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

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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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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Musings and Amusings

Is this too good to be true?

Men Having it all in Sweden
Mikael Karlsson owns a snowmobile, two hunting dogs and five guns. In his spare time, this soldier-turned-game warden shoots moose and trades potty-training tips with other fathers. Cradling 2-month-old Siri in his arms, he can't imagine not taking baby leave. ''Everyone does.'' 85 percent of Swedish fathers take parental leave. Those who don't face questions from family, friends and colleagues.

In this land of Viking lore, men are at the heart of the gender-equality debate. The ponytailed center-right finance minister calls himself a feminist, ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers, and preschools vet books for gender stereotypes in animal characters. For nearly four decades, governments of all political hues have legislated to give women equal rights at work -- and men equal rights at home.

Profound social change.
Women's paychecks are benefiting and the shift in fathers' roles is perceived as playing a part in lower divorce rates and increasing joint custody of children.
In perhaps the most striking example of social engineering, a new definition of masculinity is emerging.

The share of fathers on leave was stalled at 6 percent when Mr. Westerberg entered government in 1991.

Women continued to take parental leave not just for tradition's sake but because their pay was often lower, thus perpetuating pay differences. Companies, meanwhile, made clear to men that staying home with baby was not compatible with a career.
''Society is a mirror of the family, the only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve equality in the home. Getting fathers to share the parental leave is an essential part of that.''

No father was forced to stay home, but the family lost one month of subsidies if he did not. Soon more than eight in 10 men took leave.

Among the self-employed, and in rural and immigrant communities, men are far less likely to take leave. That a mother’s future earnings increase on average 7 percent for every month the father takes leave.

While Sweden, with nine million people, made a strategic decision to get more women into the work force in the booming 1960s, other countries imported more immigrant men.

The trend is, however, no longer limited to small countries. Germany, with nearly 82 million people.

That was a marker of pretty significant change. If Germany can do it, she said, ''most countries can.''

Yet Sweden looks well balanced: at 2.1 percent and 40 percent of G.D.P., respectively, public deficit and debt levels are a fraction of those in most developed economies these days, testimony perhaps to fiscal management born of a banking crisis and recession in the 1990s. High productivity and political consensus keep the system going.

Source: NY Times


Women claimed three of the top five spots in Forbes magazine’s 2010 Celebrity power list, with singer Lady Gaga making her first entry and Oprah Winfrey retaking her No 1 position. Talk show host Winfrey earned an estimated US$315 million (NZ$445m), putting her stop the annual Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list for the fourth time.

Grammy-winning R & B singer Beyonce rose to second with an estimated US$87 million from a tour and album sales, together with deals in fashion fragrance and other endorsements.

Glam pop star Lady Gaga made the list for the first time, talking fourth place with estimated earnings of US$62m.

But wait there is more – its not just celebrity women who are earning as much as men, according to an analysis of the American workplace, the pay gap between men and women is set to vanish within 14 years among the professional classes, Women will on average earn more than men in careers such as law, medicine and academia by 2024, says Maddy Dychtwald, a Californian expert on demographics.

She says women are more ambitious, going for the top jobs, and younger women would find pay disparity with their male peers a joke.

If this trend continues, women in middle-income jobs such as teaching, healthcare and the arts will start overtaking men shortly after 2024.
The predictions mark a startling break with official estimates at the start of the century, which suggested the pay gap would persist for another 40 years.

Declining birth rates, a growing number of female-friendly posts and the “mancession” – where more men than women lost their jobs in the US recession – have since helped to shatter elements of the glass ceiling.
The “motherhood penalty” remains the biggest obstacle to female advancement, experts say. This may change as the birth rate fails and educational opportunity trickle down.


From the New York Times by Maureen Dowd.

I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women.

I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women’s rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.

How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?

I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing. I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity.

I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.

I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women’s brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity.

The Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she’s his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen.

Negating women is at the heart of the church’s hideous — and criminal — indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests’ care.

“In the Roman Catholic corporation, the senior executives live and work, as they have for a thousand years, eschewing not just marriage, but intimacy with women … not to mention any chance to familiarize themselves with the earthy, primal messiness of families and children.”

Finance and Investment

From one of my favourites; the Psy-Fi Blog:
Geography Is Wealth

Summarising briefly, the peoples of the European-Asian land mass were favoured because the East-West directionality of the continents meant that people and animals could spread without encountering hugely unfavourable climate conditions. In Africa, for example, spreading North-South meant overcoming widely different temperature conditions, a malarial zone and the Sahara Desert.

Europe and Asia were favoured by access to the widest range of domesticatable animals and plants, and furthermore then benefited from natural selection in favour of those people best fitted to survive the diseases which could jump species.

Persistent Institutions

Robust institutions – many of today’s economic success stories are those countries where European colonisers laid down roots and established lasting institutions, while many of the basket cases are places where expropriation of resources was the main, lasting accomplishment of the colonial powers.

Property Rights Rule

In particular there appears to be a link between property rights and economic growth which seems to make intuitive sense. If you believe you’ll be allowed to reap the rewards of your labour you’re more likely to work harder and re-invest earnings. If you expect your profits to be expropriated then you’re more likely to bury them in the back garden or hide them in Switzerland where they won’t help local economic growth.

History Matters

Decisions made centuries ago are still influencing the differences between the haves and the have nots of this world. For instance, the way that revenue collection in British controlled India was performed, can predict multiple economic factors in different regions: direct revenue collection by British officials has led to better levels of education and health.

It’s not the precise economic or political system that matters but the infrastructure supporting the rule of law. Corruption and a disregard for property rights is the enemy of economic advancement, not lack of freedom. Of course, all too often these go hand in hand but it ain’t necessarily so...

Who’s counting?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote How do I love thee? Let me count the ways?
One assumes she would write a simple numbered list. Easy to read and understand mathematically.

Sometimes however we are presented with statistics which on the face of it look impeccable but which are wrong.

A recent example caught my eye – abortions for girls have doubled since 1991! The headlines shrieked, the moralists pontificated. But allow for population growth of 2-3% from 1991 til’ now and yes, you would expect the figures to double. In effect then there has been no change.