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WASHINGTON-The Consumer Federation of America and VISA USA discovered that households headed by women earn about half the salary and hold one-third the net wealth of otherwise headed households, the organizations revealed at a Jan. 12 press conference. A joint study of Federal Reserve Board data collected by its Survey of Consumer Finances in 2001, but not released until 2003, revealed that the median income of female heads of households (not married or living with a partner) was $20,000 as opposed to all American households, which came to $39,000. In 2001, 41% of women on their own were in the bottom 20% of incomes in contrast with 19% of all households. Regarding wealth, the typical female-headed household had net wealth of just $27,850. The median net wealth of all American households in 2001 was $86,100. “Because of lower incomes and wealth, women on their own are much more likely to face severe financial challenges than are other American households,” CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck stated. He added that this caused these women to be “more likely to live on the edge, financially.” Women on their own were more likely to spend all or more of their income (53%), compared with 41% of all household heads, the study found. As a result, just 32% of these women save regularly in contrast to 41% of all households and 30% of female household heads do not save as opposed to 21% of all households. According to the Fed data analyzed, women who head households represented 16% of American households or 17.7 million of 106.5 million households as of 2001. Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org) Co-Founder Candace Bahr recommended that women prepare for these situations because there is a 50% chance their marriage will end. One way of doing that is being active in family finances and saving. She emphasized, “Small steps lead to big success.” WIFE.org, a non-profit organization, has recently created Money Clubs for women to work together in person or online to improve their finances. Money clubs are typically groups of four to 10 women (or others) who meet, often in someone’s home, to discuss topics such as money, style, debt, and savings. The Web site provides meeting guides and guides for leaders free of charge. CFA’s Brobeck said that CFA was highlighting this program because “Women are more interested in taking advantage of these free services.” As an example, he said 70% of those enrolled in CFA’s America Saves program are women. Brobeck noted the greater need for programs aimed at women, given the income and wealth gap between female household heads and others, but the three organizations were not there to change underlying “structural problems” that were not addressed in the study, though they are concerned about matters like pay equality. In addition, VISA USA Corporate Relations Director Rosetta Jones pointed out that her company offers its free Practical Money Skills for Life in English, Spanish and Chinese at www.practicalmoneyskills.com. The site provides lessons on budgeting, banking, investing, and identity theft, as well as specifics on the financial aspects of buying a home, marriage, or divorce. VISA is also a sponsor of WIFE.org. [email protected]

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