Work & Money briefs

Keeping Track: Americans' net worth

Rising real estate values can't halt overall slide

Wealth can't be maintained by homes alone.

Despite a sustained surge in real estate values, the net worth of Americans declined in the second quarter, pulled down by falling stock prices.

A Federal Reserve report released last week indicated that between April and June, real estate values rose 2.1 percent to $14.4 trillion.

Household net worth, however, fell 3.4 percent – from $41.5 trillion to $40.1 trillion.

The quarter's 14.8 percent drop in stocks, the largest loss since the third quarter of last year, was the primary reason for this decline.

New interest in faith-based mutual funds

Mutual funds that invest according to the precepts or values of particular religious faiths have surged in the United States since 1999, both in terms of the number of funds available to churchgoers and the amount of money invested in them. That's according to a new study by Thomson Financial's Wealth Management group on behalf of MMA Praxis Mutual Funds.

"These findings show the growing link between faith values and finance decisions," said MMA Praxis Mutual Funds President John L. Liechty. "There are more religious investors than before and they seem to understand that investing is about more than just money."

The total number of religious mutual funds has jumped 121 percent since 1999, compared with growth of 16 percent in the number of mutual funds of all types, the study found.

Assets in religious mutual funds also are accumulating at a faster rate than that for the entire mutual fund universe – 21 percent for the period 1999-2002 compared with 11 percent.

Ray Amani, a Thomson Financial director, noted that while religious mutual funds are a small subset of the wider mutual fund industry, they are increasingly sought after. "Obviously, there are investors who want to invest for the future while remaining steadfast in their religious views."

Developing world's enterprising women

When it comes to entrepreneurial potential, there is less of a gender gap in developing nations than in the robust economies of the West, according to a recent survey of juniors and seniors enrolled at universities in 17 nations.

The study, led by Stephen Mueller at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, set out to gauge how potential female entrepreneurs compare to males. He also sought to learn about the impact of a nation's economy and culture on the propensity of women to launch businesses.

Mr. Mueller factored in previously developed measures of "national traits," looking, for example, at how the culture values assertiveness, modesty, and risk-taking.

Mueller says the survey of more than 2,700 students indicated in general that men in developed nations such as Canada, Belgium, and the United States are more likely to show the potential for being entrepreneurs than women.

In less-developed nations, however, there appear to be smaller differences between the entrepreneurial potential of women and men.

In a few cases – such as Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Russia – women scored higher than men.

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