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By Lauren Ohayon

It's not unusual for women to hold the reins on the family finances, juggling household budgets and allowances, but more and more often they are also faced with taking over the traditionally male role of managing their family's investment portfolio. According to Oppenheimer, a financial firm, women earn 1 trillion dollars a year, yet they still often lack the knowledge and confidence to invest their money. A recent Harris poll shows that only 53 percent of women have the confidence to invest, as compared to the 82 percent of men who are confident investors.

Investment Club for Women

One woman who certainly isn't hesitant about controlling the family fortune is Carrie Schwab Pomerantz. And while she certainly couldn't be called your average personal investor, as head of Charles Schwab's "Women Investing Now" program, Schwab Pomerantz is working to empower this new sector in the personal investing market. We asked her to weigh in on women in the personal investing market.

We introduced Schwab Pomerantz to the story of Leilani Kramer, a traditional homemaker who previously left all of the investing decisions in her husband's hands. When he died eight years ago, she had no idea as to how she should manage the family's portfolio. Even more disconcerting, she lacked most of the basic knowledge she needed to get started. Kramer was overwhelmed by the prospect of having to live off her husband's life savings and put her three kids through college, so she did what many might have done in her situation: She handed over management to a traditional full-service investment house with its traditionally high brokerage fees. It didn't take Mrs. Kramer long to realize that she had made a serious blunder, so she took her business to a discount firm, and began to make active investment decisions. That decision turned out to be one of the best she's made, as she has more than doubled her portfolio since taking charge.

According to Carrie Schwab Pomerantz, Kramer's decision to take control of investing her money is something many women should consider. "With the changing society, the fact is that women do live longer then men. The fact is that there's 50 percent divorce, and 80 percent of women at some point in their lives are going to be solely responsible for their finances. So it is imperative that they consider investing a necessity and not a luxury. They are going to be in control of their finances. They might not feel like it now, but they will at some point."

When women do need it, Schwab Pomerantz wants her "Women Investing Now" program to be there, helping invest a share of the one trillion dollars held by women. The program is designed to put women at ease with the idea of financial management and to create a community of female investors. These kinds of programs are perfect for women entering the investing community. In fact, 70 percent of investment club members are women. The clubs garner women from all walks of life, bringing them together under one umbrella. One of these is the Hudson Valley Investment Club. Since it was founded four years ago, its 16 members, who contribute $50 each a month, are doing well. According to Rita Ryan, one of the club's founders, everyone should invest early to save for the future. "We have 39 thousand dollars that we've purchased stocks with, and the value is about up to 55 thousand. I'm glad it's all women. We are just learning. I think if we had a couple of fellows, they would have just led the whole thing the whole way and we would have followed."

Leilani Kramer agrees that earlier is better and she is educating herself and her children so they are not left in the dark again. "That's wrong, you know, to be ignorant like that. That ignorance is not bliss. That ignorance is dangerous because it's your whole financial livelihood."

Investment Club for Women

This week, THAT MONEY SHOW's Betsey Karetnick spoke to Mindy Ross, a Financial Analyst from Solomon Smith Barney, and Tracy Eichler, an Investment Srategist from Paine Webber, for their take on the surge of women investors.

According to Ross, targeted marketing aimed at attracting female investors began about 4 years ago, when there were still many myths that needed to be dispelled. Some of these were that women are not smart investors, and are too conservative, or afraid of Wall Street. The fact is, says Ross, "the more money a woman has, the smarter she is."

According to Eichler, women these days want more investing knowledge. She joked that while the attendance for an investment seminar would never be male, females understand and embrace the importance of ongoing education. Ross agrees. She says that with the changing marketplace, there are an increasing number of women in top positions, as entrepreneurs, dot-com creators, and the like, and that these women want an active role in decision-making.

Here are some tips: Hiring a professional, Eichler adamantly believes, is the only way to go. But when you do, be sure to define your goals. Determine what you're saving for, and how much you want to come out with. Finally, ask yourself about time frame: For how long do you want to tie up your money in a particular stock or fund?

With that in mind ... ladies, get off your butts, go crazy, and spend your paycheck on the hottest stock! Just kidding, but don't be afraid to take a chance and have the confidence to invest.

Check out the archives for more great stories.

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