The Cinderella Syndrome: What Is It and Is It Real?

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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Dancers (L-R) Nicolas Gruzdyev, Erina Takahashi and Dmitri Gruzdyev from the English National Ballet's production of 'Cinderella' attend a photocall to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the English National Ballet at The London Coliseum on August 11, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Many articles or books that focus on personal finance and women seem to offer a variation of the "Cinderella syndrome" or "Prince Charming complex" or "Man is not a financial plan." In fact, entire book titles have been taken from these words.  According to these books and articles, many women don't understand that a man is not a financial plan, that we are at risk when we give up -- even for a few years -- our income-generating careers, that relationships can falter. (To which I think... we don't?) Are we just doe-eyed princesses eager for the financially-secure embrace of a handsome prince? Basically, the message of these articles can be boiled down to one or two lines: Lady, you're not Cinderella. Prince Charming won't come around to rescue you and your finances.

But, what exactly is this so-called Cinderella syndrome and how serious is it? Or is a convenient tagline hyped up for media purposes? Because -- I am being serious and not facetious -- do most women truly believe that by marrying, they will be free from financial worries and responsibilities?

From my personal experience, I'd say the answer to the last question is no.  I have never known anyone who believes a relationship is a free ride on the gravy train.  My feeling towards such articles that highlight this "Cinderella syndrome" are mixed. On the one hand, women need to understand their finances for a variety of reasons, so any article or resource that will galvanize us into becoming better stewards of our financial future is a plus in my book.  On the other hand, aren't cutesy chick-lit lines such as "Prince Charming isn't coming!" a tad irksome and not all-together constructive?

Even in the past when women's roles were much more circumscribed, we have taken financial matters into our own hands. Cinderella, after all, would not be adept at doing the family's budget or savvy enough to squirrel away a few dollars here and there as her secret private stash

When speaking with friends about partnerships, career and possible motherhood, most of us express a great deal of consideration and introspection.  We have thought and continue to think about the joys and tribulations of pursuing a high-powered career, as well as the risks and rewards of stepping back to follow a spouse or to become a stay-at-home parent.  If the twenty-something women I know are already this introspective at age 25 or 27, with how much more gravity will we make our decisions when we are 35 and 37?  I am only in my mid-20s, so I haven't had many friends pair off into marriage or have children.  And obviously I was raised in a different environment and with different expectations than women even 10 or 20 years ago.  Nevertheless, I don't know any "Cinderella" in my group of friends.

Let me open the floor up to you: is the "Cinderella Syndrome" a thing of the past?  And do you know any "Cinderellas" among your friends and acquaintances?

 Savvy Living Through Personal Finance -- @WellHeeledBlog

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