Nowadays, women increasingly regard themselves as their family's "chief financial officer."
Amanda Steinberg has always been good at making money. Keeping it was the struggle. So she hit the Web in search of savings advice and found dry, jargon-filled financial news that seemed written for guys who work on Wall Street. Dissatisfied with what she was reading, the idea for DailyWorth -- a money website for women -- was born.
Similar thoughts were playing in Alexa von Tobel's mind. Struck by how financial content on the Web didn't speak to her, despite being a former Morgan Stanley analyst, von Tobel left Harvard Business School to create her vision of a personal finance site for women, which she named LearnVest.
Both www.learnvest.com and www.dailyworth.com were launched in the wake of the recession, which rattled many Americans' financial plans. Steinberg said it was a period of awakening for many women, who found themselves as sole breadwinners in their family or trying to manage a smaller household budget: "Women finally realized, 'I have to be responsible for my own finances. There's no more rescue fantasy. That whole kind-of princess story I was sold as a child just does not exist anymore.'"
Some might argue that it's insulting to say women need their own money sites. The majority of women have jobs, a growing number are earning more than their husbands, and they are worried about retirement and other issues that men care about as well, right?
The fact that women have come a long way since the days of June Cleaver is precisely why they need their own destination for financial information. They need information that addresses their particular financial challenges, which tend to be greater than those facing men. In general, women take more breaks for childrearing and caregiving for aging parents. They tend to earn less money. Women on average live longer than men. And studies have shown they are less confident about their financial know-how than the opposite sex.
Whether they are widowed or end up single after a divorce, "most women will be in control of their money at some point, so why not take the time now to understand how they're saving, how to invest," said Cassidy Burns, a certified financial planner with Minneapolis-based Riverbridge Partners who specializes in women clients. "To have knowledge is to have power."
Burns likes how DailyWorth, which reaches out to readers with a daily e-mail, teaches about budgeting, earning and investing using stories from real women. "Women are willing to put themselves out there and share their own experiences. Women love to learn from each other," Burns said.
LearnVest takes a similar approach to the subject matter (full disclosure: I've written two stories for LearnVest in my spare time). But Burns is particularly impressed by the site's focus on well-designed, user-friendly tools. LearnVest launched an online budgeting tool in July that combines a user's account data in one place, creating a financial snapshot. It's a service that's similar to one offered by rival budgeting behemoth Mint.com.
Maria Lin, LearnVest editor-in-chief, says the site attempts to merge money and lifestyle, but aims to be more than a pretty place with stories about shopping. "It's about empowering women," she said. To that end, LearnVest has free online boot camps on topics such as getting organized financially and getting out of debt. And it offers a unique, rent-a-planner advice service, which allows readers to ask certified financial planners questions through e-mail. The amount of access depends on whether the user pays $4.99 for a 36-hour pass or $129.99 for a year's worth of help.
Both sites netted venture-capital funding and have grown quickly since 2009. DailyWorth has 150,000 e-mail subscribers and is creating an entrepreneur edition. LearnVest is launching LearnVest Moms this fall, with content on preparing finances for baby and sending kids to college. The site says it's on track to have 400,000 daily newsletter subscribers by year-end. They are also launching discussion forums, LearnVest's attempt to eliminate the taboo around discussing personal money matters.
And yes, guys read the sites too.
Here's another reason why smart, women-oriented money content is important: Women tend to be underserved by the financial services industry, said Linda Descano, a chartered financial analyst who runs www.womenandco.com, a website created in 2000 that's part of Citibank's empire.
"Women really wanted to talk about money but didn't feel like anyone in our industry was listening to them -- that we were talking at them about products and not to them about life," she said.
The site does not sell products, although developing goodwill among an increasingly attractive demographic doesn't hurt.
In the decade since Women & Co. started, Descano said women went from thinking of themselves as the household "chief purchasing officer" to the household "chief financial officer." Women "are increasingly driving the planning conversations'' around retirement and their kids' education, she said.
Kara McGuire • 612-673-7293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Kara_McGuire