Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shocked feminists everywhere we he said that women seeking a life partner should “follow the money” and marry wealthy. Of course, we all know we shouldn’t be taking relationship advice from 73-year-old Berlusconi: he was recently embroiled in a sex scandal based on reported encounters with younger women, including prostitutes. Although he denies the prostitution charge, he admits he’s “no saint” and he and his wife have since separated. Throughout the years, he’s told the media young women should look for wealthy, older boyfriends so when he dies they can inherit his wealth.

There’s much to be said about what’s wrong with this viewpoint, but in a country where we do value money and power very highly, the attraction to wealth can lie not far below the surface even if we’re not as vocal about it as Berlusconi. That said, it may be interesting to note that as women are making more, the so-called “need” for this type of perception is shifting to one where men may start to feel outpaced.

The majority of layoffs during this recession have hit men.  Womens’ status as breadwinner continues to become more and more prevalent, according to a New York Times study. Last year – as companies from Citibank to GM announced massive layoffs – 82 percent of the people laid off were men. It won’t be long before women become the majority of the American workforce. Not to mention, women now control roughly 60% of wealth in the country due in part to the fact that they often outlive men and thus inherit family wealth.

So the question is no longer “How can women get wealthy?” – since they’re already doing so, and often without the help of a man – but “What can women do with their wealth?” According to a study by The Hartford Financial Services Group, women’s worries focus on three major areas: inflation, health and longevity.

According to the specifics of the study, which examined the projected retirement levels of nearly 2 million employees at 72 large U.S. companies,  “both men and women are on track to replace 85 percent of pay at retirement, assuming average life expectancy. However, women, on average, need to replace nearly 130 percent of their final pay at retirement because they often take time off to raise kids. That’s seven percentage points more than men. When factoring in differences in longevity, that disparity jumps to 10 percentage points.”

So while women are making great strides in terms of earning power – and breaking assumptions like those made by Berlusconi that they need a man’s help to develop wealth – it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of planning. Nowadays (most) women’s retirement plan is not to marry wealthy, but to create wealth of their own.


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