As time grows shorter until my move to the retirement center, I become increasingly nervous. I worry about the ongoing costs over time and how inflation will eat into my savings. Almost everyone shares some worry about money, given our sluggish economy. Much of my anxiety stems from being raised by my mother, a single Hispanic woman who lived from day-to-day on the edge of poverty and homelessness. That insecurity left its mark on me, but I’m not alone. Polls show that many women live with the same fear, so many that the dread has been given a name: the bag-lady syndrome.
A survey reported in The New Republic reveals that even women earning high wages fear “they will someday be destitute.” (“Why Are There No Female Sheldon Adelsons? By Rebecca Traister, The New Republic, August 25. pg. 11.)
A number of reasons exist to explain this anxiety. For a start, women for centuries have been obliged to depend upon men for sustenance. That picture has changed somewhat but, women, on average, tend to be less well paid than men, a fact which keeps them economically vulnerable. That vulnerability may be the reason why women think differently about money than men. Men see money as power. Women see it as personal or family security. (Ibid pg. 10) Fear of one day being poor may explain why women tend to be less charitable than men, as well. (Ibid pg. 10) It may also explain why women are more likely to register as Democrats. (Women/ politics) They see government as a provider of social safety nets like healthcare, Medicaid, and Social Security. (Ibid pg. 11)
Political candidates who seek the support of women would do well to remember women vote their pocket books… or bags to be precise. Like Helen Gurley Brown, former editor of Cosmopolitan, we knowthat money may not buy happiness but it will keep us miserable in comfort.