A Prudential study (Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women) found that more than half of the women in the study were the primary breadwinners in their households. The reasons for this are varied–the economic crisis, divorce, women choosing to marry later (or not at all).
Particularly interesting are the differences in how women and men view their financial situations. In Prudential’s summary of the study (“Women Are Taking on Greater Financial Challenges”), they report that 22% percent of women and 45% of men feel “well prepared” to make decisions about their finances. The data itself shows 37% of men, still a significant difference but perhaps more telling about the state of our economy.
Much of the gap in confidence between men and women can easily be explained by history. Men have more personal experience as the primary earners as well as more role models of other men in the same position. Many women today were raised by women who did not work outside the home, much less as the family’s primary source of income. And of course, even today, women still earn less than men for the same jobs. If this isn’t an obvious reason to have less confidence about making financial decisions, I don’t know what is!
Prudential of course recommends that women seek expert guidance in managing their finances. But just because they benefit from this advice doesn’t make it any less sound. I would take it a step further and suggest that women seek financial advisors with experience and perspectives that are aligned with women’s concerns and priorities. The chart I link to above shows that women and men tend to list the same top 3 priorities. But women list them in this order:
- Not become a financial burden to loved ones
- Maintain lifestyle in retirement
- Make sure not to outlive savings
And men list lifestyle first, followed by not outliving savings, and ending with not becoming a financial burden to loved ones. The chart also shows that women’s financial worries rest primarily on the household, meeting expenses and avoiding or overcoming debt.
Whether women seek financial advice from a person, a website, or another source, the advice will suit them best if they look for an emphasis on ensuring their needs are met, both current and future. However, I also recommend that women take a good hard look at their beliefs surrounding money, for these differing priorities and concerns also reflect an ingrained tendency in many women to see themselves as greedy if they focus on their wants and not just their needs.
I go into this in more depth in “How Being Successful Can Save the Planet” and “Talking Ourselves Out of Success,” among other posts. Here, I just want to emphasize that we do not need to choose between fulfilling our needs and our wants, or between doing well and doing good. These are not either/or concepts. They are both/and.
In making financial decisions and in seeking financial advice, consider first those decisions that will meet both needs and wants. This could be simultaneously or it could be in an overlapping way, such as decisions that focus first on immediate needs but ensure that wants can be met as well in the near future, increasingly as needs are increasingly met.
Even more important, consider those decisions that will not only help you do good for your loved ones, your community, your world, but that will simultaneously help you to do well financially. The more successful you are, the more resources you have to help others. In fact, if you can intertwine your success with helping others, you can not only feel confident about the financial future for yourself and your family, you can join the visionaries who are creating a rock solid future for the world.
Karen Sands, MCC, BCC
Address: PO Box 43 Roxbury, CT 06783-0043
Image credit: Dollar Photo Club