Fasten your seatbelts, readers, this could get bumpy.
When I was in middle school, I vividly remember protesting a particular homework assignment to anyone who would listen. That night, it was my father. We were learning to write checks and balance checkbooks. The truth is that I didn’t like math, because girls weren’t supposed to. So, that night I asked my father why I had to learn how to do this because, surely, my husband would do this sort of thing. Let me tell you, I never asked that sort of question again. That night I learned about financial empowerment and financial security. While I didn’t know what it would really mean for a woman at the ripe old age of 12, that conversation has stayed with me.
Today, women may not have the same line of thinking as 12 year old me, but our actions speak louder than sentiment when it comes to securing our financial futures. Ready for some scary numbers? We’ll start here:
- 42% of all women lack financial security
- 45% of women are saving less since the recession began
- Only 6% of women are “very confident” in their ability to retire comfortably
- Because of family and maternity leave, and caring for elderly family members, women average only half the pension benefits of men
- Over 40% of women believe that financially independent is unattractive and intimidating to men, and 33% believe that it will alienate other women
- 86% of women don’t know how to invest or choose a financial product
- 45% of women grade their financial literacy at a C or below — while 65% of men give themselves a B or higher
- Only 33% of women have a detailed financial plan in place — and among women ages 25 – 34, just 10% has a financial plan
Frankly, I don’t know where to start. Women make up more than half of the planet, yet we are not taking control of this vital life step. Is it because as girls we thought as I did, that this wasn’t our job? It can’t be just that, because although we earn just $0.77 to a man’s $1.00, we’re breaking glass ceilings left and right. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, politicians, and Secretary of State. Although there is more glass to shatter, it does not correlate to these financial statistics. There is hope, however:
- Today, women earn 60% of all undergraduate degrees, and the majority of PhD and Masters degrees
- In 2009, 4 in 10 working wives outearned their husbands
- In the majority of major U.S. cities, single women without children, ages 22 – 30, have a higher median income than their male peers
- 62% of women are interested in learning more about finances and retirement planning
- Over 90% of women say they need to be more involved in financial planning
It is abundantly clear that women are evening the playing field in many ways. We’re becoming increasingly better educated and with this knowledge comes curiosity. We want to know more about financial planning and how to actively be involved in saving for our future. Yet, we continuously shy away from these topics. The truth is that not talking about these issues among our peers is deleterious. An estimated 80–90% of women will become solely responsible for her finances at one point in her life; some from divorce, others will outlive their partner, or never have one. We have to do better for ourselves and our families, and it has to start young.
Just over half of all women, ages 21 – 59, have credit card debt averaging $9,000.00 across 3.1 credit cards. Worse? 41% of women of the same ages do not have an emergency cash fund. We have made such strides, yet we are holding ourselves back when it comes to financial empowerment. Women run Fortune 500 companies. Women run families. Women run nations. It is time that we also take charge of our financial futures.
Are you ready to take charge of your financial future? Join the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County and PNC Bank in our new financial literacy series, In the Bank. For more information, click here.
Rachel Wacks is a Foundation Fellow with the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County.