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What Women (Supposedly) Want

Jonathan Clements  |  May 19, 2015

WALL STREET LOVES women—or, at least, it loves to pitch them products through special marketing campaigns. While women’s financial needs differ somewhat from men’s—for instance, they live longer and they’re more likely to need nursing-home care—it’s always struck me that these programs are more about selling than substance.

For further proof, check out this delightful email I received last week: “I recently went to a workshop called ‘Retirement Strategies for Women’ that was put on by Valic.  What did we do for most of the hour? We made a collage! They gave us a small poster and some stickers, and we each expressed what we like to do now that costs money (and what doesn’t cost money) and what we hope to do in retirement that costs money (and what we would like to do that doesn’t cost money). I think it was a way to visualize why we are saving money. At the end, the Valic representative offered to make appointments with us, presumably to actually discuss ‘retirement strategies,’ but I think more likely to hear about an annuity they are selling.”

My correspondent continued: “Anyway, the Valic woman was nice, and clearly she was following the Valic script, and making a collage was not terrible. But it was pretty ludicrous when you consider how much money some women have these days and the very real financial challenges we face.  Also, most of the women I work with are professionals, and many of us have advanced degrees. Why would anyone at Valic think this is how they should approach us? I doubt they would do this to the men!

“I threw away my collage. But I thought the stickers they gave us to use were very telling of what they assume about women. One was of a kitten and a puppy, one was of sailboats, one showed a fancy dish from a restaurant, one showed a happy couple hiking, one had the word ‘Friends,’ etc. There were entire categories of life that were left out, but we made our collage from the life experiences Valic thinks we value.”

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