Wendy Sachs spoke to financial guru Jean Chatzky on April 15 – Tax Day. Jean, an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is the financial editor for NBC’s Today, a contributing editor for More Magazine, a columnist for The New York Daily News, and a contributor to The Oprah Winfrey Show. She also hosts a daily show on Oprah Radio, exclusively on Sirius/XM Radio.
Jean Chatzky is the author of six books, including her newest book The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times, and she blogs at JeanChatzky.com.
I feel like this is your BIG DAY — it’s like the Yom Kippur of the Tax Season — the Day of Reckoning. So I have to ask you the most obvious question, when did you file your tax return? Do you use an accountant or fly solo? And do you ever get tense or a little nauseated (like the rest of us) when you look at your return?
I do get tense when I look at it and then I remind myself that if I wasn’t making money, I wouldn’t have to pay that much in taxes. So it’s a good problem to have. I do use an accountant (I run a small business, essentially, with a couple of employees) and I am on extension. My return usually is completed in June or July when my accountant is back from his after-tax vacation.
How do you think women's relationship with money is different from a man's?
I think women traditionally operate from a place where we haven’t necessarily had enough information. We’ve operated from a position of scarcity. You always hear stories about how women live longer than men and therefore don’t have enough saved for retirement. You never hear about bag men only bag ladies so I think women have been more reluctant to take risks with money.
It’s often been reported that even in tough times women are more likely to cut back on their own expenses and luxuries but not want to cut back on things for their children. The TODAY show had the CEO of Wal-Mart on this morning saying this exact thing that, in fact, Wal-Mart sees people scaling back in many items, but children clothes and products are still doing well. Why do you think this is?
Women will do things for other people. We do things for our parents and our spouses and our children before we will do things for ourselves. We tend to take care of everyone else before we take care of our own needs. I like the oxygen mask metaphor (That’s when you’re on the plane and the parent is told to take the oxygen mask before giving it to their own child). You have to take care of yourself or you can’t take of anyone else.
But we do see women’s reluctance in cutting back on their children. We saw it around Christmas time too. Women were cutting back on their own needs but reluctant to share what was happening with the economy with their kids or that this Christmas won’t or can’t be as lavish as past Christmases. The problem amplifies when we get towards retirement age and a whole generation of women who have had children a little older will be dealing with the three-way-punch — aging parents, their own retirement and kids going to college. But as selfish as this sounds, your retirement has to come first. There are federal programs to help with the other stuff.