tampabay.com

Deliver yourself from debt, find benefits in the bedroom

By Helen Huntley, Times Personal Finance Editor
Published May 6, 2007


Flipping through Self magazine at the gym recently, I came across one of those how-to-rev-up-your-sex-life articles that are a staple of women's magazines.

Maybe I'm just easily shocked, but I nearly fell off the treadmill when I read Tip No. 8: Live within your means. "Lessening your financial stress and social insecurity can give a bump to your sex life, " the magazine advised.

To think that I'd been writing about financial responsibility all these years and never once thought to mention that it could be good for your libido! Further investigation was clearly in order.

We all know aging tycoons attract young women, but it turns out that's not all there is to the money-sex connection.

"You need energy, time and privacy to have intimacy, " said Dr. Bonnie Saks, president of the Society of Sex Therapy and Research and a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of South Florida. "If you get preoccupied with money, you forget to make time, energy and privacy for other things that are important."

Your energy may be diverted whether you're working hard trying to keep up with the Joneses or not working at all, putting your family in a financial bind. Just thinking about money problems can be a mood killer, Saks said, noting that women are especially easily distracted during sex. "It's harder for her to focus on the other person, so sexual energy may fluidly flow to other areas of concern, " she said.

Anything that reduces anxiety is good for your sex life, said Dr. Mary Davenport, a Sarasota sex therapist. "Reducing debt and getting one's financial situation under control will contribute to an increase in sexual interest and sexual function, " she said.

Both therapists pointed out that our sense of identity and self worth may be tied to our financial success.

"When individuals have the idea that they're successful financially, that affects their whole sense of themselves and that also affects sexual functioning, " Davenport said.

Saks noted that "people who are married to someone who isn't pulling their financial weight sometimes lose sexual interest in them and they become less potent to themselves."

Of course spending less than you make needs to be something that both partners buy into for the love potion to be effective. "If someone has a partner driving them into debt and overspending, it affects their sexual relationship significantly because of conflict and anger, " Davenport said.

So put down that credit card. You can thank me later.

Your questions

Could you please explain how the Pell Grant works? I am financing the college education of four grandkids and could use some relief. How much does the grant pay and how does income affect it?

A Pell Grant can be as much as $4, 310 for the upcoming academic year. It is based on need, which is determined by the income and assets of the student and parents as well as the cost of the college the student is attending. You can use a Web-based calculator try www.finaid.org to calculate how needy the government considers a student to be. Students apply for financial aid through their colleges and fill out a federal application form.

If paying these costs have become a burden, it's time for you to set limits on your contributions. Tell your grandchildren how much you can afford to pay and let their parents and loans finance the rest if they do not qualify for grants.

Helen Huntley writes about investing and markets for the Times. If you have a question about investments or personal finance, write hhuntley@sptimes.com or Helen Huntley, Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Read more questions and answers at blogs.tampabay.com/money.