Welcome to the Money Maven's Financial Blog

Money Maven Blog by Sheryl Sutherland, Authorised Financial Adviser and Director of The Financial Strategies Group

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading by Sheryl Sutherland: Girls Just Want to Have Fund$ - Every Women’s Guide to Financial Independence, Money, Money, Money Ain't it Funny - How to Wire your Brain for Wealth, and Smart Money - How to structure your New Zealand business or investments and pay less tax.

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The Financial Strategies Group

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Who's Counting

1 mother + 2 kids + 0 husband = Family.
In the US in 1960, unmarried mothers accounted for about 5 percent of births, now they are almost 40%; about half are women on their own, the rest with partners. More and more women are choosing to bring up their families along or to have a child without a partner. Single parent families now make up about 40% of households. This makes the emphasis society places on the traditional nuclear family.

1 mother + 2 kids + 1 husband is an equation that could become more rarefied in the decades to come. Will the children of single parent families themselves become single parents or will they try to create the “traditional” nest they themselves didn’t have?

One good thing about statisticians they will always continue to count so the identification of trends will continue to intrigue those of us who enjoy counting – but not necessarily accounting.

Everyday Money

Many people are feeling intense anxiety over jobs and money during this period of uncertainty. If you are one of these and are struggling to cope here are some ideas to help your state of mind:

• Firstly establish what money is: it is simply a medium of exchange, it does not reflect self worth. If you cannot live in the way you have in the past, or have to downsize, it does not measure your value as a person.
• Money does not define success. If you think it does examine the messages you have received about money such as those you assimilated as a child, and reflect on your peer’s attitude to money.
• Visualise and verbalise your worst case scenario, this will reduce the fear factor – reflect on the saying “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
• If you need to take action write a timeline and stick to it, don’t let events overtake you. (Much more on this in Money, Money, Money Ain’t it Funny).

And a final thought; the present does not reflect the future. Markets will go up again, banks will stabilise and unemployment will reduce.

Musings and Amusings

In my last Womenomics blog I wrote about women in Zimbabwe protesting. As a cosseted woman in the Western world I can only watch the women who take action against seemingly insurmountable odds with admiration and amazement. A documentary called ‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell’ recounts the story of a woman in Liberia who was inspired to organise the women of her church to pray for peace during the regime of Charles Taylor; the rebels opposing him created a country where violence, death, and rape were the norm.

Leymah Gbowee’s passion for peace through faith and prayer spread to other Christian churches and then to Muslim woman. Like the women of Zimbabwe and their improbable protest the Liberians organised a demonstration for peace at the open air fish market in the capital Monrovia. These women had no resources but sang, danced, prayed and agitated for peace.

After Taylor’s exile and peace negotiation which nearly broke down the world witnessed their thrilling triumph. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as the president of Liberia on January the 16th 2006 – the first woman ever elected president of an African country.

Faith may not have moved mountains but what an amazing achievement for women in a country where violence is endemic.


The Davos Forum (see Finance and Investments) had 81 business leaders attending; of the 81 four were women. This disparity is not new in fact women created their own forum, Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society held in France each year. Seperate but equal, I don’t think so!

“The big theme at this year’s World Economic Forum was Shaping the Post-Crisis World,” wrote Ruth Sunderland in Britain’s The Observer. “The idea that that can be achieved while excluding half the population is breathtaking in its arrogance and shows that the male Davos elite remains mired in its own preening self-regard and complacency. They have wrecked the world economy, but seem oblivious to the idea they may not be the best people to rebuild it.”

Surely now we should recognise that it is essential that women are included in the economic decision making. It is simply foolish to ignore half of the world’s population particularly those who do not embrace the macho capitalism which has caused the problems we are facing in the first place.

I don’t believe in eschewing capitalism, but the current style certainly needs revisiting.

Finance and Investments

Gender balance requirements and usefulness are frequently seen as part of the bra burning feminist culture and treated with disdain. Nicholas D Kristoff writes in an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times that banks around the world ‘desperately want bailouts of billions of dollars, but they also have another need they’re unaware of; women, women and women.”

This comment follows on from discussions which took place at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (For the uninitiated this is a bunch of old white men who meet to talk about the world economy. Unfortunately no solutions to the dire situation have been proposed).

The consensus was that banks need women to improve the quality of decision making – it is pretty clear that the quality of decision making to date has been shoddy to say the least. An article in the Journal of Economic Theory supports this after an analysis of research in the field of problem solving; diverse groups perform better. It won’t surprise you to know that I subscribe to this view. Women don’t subscribe to peer pressure, have a greater concern for the common good and among other things don’t suffer from over confidence (but more on this in Girls Just Want to Have Fund$). This makes for considered and sensible decision making, obviously sorely needed in the giddy realms of financial institutions. In fact as Kristoff reports the Davos discussions concluded that if Lehman Brothers (a large US bank which is being bailed out) had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters they may not be in the same mess today. There is a whole range of research compiled by researchers such as McKinsey, Goldman Sacs and Catalyst which show women are a huge missed economic opportunity.


Why in 2008 are women still underrepresented in politics? In the USA the land of equality and opportunity we have seen the inauguration of Obama after an incredibly gender focused campaign. Obama’s cabinet does not reflect his rhetoric; less than 25%of his cabinet are women. No doubt the naysayers will claim that there are not enough women with the appropriate skills to take their place alongside the male cabinet members.

But, consider this – the top ten companies in the Fortune 100 have close to 40% women in senior positions – these companies are performance driven in a way that governments are not.

Consider also the gender balance of the cabinets appointed by France, Spain and Sweden – all three presidents have accurately reflected their populations with close to a 50/50 split. Gender balance is a key priority of their governments such as those in the Philippines, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Liberia, Argentina (and until recently New Zealand) are led by women.

For more on gender balance read blogs Finance and Investments and Womenomics.