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Bag-Lady Syndrome

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Many of us fear that our financial security, or what we have of it, could disappear in a moment. Even wealthy people share this fear. It might not be unfounded.

Jay MacDonald from Bankrate writes about bag-lady syndrome, a curious feeling plaguing women.

Women tend to be unprepared and overwhelmed when widowhood or divorce suddenly plops their financial security in their hands. If they’ve long feared they will wind up a bag lady, these transitions can feel like the nightmare is about to play out in real life. As a result, they tend to avoid money, horde money or invest too conservatively to make the money they’ll need later in life.

Women are specifically singled out in this article as being subject to these feelings of dread. Is this sexism? The explanations generalize sex roles, but note the life expectency differences between men and women. On average, women outlive men by seven years; the survivor will have to fend for herself. More explanations:

Women typically depend on the males in their life (father, then husbands) to perform the earning and saving roles, while they typically manage the household and raise the kids, largely a spending role. Women are often left out of big-picture financial planning and investing and typically don’t have friends who work in these fields to advise them. And it’s hardly news that women on average don’t earn as much, or advance as far, in their careers compared to their male counterparts.

According to the article, there is no “male version” of this syndrome. Thier fears revolve around being injured, dying young, and being laid off from work, concerns that Olivia Mellan calls “more rational.”

Updated April 4, 2008 and originally published January 11, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Madame X

The author of Money: A Memoir also talks about these issues. It’s an interesting book, I’m planning to review it.

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avatar Lauren

A blog somewhere (and I apologize that I don’t know which–could have been this one, for all I know) mentioned the phenomenon that women think of money like a pool, which is finite and can be drained, while men think of money like a stream. This is definitely the case in my household. Even though I am largely the one who determines financial goals and budgets, I feel very scared about losing it all, while my fiancé will respond that you can always make more. I have never been dependent on anyone else as an adult, so I’m not sure why I feel this way. Perhaps we’ve seen our older female relatives, grandmothers and such, have money troubles once they are on their own?

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avatar Darren R. Sussman

It seems fairly obvious, of course, that this is not limited to just women. As in all things, there will be cases on both sides of the fence. While I don’t constantly worry about it, I do sometimes find myself slightly panicked and thinking about the limited savings I have and what am I going to do when I get older, or what am I going to do if the money runs out? It’s a somewhat legitimate fear for most people, actually. It’s more a question of what you do about it that seperates people…

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avatar Living it

We live longer and earn less. And, our social value ends at menopause. No one is going to hire you because you make them feel young and viral, or because they want to get in your pants. While you used to think that they hired you because of your skills, the ugly reality hits at 50 years old. So our income stream turns into a fixed size pool much earlier in life than for men. Without a stream to replace losses, women are smart to keep their money safe. We live longer, earn less and our stream turns into a pool way too early in life. The Bag Lady Syndrome is not irrational fear or misplaced fantasy; it’s market reality. Please note that this article was written by a man lacking insight into both, human condition and life’s realities.

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