THE BEAUTY PRODUCT MYTH. I've long been annoyed with books marketed toward women that say you aren't getting ahead financially because you can't stop spending money on your appearance. A perfect example is this piece, which tut-tuts women for blowing their retirement savings on a beauty binge at Sephora: "It's a tough financial landscape we're facing, ladies, but apparently we�re more worried about our future wrinkles than our financial security."

But this week's Time magazine lays waste to that myth. Fewer than 5 percent of Americans -- equal numbers of men and women -- are actually compulsive shoppers. There's only a $100 difference between single men's and women's median annual credit-card debt. And what about the argument that women's spending on bikini waxes, footwear, and facial moisturizer is what's setting us back?

Women do spend $1,069--$246 more than men do--on clothing every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004-2005 Consumer Expenditure Survey. But that's chump change compared with what single men spend on car ownership ($846 more than single women), eating out ($752 more), alcoholic drinks ($280 more) and audiovisual gear ($143 more).

The article dubs authors like Suze Orman, who sell guilt-based financial self-help books, "financial frenemies." Because the real problem is not that women buy mascara and our male counterparts don't. It's that we make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

--Ann Friedman

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