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The financial mystique

Girls Just Want to Have Funds, a new book that is by turns illuminating and overly precious, targets financial planning for women at the beginning of their careers.

By HELEN HUNTLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000


Reviewed by Helen Huntley

* * *

Since there are no untold secrets to getting your financial life in order, publishers are stuck finding something else to distinguish their personal finance offerings.

Taking dead aim at a niche audience seems to be the popular solution. Instead of just another book expounding on the mysteries of money, we get books explaining retirement investing to Hispanics, stocks to African Americans and mutual funds to teenagers.

Susannah Blake Goodman's apparent target is 20- and 30-something women who are clueless about their finances.

Her goal of setting them straight is admirable. Women earn less than men over their working lifetimes and, because of that, they have smaller pensions and Social Security checks. The poverty rate among elderly women is twice that of elderly men. But by the time a lot of women wake up to the fact that they can't live on Social Security, it's too late to do anything about it.

As Goodman tells us, "Time is the magic fairy dust of money," and starting young can make you a millionaire at retirement.

Goodman succeeds at the not-so-simple task of making a book on money an interesting read, lacing the pages with stories that illustrate the financial facts of life. She explains how to choose a mutual fund, why stocks go up and down and how to tell a Roth from a regular IRA. She also offers plenty of advice that would be useful for anyone: Save early and often, invest wisely, plan for your future and have confidence in yourself.

Unfortunately, the title should be considered a warning label for the condescending tone that frequently pops up between its covers. Women readers who are not so clueless surely will find themselves at least annoyed if not downright insulted.

Goodman's "Bonding with Bonds" chapter shows just how far she is willing to go to try to put sex appeal into a dull investment topic:

"If investment-grade bonds were guys, they'd be just the type of boyfriend you'd want to bring home to your parents for dinner. Nice. Clean. Tidy. Boring ... If junk bonds were guys, they'd be moody, brilliant, highly unstable, and insecure musicians. They'd have the glimmer of promise -- but not a whole lot of backup in terms of financial stability."

The worst quality bonds get compared to "a guy whose drug problem clearly has a hold on him."

Goodman is hardly the first to target women with a book about money. Last year publishers gave us the likes of Georgette Mosbacher's It Takes Money, Honey and Joan Perry's A Girl Needs Cash, both of which feature bright pink covers.

Girls Just Want to Have Funds is splashed with hot pink, chartreuse and purple, presumably to grab attention and reduce the intimidation factor, but probably ensuring that no guys will pick it up by accident.

Maybe Goodman will write a book for them next: "If investment grade bonds were baseball players, they'd be New York Yankees. ..."

-- Helen Huntley writes about money for the Times.

Girls Just Want to Have Funds

How to Spruce Up Your Money Life and Invest Like a Pro

By Susannah Blake Goodman

Hyperion, $14.95

Festival author

Susannah Blake Goodman will be among the authors featured at the two-day Times Festival of Reading next month. She will speak Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. in Seibert Classroom 104 on the campus of Eckerd College.

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