Women today are fighting to remedy inequality in several areas, and have made great strides as a result of their efforts. But financial security is (still) an issue. A recent study, Women and Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line, outlines significant disparities between men and women that go far beyond the “pay gap.” “Women experience a gender wealth gap—the difference between men’s and women’s financial resources across their lifetimes, including earnings, investments, retirement savings and additional assets,” according to study sponsors Merrill Lynch and Age Wave. “This wealth gap can translate to a woman at retirement age having accumulated as much as $1,055,000 less than her male counterparts.”
Their report points out that women account for 81 percent of the population who lives to be 100 or older. But “[w]hile 64 percent of women say they would like to live to 100, few feel financially prepared, with 44 percent of women stating they worry they will run out of money by age 80.” Investing could be huge in terms of improving females’ financial wellness. In fact, 41 percent of women surveyed “say not investing more is their biggest regret.” So why aren’t more investing? It appears to be an area in which they lack self-assurance.
Nine in 10 women are confident about paying bills and over eight in 10 are confident about budgeting. “However, when it comes to managing investments, their confidence drops significantly; only 52 percent of women say they are confident in managing investments, versus 68 percent of men,” the report says. “Millennial women were the least confident at 46 percent.” And although building women’s investment confidence and closing the gender wage gap have the potential to improve females’ financial outcomes, there’s more to address.
According to the study, women’s finances tend to also be impacted by taking time off to provide care for others. “One in three mothers who returned to the workforce after caring for children says she took on less demanding work, which resulted in lower pay. Twenty-one percent say they were paid less for the same work they did previously.” Moreover, because of their increased longevity, women often pay far more than men in retirement for health care and long-term care costs—around $195,000 more—indicating a need for “access to wealth escalators (e.g., employee benefits such as paid time off and pretax savings opportunities),” the study explains.
“Women’s life journeys are not only different than men’s, they’re different than the life journeys of our mothers and grandmothers,” said Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder and senior vice president of Age Wave. “We have more opportunities and choices when it comes to family, education and careers, but we’re so busy taking care of other people and other priorities, we often don’t take the time to invest in ourselves and our future financial wellness. If more women can actively take control of their financial future all along the way, it would not only benefit them, but also their families and our society overall.”