Maddy Dychtwald

Financial Profile: Are you More Like Oprah, Diane Sawyer or Lindsay Lohan?

In Huffington Post Series on May 23, 2010 at 8:00 am

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting in New York about my new book, INFLUENCE: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power will Transform Our World for the Better. Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake, one of the other attendees, voiced concern that young women today were too interested in bikini waxes, how to get a man, and celebrity culture to care much about being a woman of influence.

As the mother of a terrific 23 year-old young woman, who I sometimes spot reading about celebrity culture, I was disturbed by Leslie Bennetts’ comments. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to young women (including my daughter) and have come to the conclusion that you can strive to be a woman of influence and still be interested in fashion and celebrity culture; the two worlds are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, let’s have some fun examining celebrity women to see examples of just how influence can work.

First, what do I mean by influence? I mean using your education, money, earning power and status to take charge of your life and make your mark on the world. Women are definitely on their way! Last year, 73% of all high school valedictorians were young women. Today, for every 100 men graduating from college, there are 133 women graduating. Young women are graduating from law school, medical school and MBA programs in almost equal numbers to men, giving young women the tools to succeed in our knowledge economy. And it’s translated directly into earning power. As of this year, women now control more money than men.

In order to use our influence to affect change, it can be helpful to understand our own attitudes toward and behaviors with money–and, sometimes, to change them. New research, which I describe in INFLUENCE, found that most women fall into one of five money “profiles,” –a collection of attitudes and behaviors that describes their feelings and values about money as well as their confidence in using their money to affect change.

Read the following profiles and try to figure out which one best matches you–or the women in your life.

1. Alpha Female: 18 percent of women
The most confident of our financial profiles, the Alpha, tends to act more like society expects a confident man to act with money. From the celebrity talent pool, think Oprah, Madonna or Angelina Jolie. She’s the most optimistic, risk-tolerant and self-reliant of the personalities. She’s a quick decision maker and is able to learn from her mistakes. She’s great at delegating and uses outside help whenever possible to boost her decision-making. On the down side, she can be so gung-ho that she makes decisions before she has all the facts. Most important, the Alpha feels financially and psychologically independent. She’s in charge.

2. Perceptive Planner: 35 percent of women
The Perceptive Planner is highly analytical, responsible, disciplined and usually optimistic. Think Sandra Bullock or Diane Sawyer. She thinks in the long term, and thoughtfully researches purchases, investments and financial commitments. Unlike the Alpha, she’s motivated primarily by the desire for security and stability, and she’s not inclined to move forward without having all the facts. She likes to mull things over carefully .

3. Power Partner: 23 percent of women
The Power partner is collaborative, willing to compromise, and believes two heads are better than one. Think Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez or Gwyneth Paltrow. Pragmatic and responsible, the Power Partner is very concerned that her partner’s needs are met as well as her own. By the way, not all power partnerships are between spouses or romantic partners. Sometimes they’re siblings, business partners, close friends, or even parents and adult children.

4. Supportive Traditionalist: 9 percent of women
These women hope that someone else will take care of everything money-related for them. They’re highly emotional, not analytical, about financial matters. Think Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears. Even though neither of these celebrities is currently married, they cede their financial control to others. This type of woman enjoys spending, but isn’t that interested in gaining knowledge when it comes to saving and investing. She avoids discussions about money. She’s likely to find herself in deep trouble in the absence of a responsible partner. In our research, we met many women who started out as supportive traditionalists — waiting for Prince Charming to take care of things — and for a variety of reasons, changed.

5. The Uncertain Searcher: 16 percent of women
The least confident women fall into this profile: think Lindsay Lohan. She’s fearful, confused and sometimes becomes paralyzed when it’s time to make financial choices. She’s an impulsive shopper who succumbs to instant gratification and holds few ideas about how to think about money in the long term. She knows she’s ignorant about finances, but doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust. She’s sometime too embarrassed by her lack of knowledge to ask for help.

Girls to Women
The top three profiles are the most confident of the financial personalities. They understand the power of money and are willing to seek help making good decisions. I would argue that in this modern age, all three of these groups are well positioned to make their economic influence felt in the world. However, the last two profiles, which represent a quarter of all women, are not. If you fall into one of these groups, it’s critical that you take steps to gain better knowledge and control of your money and make it start working for you–and the world.

It’s good news that most women today fall into the more confident groups. But it’s troubling that many still don’t. Also troubling is the fact that younger women are almost twice as likely as mature women to call themselves supportive traditionalists, even if they aren’t married. They are more likely than older women to think money might make them less attractive and to say they’d see their partner as “more of a man” if he took control of the finances.

Maybe these girls are still dependent on “helicopter” parents or these are just youthful fantasies about a rosy future–fantasies that more seasoned women had long since let go. But one thing is clear: in this age of self-empowerment, any woman who remains an Uncertain Searcher or Supportive Traditionalist faces clear and urgent dangers to her long-term independence and perhaps her economic survival.

The good news is that these personalities aren’t fixed within us. Many women have been able to educate themselves into a more confident role. And, yes, maybe we can strive to be more like Oprah, Diane Sawyer or Gwyneth Paltrow rather than Lindsay Lohan.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

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