Minding Your Money With The Web's Help

Women's sites provide an open, supportive community. But not all of them give you the news and numbers you need to make investing decisions

As a financial writer and manager of my own investments, I naturally have lots of money questions. To get answers I need I can consult my bookshelf, call an expert, or head for the Web. Now, a raft of financial sites designed specifically for women has popped up, making my quest even more complicated. Nearly a dozen of these sites are available (table), and many are full of good information. Some provide both the data you need to make timely investment decisions and a woman's view on money matters.

The women's sites come in two flavors: finance-only and the money sections of popular women's portals. The finance-only sites, such as the newly launched MsMoney.com and Women's Financial Network (WFN.com), do a good job of disseminating financial info without being glib or too elementary. Both sites aim to be the destination for a woman's entire financial life. WFN, for one, allows you to monitor credit-card and most brokerage accounts and find an investment club.

POWERFUL TOOLS. The money sections of the general women's sites are similar to what you would find in the personal-finance pages of many women's magazines. But most let you tap into linked Web sites offering powerful databases and investing tools. Hearst's Women.com is linked to Bloomberg.com, iVillage's MoneyLife to Schwab.com, and Womenconnect.com to CNNfn. The latter two also have links to www.quicken.com.

What the two types of women's sites have in common is their emphasis on providing an open, inquisitive, and supportive community in which users can learn and discuss personal-finance matters. These sites have a plethora of articles, message boards, and chat rooms dedicated to issues that have a disproportionately large financial impact on women, such as debt management, parenting, divorce, and widowhood. They also feature calculators, and archives of basic personal-finance and investing information. You can find out what an initial public offering is and how it works, or where investment returns come from. Most also have at least one resident financial adviser, with names such as Ask Cash Flo and MoneyMom. Some sites, such as WFN, say they provide personalized answers; others give them via message boards.

Not all the women's sites give you the hard-core numbers and news you need to make timely investing decisions. On Apr. 14, the day the Dow Jones industrial average plunged a record 616 points, neither Oxygen Media's site nor Financial Finesse displayed any notice of the market's move. Nor do they carry stock quotes or market indexes.

My advice: Go to the women's sites for what they do well--creating communities organized around gender-specific issues and teaching investment basics. Stay with those sites that offer a link into a general money site, such as www.quicken.com, since you'll get market news and more sophisticated analysis of financial topics. But for those sites without such a link, look elsewhere. Don't overlook www.morningstar.com, which features a terrific archive of articles on women and investing.

More women's finance sites are in the pipeline. This summer, WFN is expected to launch WFNInvest, an online broker for women. Workingwoman.com, a business and personal finance site, is also on the way. When they appear, you may want to bookmark them, along with the other women's sites. But make sure you're getting the necessary financial news you need to make educated investment decisions.

For a complete analysis of WFN.com or to join a discussion in our forum, see hers.online at www.businessweek.com/investor/

Questions? Comments? E-mail hers@businessweek.com or fax (212) 512-2538

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