver have protected investors for centuries from
financial mismanagement, bad governments,
inflation, and of course, war. It's not an
accident that the Golden Rule is frequently
misquoted as "Those with the gold rule." It is
also worth remembering that all "fiat" currencies
(paper declared to be money by some authority
without it being exchangeable into anything else)
have eventually become "collectibles." Confederate
money, French assignats, Iraqui dinars, etc. have
all become confetti. Compare that track record to
the fact that every single gold or silver coin
ever made still has value. You should think about
placing some percentage of your money in gold and
silver if you are looking to make your portfolio

Your preparation doesn't have to be
perfect. As George Patton said, "A good plan today
is better than a perfect plan tomorrow." Nobody is
born knowing how to invest. Smart investors
develop their expertise by reading about what
others did with their money, and coming up with a
suitable plan based on all the information they
can collect. Remember, traditional Wall Street
brokers and TV financial analysts rarely (if ever)
bring up the subject of terror-proofing your
savings. Therefore, other than the book I
co-authored on this subject, you're pretty much on
your own when considering the likely implications
of a terror attack on your financial health. Make
your decisions carefully.

For most people, the
worst scars from a future terrorist attack won't
be physical. They will be emotional and financial.
If you are caught flat-footed, your future
financial plans (and those of your loved ones)
could be delayed for a significant period of time, or destroyed
altogether. That would be adding one tragedy on
top of another. It's time to pay attention to your
where your money is and take appropriate
action...before it's too late.

How to Terror-Proof Your Money

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