"Money is like sex," Kelly Conway, a wispy blonde in a pearl necklace, told a crowd of middle-aged couples at the New York Yacht Club last week. "Women are uncomfortable talking about it. But we have to."
The audience tittered. They had assembled under the glaring portraits of old white men to hear the results of a study titled, "What Women Want: Understanding the Modern Female Investor." Conway, a part-time Fox News talking head whose polling company conducted the research along with money manager Catherine Avery, went on to discuss its less-than-shocking revelations: Most women don't know much about investing, they want safe investments, and they prefer to work with smaller money managers who understand their needs and "don't make them feel stupid."
Then it was Avery's turn. "Why should we care what women want?" she asked. "Women are fast approaching to be the most affluent demographic in the United States, out-surpassing men."
"Booooo!" an older man in the audience shouted. The audience laughed awkwardly. Avery looked startled, then recovered. "I want to thank the men in the room tonight," she continued. "Understanding and being aware of the issues that women face is important, not just for your spouse or significant other but also for the next generation." In the audience, Avery's life coach gestured for her to speak up. "The fact is," she said, more loudly, "most men don't outlive their money. Eighty percent of women will be widowed. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce." The room got quiet. "And yet only 10 percent of women are concerned about making financial decisions when they find themselves suddenly single. It's very important that women think about learning to control their money before they are actually faced with these inevitable issues."
Afterward, attendees picked up copies of the study along with promotional notebooks. "These are cute," one woman said to her friend, flipping through the rainbow-colored pages. Someone asked where the guy who booed had gone. "I think he might have jumped off the roof," she said.