How Stress Hits Women’s Brains Harder and Why Men Don’t Always Get It

If you’ve been stressed out and ignoring it—isn’t everyone stressed right now?— it could be time to do something about it. That’s because even though you may be basically healthy, tension is doing its stealthy damage. The latest evidence? Researchers have linked high levels of the stress hormone cortisol to brain shrinkage and impaired memory in healthy middle-aged adults. And get this: The effect was more pronounced in women than in men.

This research underscores an important point. Though stress affects your whole body, ground zero is your brain. It’s not just the effects of cortisol—it’s that teeth-grinders like traffic jams, personal snubs, and financial worries are perceived and interpreted by your gray matter. Fortunately, research focused on the brain is pointing to new, more effective ways to reduce your tension.

But first, let’s drill down and see how and why your brain’s natural reactions make you more vulnerable to the zings and arrows of tension.

How Stress Affects Your Brain

Aspects of the brain’s design that served us well thousands of years ago now make us susceptible to negative emotions and mental fatigue, both of which ratchet up our stress, says Amit Sood, M.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and founder of the Mayo Clinic Resilience Program. Although our brains have evolved over time, “the speed of life today is the main stressor—it’s much faster than our brain’s ability to adapt,” he says.

And that means we often end up with too little time and too few resources to address what life throws at us each day, which adds to a diminishing sense of control over our lives. Perceived lack of control has been shown to be a huge source of stress.

In his book Mindfulness Redesigned for the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Sood describes a number of traps that frequently ensnare our brains. Three of the most challenging:

Focus Problems

When giant predators roamed Earth, a scanning, outward-
directed focus served us well—but today that focus is directed inward. Now, 80 percent of the time, our minds are wandering, stuck in an unfocused state even if we’re not aware of it.

Studies have found that this state makes us less happy, and the unhappier we are, the more our attention wanders and our thoughts pile up. It’s like having a huge set of open files on your computer, Dr. Sood says, only they’re in your brain, distracting you and demanding attention. Our tech dependence, a source of constant distraction, adds to our inability to focus.

Fear

Our survival depends on the ability of the brain (mostly the amygdala) to detect physical and emotional threats. Moments or events that elicit fear raise our heart rate, which the brain stores as information that might protect us from future danger. This so-called negativity bias makes us prone to paying more attention to bad news than to good. We readily remember bad things that happen to us because our brains also release hormones that strengthen those specific memories, and this further embeds them in our minds. The result? More stress.

Fatigue

While a number of body organs (e.g., the heart and the kidneys) can keep going like the Energizer bunny, the brain is not one of them. After working hard, it needs rest. The more boring and intense an activity is, the faster your brain will grow tired—and that can happen in as little as four minutes or as much as an hour or two.

You can tell when your brain is fatigued (it has to signal this indirectly, since it has no pain receptors) because your eyes feel tired and stuff happens—you start making errors, become inefficient, lose your willpower, or see a dip in your mood. Brain fatigue leads to stress, and stress leads to fatigue, in a continuous closed loop.

Why Stress Hits Women Harder Than Men

Stress almost seems to have it out for women. In an annual survey by the American Psychological Association, women have repeatedly reported higher levels of tension than men and sometimes even more stress-related physical and emotional symptoms, including headache, upset stomach, fatigue, irritability, and sadness.

What’s more, midlife women have been found to experience more stressful events than both men and women of any other age, reports an ongoing study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute on Aging. Stress overload may even lead to chronic disease: Long-term pressures at home and work plus stress from traumatic events almost doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes in older women, according to a recent study at the University of California, San Francisco. Women are also more prone to stress-induced mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.

Here’s the why of it: A triple whammy makes women uniquely vulnerable to strain and pressure, says Dr. Sood. First, women’s brains make them more sensitive than men to stressors and a perceived lack of control. The limbic areas of women’s brains, which help control emotions and memories, are highly active, making them remember hurts and slights more readily. Stewing over these and having difficulty letting them go strengthens the brain circuits of those negative emotions—another example of the negativity bias at work—which also increases women’s stress.

In addition, the multiple demands of parenting and being in charge of the well-being of the household mean that women’s focus tends to be more diffuse. And an unfocused brain, as noted earlier, is another source of stress. A mom’s protective radar is always up for her kids too, which makes her sense a threat more quickly, and she’s more likely than her husband to get stuck and dwell on it, says Dr. Sood.

What Men Don’t Always Get

The differences in how men and women experience tension don’t play out in isolation, of course. They affect how husbands and wives, friends, and work colleagues experience and interpret the world—and yes, often the result is conflict. If you’re a woman, think of a time you had an upsetting disagreement with your boss.

When you vented to your husband about it—how your boss looked at you, what she said, how you responded, how you felt, what she said next—maybe you saw his eyes glaze over, and maybe he said, “It’s over now; why don’t you just let it go and talk to her tomorrow?” Which made you feel hurt, angry, and dismissed—and depending on which feeling was uppermost, you either escalated the conversation into an argument or retreated to mull it over.

New studies are looking at how the genders process stress in the moment and coming up with reasons for the disconnect. Recently, using fMRI to measure brain activity, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine found that while imagining a personalized, highly stressful event, the action- and planning-oriented parts of men’s brains were actively engaged, while women’s brains were busy visualizing and also cognitively and emotionally processing the experience.

In the second part of the study, when men and women were experiencing intense anxiety, brain regions that were active in women were inactive in men. This suggests that women tend to get caught up in processing their stress, turning it over and over in their minds and reimagining it, says Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Stress Center.

“Women cope by talking about being anxious and describing their emotions and stressors,” she says. This could put them at risk for ruminating about the issues. Men seem not to access that cognitive-processing part of their brains and “are more likely to quickly think about doing something, taking an action, as opposed to expressing their distress verbally. It’s just the difference in the way we’re wired.”

That might explain why women tend to provide emotional support to someone who is stressed, whereas men might offer advice or something tangible like money or physical help. Ironically, what both genders want is emotional support when they’re tense, says Jennifer Priem, Ph.D., associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University. So men and women who are stressed out prefer to get support from women.

Bridging the Gender Stress Gap

Priem has found that problems arise between couples when each person has a different perception of what’s stressful. The result: When people are really tense, their partners aren’t necessarily motivated to offer support if they think, If I were in this situation, I wouldn’t consider it that big a deal. So how do you get the response you want when you need it?

Ask your partner to just listen

“That’s number one—listening to and validating the other person’s feelings,” says Sinha. “So even just saying ‘You’re really frustrated by this’ in a nonjudgmental way is validating and will ease someone’s anxiety.”

Explain that you feel defensive when he dismisses your experience

“When a partner downplays the significance of something, the person who’s stressed may hold on to it more or feel they have to convince the other person it’s true and that they have a right to feel that way,” says Priem. “You might say, ‘I’m really upset right now, and I feel frustrated when it seems you’re making light of my feelings. It would make me feel better if you’d be more responsive to the fact that I’m upset, even if you don’t understand it.’”

Treat yourself with compassion

“Women tend to be more self-critical about not being able to control their emotions,” says Sinha. So they may see a partner’s comment as judgmental even when he didn’t mean it that way. If that’s the case, forgive yourself and let it go—and hug it out, which can reduce tension and boost positive feelings.

Learning to negotiate conflicts is a big step in easing pressures. Also important: figuring out strategies to deal with the distractions, fears, and fatigue your brain naturally accumulates (see below for four smart ones). These can help you take stress in stride, with a terrific payoff: better health and greater happiness, plus a more resilient brain.

How to Control Stress and Calm Your Brain

To keep stress in check, you should of course be eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep to improve your mood, emotions, and cognition. But those are just the basics—and they’re not always easy to accomplish, especially when life is throwing lots of tension your way. Dr. Sood has advice that can up your stress-reducing game, based on the successful resilience program he runs at the Mayo Clinic. Here, four of his brain-focused, research-based strategies that work in just minutes a day.

Give your brain some RUM

That stands for Rest, Uplifting emotions, and Motivation. You need all three to help energize your brain and head off fatigue. So when you’re engaged in a task, take three to five minutes every couple of hours (or sooner, if you start getting fidgety) and pause for RUM.

How-to: Get up from your computer, or stop what you’re doing, and look at photos of your kids or of your favorite vacation spot, read inspiring quotes, text or call a friend, or watch a happy short video. Choose an activity that makes you feel good and is motivating.

Begin a morning gratitude practice

Take control of your brain before it gets hijacked by the day’s concerns and greet the morning in a happier, more connected frame of mind. (Check out these simple ways to practice gratitude.)

How-to: When you first wake up, before you get out of bed, spend a few minutes thinking of some people who care about you and silently send them your gratitude. Another reason it’s a good idea: A recent study found that anticipating a stressful day when you first wake up affects your working memory later that day—even if nothing stressful actually happens. (Working memory is what helps you learn things and retain them even when you’re distracted.)

Be mindfully present

Meditation is a great stress reliever, but not everyone can sit still, looking inward, for 20-plus minutes. Good news for the fidgety: Research has shown that focusing your attention outward engages the same brain network, so you can get similar stress-easing benefits by consciously giving the world your attention.

How-to: Challenge yourself to be curious and notice details—the color of the barista’s eyes at the coffee shop, the pattern of your boss’s necktie, which flowers are blooming in your neighborhood. Curiosity feeds the brain’s reward network, which makes you feel good; it also augments memory and learning.

Focus on kindness

Even the nicest among us are quick to judge others, especially if they’re different from us (thank the amygdala, a region of the brain that interprets difference as a threat).

How-to: To calm the amygdala, focus on two things when you’re feeling judgy about someone: that every person is special, and that everyone has struggles. Start a practice of sending silent good wishes to people you pass on the street or in the halls at work. The benefits for you: Your oxy­tocin, the hormone of connectedness, rises; your heart rate slows; and you feel more benevolent. All of which makes you healthier and happier.

By: Jenny Cook

Source: How Stress Hits Women’s Brains Harder—and Why Men Don’t Always Get It

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Women are Far Less Financially Prepared For Retirement Than Men

Many women aren’t financially prepared for retirement, according to a recent report from TransAmerica. Men have about twice as much money saved for retirement ($118,000) than women do ($57,000). Of concern, nearly a quarter (24%) of women currently have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, compared to just 14% of men.

Seventy-nine percent of men are confident in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle, compared to just 64% of women. Both men and women think that they’ll need to have saved $500,000 in order to retire comfortably. A third (33%) of women do not have any retirement strategy at all, which is significantly more than the 18% of men. Women are also far less likely than men to be currently saving for retirement, at 77% and 86%, respectively.

Financial preparedness for retirement, women vs. men

Despite the fact that the vast majority of both men and women worry that Social Security will run out before they retire, 27% of women and 17% of men expect to rely on Social Security payments as their primary source of income during retirement.Keep reading to learn the challenges women face when saving for retirement, as well as how women can better financially prepare to retire. If you’re searching for ways to improve your financial situation ahead of retirement, visit Credible to compare a variety of financial products from debt consolidation loans to high-yield savings accounts.

Women face unique challenges when preparing for retirement

There are a number of obstacles that women must overcome when saving money for retirement — starting with the gender wage gap, according to Stacy J. Miller, a Tampa, Fla.-based certified financial planner (CFP). Women typically earn less money than men, which results in lower retirement savings.

Miller said that because “women are often the caretakers in the family,” they may have to leave the workforce to care for children and aging parents. Missing periods of work can result in lower earnings over time and “fewer opportunities for pay raises and promotions.”Most woman caregivers have had to make work adjustments, such as missing days of work (36%), working an alternative schedule (28%), reducing their hours (27%) and even quitting their jobs (10%), TransAmerica reports.

Work adjustments due to caregiving, men vs. women

“Additionally, women statistically live longer than men, and therefore their retirement portfolio would need to be larger than men to last longer,” Miller said. Without proper financial planning and adequate retirement savings, some retirees may become reliant on credit card spending to cover basic expenses. If you’re struggling to pay down high-interest credit card balances, you may be able to save money through debt consolidation. You can learn more about credit card consolidation on Credible to determine if this is the right financial strategy for you.

How women can better prepare for retirement

If you’re one of the many women with an insufficient retirement nest egg, there’s still time to save. Consider these tips from female financial advisors on how women can be more financially prepared for retirement:

Maximize your retirement contributions

Both working women and self-employed caretakers should find a way to contribute the maximum amount to retirement plans, according to Kimberly Foss, a CFP in Roseville, Calif. — “especially in older women’s peak earning years, which often occur as they are nearing retirement.” In 2022, employees can defer up to $20,500 of their annual income into their workplace retirement plan or 401(k). The current contribution limit across all individual retirement accounts (IRAs) is $6,000 per year.

Women who are near retirement age should take advantage of catch-up provisions to grow their account balances, Foss said. This allows individuals ages 50 and up to contribute an additional $6,500 annually to their 401(k) plans and an added $1,000 to their traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.

Allocate your investments

Besides maximizing their contributions, women should also consider their how their retirement investments are allocated, according to Joyce Streithorst, a CFP in Melville, N.Y. “Default investments make an impact on one’s long-term growth and returns,” Streithorst said. “Lifecycle or target date funds can help provide an allocation to equities and fixed income to attempt to align risk to your age and anticipated retirement year.”

Retirement savings accounts are typically invested in bonds as well as the stock market in the form of index funds and mutual funds. Investment allocations range between conservative, moderately conservative and moderate, depending on the risk tolerance. An investor’s retirement portfolio will typically vary based on market conditions. Since consumers have their own unique financial goals and obligations, it’s important to determine the right asset allocation strategy for your needs.

Reach out to a financial advisor

TransAmerica reports that while 43% of men use a financial advisor to help them manage their savings and investments, just 34% of women do. This could be due to a lack of female advisors, said Tess Zigo, a CFP in Palm Harbor, Fla.

“Because we don’t see many women in finance and as financial advisors, it doesn’t feel approachable or accessible,” Zigo said. “Many women feel more comfortable working with someone relatable.”Retirement planning can at times be overwhelming, so you might consider enlisting a professional to help guide you through the process. You can search for advisory services in your area on the CFP website.

And if you’re searching for the right financial products to set yourself up for success in retirement, it’s important to shop around. You can visit Credible to compare interest rates on everything from personal loans to mortgages for free without impacting your credit score.

Source: Women are far less financially prepared for retirement than men: TransAmerica study | Fox Business

Critics by : Mallika Mitra

For women, the salary gap they face in their working years eventually turns into a retirement savings gap. Only about 6 in 10 women have a plan to keep them from outliving their savings once they retire, according to a recent study by Nationwide Advisory Solutions. Among men, it’s more than 3 out of 4.

The firm polled about 1,021 financial advisors and 824 investors in February and March. “We’re in an industry that is inherently addressing the issues of men,” said Kristi Rodriguez, leader of the Nationwide Retirement Institute at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide. “We have to instill confidence in female investors.”

Women face unique challenges when saving for retirement. For one, they live longer than men — on average by six to eight years, according to the World Health Organization. They’re also subject to higher health-care costs. A woman retiring at age 65 in 2019 is likely to pay around $150,000 in health-care costs throughout retirement, while the number drops to $135,000 for men, according to an annual analysis by Fidelity Investments released earlier this year.

Women also tend to spend more time away from work to care for children. Once they return, they can fall behind in rank and miss out on opportunities for promotion. This “motherhood penalty” costs women $16,000 a year in lost wages, according to an analysis of Census data by the nonprofit advocacy organization National Women’s Law Center in 2018. Financial advisors must address these obstacles and ensure women feel comfortable discussing these challenges.

“You can find an advisor that meet the needs of both you and your spouse,” Rodriguez said. “But what is important is to find someone who creates that environment to make you feel welcome.”

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3 Things To Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer Treatment

As far as illnesses go, breast cancer is a relatively common one: 13 percent of women in the United States will develop breast cancer over their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. That works out to one in eight women, so if you know more than eight women, odds are you probably know someone who has had or will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

And if you’re trying to understand your risk of developing breast cancer or if you or a loved one are facing a diagnosis, that means one thing: You probably have questions for a doctor.

To help you assemble your list, we asked Virginia Kaklamani, MD, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, for her advice on what to ask. According to Dr. Kaklamani, there are a few important things to keep in mind as you’re crafting your questions, such as your family history, lifestyle risk factors, and available treatment options.

On the treatment front, Dr. Kaklamani says one of the misconceptions she hears most often is that breast cancer treatment always involves chemotherapy and is very toxic. In response, she reminds people how far treatment options—and the tools we have to determine which treatment may work best for each individual person—have come in the past 20 years.

Case in point: Just last year, a landmark study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that, thanks to a genomic test called the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® test, even more patients with a common type of early-stage breast cancer may be spared chemotherapy than previously thought, including those who are traditionally considered higher-risk due to their cancer spreading to at least one lymph node.

That means more treatment plans tailored to each individual patient, and less of a chance of overprescribing chemo to those who may not benefit from it.

Learning something already? With education in mind, we asked Dr. Kaklamani to share her insights on questions you should ask your doctor about breast cancer—whether you’re trying to stay on top of your health, or you’re exploring your breast cancer treatment options.

What role does race play in breast cancer?

There are many factors that contribute to breast cancer risk, including age, family history, alcohol consumption, obesity, and race. White women are most likely to develop breast cancer, Dr. Kaklamani says, though Black women are more likely to die from it (40 percent more likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Studies have shown that Black women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with later stages of disease,” Dr. Kaklamani says. “So instead of coming in with stage one or stage two, they might come in with stage two or three or even stage four breast cancer. It’s been very hard to understand why.

Most of the data suggests that it’s related both to the type of breast cancer that they get (because they get more triple negative breast cancer—that’s more aggressive, so we tend to find it later), but also to socioeconomic factors.”

By asking your doctor to discuss the connections between race and breast cancer with you, you’ll be able to more openly advocate for yourself and properly assess your personal risk factors.

What types of tests are available to provide insight about a breast cancer treatment plan?

If you have breast cancer, you should definitely ask your doctor for a thorough rundown on your treatment options, Dr. Kaklamani says, starting with the types of tests available to help craft your individual treatment plan.

Genomic tests—like the Oncotype DX® test—look at the specific genes in a tumor to see whether they are over- or under-active. For people diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer (HR-positive and HER2-negative with or without involvement of the lymph nodes), the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® result tells patients and their doctors not only how aggressive their cancer is and the risk of it returning, but more importantly, whether chemotherapy might be a beneficial treatment option or if it can be safely omitted, Dr. Kaklamani says.

“The good thing about the [result that you get from the Oncotype® test] is that it’s specific to the woman that we are testing,” she says. “All of these clinical trials that we’ve done have included thousands and thousands of women, [but] none of those women are present in my office when I talk to that specific person about their breast cancer. [Each test result] represents that woman’s breast cancer.”

Personalized is obviously better when it comes to something as delicate as cancer treatment (you wouldn’t take someone else’s prescription medicine, would you?), so asking your doctor about genomic testing can help ensure you’re getting a treatment plan that’s properly tailored to your needs.

Should I be doing a self breast exam?

In 2015, the American Cancer Society stopped recommending that people perform their own breast exams, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for keeping tabs on your breast health, Dr. Kaklamani says.

“The guidelines are very clear that there has to be what they call ‘breast self awareness,'” she says. “This is extremely important to be aware of what your breasts look like, and if you do notice something that has changed, that you see your physician immediately.”

Dr. Kaklmani notes that one study showed that nurses who were taught how to properly perform self breast exams were able to accurately detect their breast cancer—demonstrating that if people are properly trained, self breast exams can be effective. That training should fall on gynecologists and primary care physicians, she says, so ask yours for instructions during your next visit.

By: Dr. Kaklamani Paid consultant for Exact Sciences Corporation.

Source: 3 Things To Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer Treatment | Well+Good

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How To Talk to Men About Menopause

“It’s remarkable how little men know about menopause,” says Dee Murray. “And that’s strange — because it’s likely to have a far-reaching effect on them, and not just for their romantic relationships, but their relationships with their daughters and colleagues. It’s crucial.”

That’s why Murray, the France-based founder of campaign organization Menopause Experts Group, has created the first training program designed specifically to make men more aware of a still somewhat mysterious and stigmatized  biological phenomena which almost every woman will go through. 

And, lo, it turns out menopause — put simply, the end of a 12-month-long spell during which a woman has had no period, and won’t have again, marking the end of her child-bearing years — is not all about hot flashes, that butt of many a poor joke. It’s not even the most relevant stage of the whole process: that would be what’s called peri-menopause, or the prior, symptomatic phase that may last up to a decade, typically starting around the age of 50 but which can start while a woman is still well within her forties. 

These often misdiagnosed symptoms — running the gamut from itchy skin to a reduction in night vision, from joint pain to tingling extremities, from brain fog and memory loss to depression, a loss of libido, vaginal atrophy and, yes, hot flashes — are all hormonal, connected to a loss of estrogen.

“For a long time women’s health has generally been spoken about only within women’s circles, and I think while women tend to be nurturers, and so know about men’s health, the reverse has not been the case. Men tend to be fixers and get frustrated when there’s no clear solution,” reckons Murray, who suggests that the same furtiveness that long surrounded the topic of menstruation, and before that even pregnancy, still blights open conversation about menopause. 

“We can’t blame men for not understanding menopause. It’s surprising how many women I speak to don’t either, how many younger women are unsympathetic towards those in middle age. It’s one of those messy bits of female biology that society prefers to hide away, and especially from men,” she adds.

Indeed, that menopause is still taboo is a product, she argues, not only of ageism, but in part also of vanity: women in a lookist society often refuse to admit they’re peri-menopausal, a particularly challenging thing to accept for some, it’s argued, when their daughters are often simultaneously at the most vital stage in a human lifespan. The impact of this on couples getting along day to day, on their parenting, on their sex life, can be huge. A shared understanding of what’s going on, and the options for response, could save a marriage.

“Men need to understand just how complex, physically but also psychologically, peri-menopause can be for women, and the more info there is about it, targeted at them, the easier it is for them to offer support, to help take away the pressure, to not misunderstand their partner’s mood or behavior,” says Murray, who has also provided menopause training to the diverse likes of the Finastra financial services giant and London’s Metropolitan Police force. “The situation is improving. I’ve been at board meetings with a table of men and when you tell them you’re a menopause educator you suddenly find you’re holding court — because they all know that they need to know.”

There’s a broader pressure to know, too. And it merits a response. Figures internationally are hard to find, but in the U.K. at least, employment tribunals citing menopause have quadrupled since 2018 — a catalogue of bosses having made light of the symptoms, of said symptoms effectively disabling employees. In most countries the law lags far behind a growing awareness of menopause’s potential impact. 

“The fact is that the understanding of menopause has an impact on society at large,” argues Dr. Helena McKeown, a menopause specialist and ex-chief officer of the British Medical Association. “It has a big impact on productivity and staff retention. It’s a massive reason for women to leave the workforce, for example. Women don’t often experience all of the symptoms of peri-menopause, but sometimes just enough to stop them working efficiently, which leads to self-doubt, Imposter Syndrome, and so on, and yet employers don’t typically talk about this or address it. That’s no surprise when there’s this unconscious bias against it, and that’s not just among the half of the population that won’t experience it.”

Certainly, McKeown adds, look at the big picture and the discourse around menopause is political, as well. It’s one of a number of women’s health issues not well researched because there are so many variables in different women’s experience of it. “When many of us now live well into our 80s, menopause is something that’s going to happen to a lot of women a little more than half way through their life,” she says. “In terms of its relevance then to our working and home lives, that makes the menopause a societal issue as well, not just a women’s issue.”

It’s only in recent years that men have been encouraged to become much more involved in pregnancy, through the likes of attending antenatal classes and, in some countries at least, winning a right to paid paternity leave. So there’s catch-up to do with men’s understanding of and regard for the effects of menopause. What may shift the balance is, perhaps, a more comprehensive visibility for the changes of middle age, beyond the cliché of the mid-life crisis. As McKeown notes, “talk to some men about menopause and their first reaction is still ‘Well, men experience this too…””

In other words, maybe men would be more appreciative of the impact of menopause if it was framed in the context of their own experience: the typically far less extreme, less commonplace, but even less well-understood andropause, when a drop in testosterone levels can bring similar adverse effects to the male mind and body. But lesson one of understanding menopause is, well, that it’s not all about you. 

By Josh Sims

Source: https://www.insidehook.com/

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You May Have Always Known Women Are Good With Money , Now Research Confirms It

A growing number of women are increasing their investing prowess and financial education, research shows. The ladies are stepping it up. I love this kind of news.

I admit I am a sucker for a study that shines the light on women and money in a positive way. And the key findings from Fidelity Investments “2021 Women and Investing Study” do just that.

I know, I just did this happy dance with the MIT “Freak Out” report, but more to enjoy here.

The bold headline: two-thirds (67%) of women are now investing savings they have outside of retirement accounts and emergency funds in the stock market, which represents a 50% increase from 2018, according to the research. What’s more, 52% are planning to create a financial plan to help them reach their goals within the next year.

This is noteworthy since women typically get the bad rap of being nervous and cautious investors, who probably would find investing in stocks uncomfortable. Women are also notorious for saying financial planning is boring, or they aren’t good with numbers. Neither which is true, but an excuse for not understanding investing terminology perhaps and being intimidated by the seemingly macho world of Wall Street.

Where are they putting those extra savings funds besides individual stocks and bonds? The study found that women also socked money away in mutual funds and ETFs (63%) and money-market funds or CDs (50%): ESG/sustainable investments (24%) and get this: 23% in cryptocurrencies. I had to look at that last statistic twice, but that’s what the report says.

The age brackets by generation for those investing outside of retirement account–a whopping 71% of female millennials—ages 25 to 40; 67% of Generation X—ages 41 to 56 and 62% of boomer women ages 57 to 75. All good numbers.

But as anyone who has been reading my column knows, this is the nugget that made a smile spread across my face: When women do invest, they see results: new scrutiny of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the last 10 years finds that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points, or 0.4%. That’s not a heap mind you, but a win is a win.

I’ll take it.

“Over the last few years, we were already seeing an increasing number of women investing outside of retirement to grow their savings, but the pandemic really lit a fire under that momentum,” Kathleen Murphy, president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, told me.

“It’s driven many to reflect and re-prioritize what’s most important and focus on making greater progress toward those goals. We’re seeing that motivation in the record numbers of women reaching out for financial planning help and opening new brokerage accounts, as well as advisory accounts.”

The data was drawn from a nationwide survey of 2,400 American adults (1,200 women and 1,200 men). All respondents were 21 years of age or older, had a personal income of at least $50,000 and were actively contributing to a workplace retirement savings plan, like a 401(k) or 403b. This survey was conducted in July 2021 by CMI Research, an independent research firm.

The overall findings are certainly promising.

Yet when you get into the weeds you find that only a third of women canvassed see themselves as investors, according to the study. Only 42% feel confident in their ability to save for retirement and a mere 33% say they feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions.

Most women (64%) say they would like to be “more active in their financial life, including making investing decisions,” but 70% believe they would have to learn about “picking individual stocks” to get started.

I like that awareness of the need to get educated. (One of my favorite authors for this topic is Jonathan Clements, the founder and editor of HumbleDollar and the author of many personal finance books, including From Here to Financial Happiness and How to Think About Money.)

As Fidelity’s Murphy mentioned: Half of the women say they are more interested in investing than they were at the start of the pandemic and want to learn more — not just about how to start investing — but how to evaluate and select different types of investments to align with specific goals, and how to manage an existing portfolio to ensure they are on track.

These findings are in step with what Catherine Collinson, chief executive and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies told me when I interviewed her for this column: What’s Behind the Surprising Gender Split for Boomers’ Retirement Saving?

Her firm also found that “early indicators are that the pandemic has prompted both men and women to engage in their finances and pore over their financial situation to a degree that they may not have previously.”

Finally, here’s the nagging fear many of us (me too) can relate to: 32% of women say not earning enough money keeps them up at night, according to the research. For 37%, it’s managing debt that’s their night sweat. And more than half of women say it’s worries about long-term finances that has them tossing and turning.

Age is an indicator of whether money woes keep us up at night, but not the way you might expect, or at least what I did. Overall, it’s the millennial women who are the most troubled when the light goes out: 77% say finances have kept them up at night as compared to 73% of Generation X and 59% of boomers.

Here’s to sweeter dreams ahead.

By: Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including “Never Too Old to Get Rich,” “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+,” and “Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home.” Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

Source: You may have always known women are good with money — now research confirms it – MarketWatch

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