It's called an annuity, sweetheart!

A financial service targeting women is heavy on the experts -- and condescension.

Published June 12, 2006 6:28PM (EDT)

Oh, the mixed messages! On the same weekend I saw the cover of Barron's ranking the top 100 female financial advisors (subscription required), I came across this gem of an ad for its clients in the New York Times' Sunday Styles section: "Forget about split ends. Let's talk about dividends," sings the copy for Women & Co. For $125 a year, the service from Citigroup offers access to financial experts and classes on topics such as saving for retirement and real estate. (The last one is an especially good idea, considering the recent stat by the National Association of Realtors that single women make up more that one-fifth of home buyers, and last year, they bought homes at more than twice the rate of bachelors.)

I took a quick look at the Web site, and it seems like a great service. (Among other things, you get access to experts on taxes and real estate, attorneys and something called FamilySource, which features counselors who field questions on caring for kids and elders.) I'm just not sure why this is marketed only to women; it seems like a service guys could use too. But I'm even more confused as to why this is marketed at seemingly ditzy women. I'm just as concerned about split ends as the next woman (especially after a spring of ill-advised highlights) but I'm not thinking about them at the expense of my financial education.

As I've gotten older I have slowly forced myself to bone up on my money management. I've also benefited from what has become a near national obsession with do-it-yourself finance. For years now, even women's magazines, like Glamour and Oprah, have included empowering columns on personal finance, such as paying off credit card debt or financing a car. These are skills many of us -- both women and men -- simply never learned growing up. But many of us are slowly filling in the gaps, and I'm guessing we would all enjoy a little more encouragement and less patronization.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

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