How Women Are Faring on the Financial Front

Prudential’s latest research shows confidence levels among women once again on the decline.
By: | December 14, 2018 • 2 min read

While most Americans share financial aspirations and worries, the kinds of challenges they are facing often vary by demographic group.

That reality was quite evident in Prudential Financial Inc.’s latest research released earlier this week: “The Cut—Exploring Financial Wellness Within Diverse Populations.” The study surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. adults, examining the financial lives of diverse groups of Americans: women, black Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers and members of the LGBTQ community.

In particular, the pressures on women were clearly visible in this year’s cut of the numbers.

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For starters, the research revealed a significant wage gap, with women earning incomes averaging $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men—a difference of 37 percent. Though the women are working similar hours to men, the survey found, women are also spending significantly more time taking on the role of caregiver than their male counterparts.

Moreover, women in the study were more likely than men to have children living at home with them, and to spend significantly more time caring for children (an average of around 23 hours per week for mothers employed outside the home, compared to roughly 11 hours for fathers working outside the home).

There’s no question that stress is taking its toll on women, says Jim Mahaney, vice president of strategic initiatives at Prudential Financial in Newark, N.J.

Adding to the stress, the women in the study appeared to be carrying more debt than the men. While their mortgage debt was roughly the same for both sexes, 25 percent of women reported having a student loan, compared with 18 percent of men. The average balances were $7,860 for women versus $4,126 for men.

Of particular note, Mahaney says, is the confidence level of women to achieve their financial goals, which is dramatically lower in the latest research after having increased substantially between 2012 and 2014.

Specifically, the study found, women today are less confident than men about reaching their long-term financial goals such as buying a home, not outliving their savings, being able to maintain their lifestyle in retirement, keeping up with healthcare expenses, being able to care for parents and family, or leaving an inheritance.

Mahaney notes that the chief takeaway for HR executives is that there are more stressors for workers, in general, and women, in particular, than just saving for retirement or what kind of insurance to buy. “Employers are beginning to recognize that employees need to do a lot more than just save for retirement,” he says. “They need help managing their day-to-day finances, the debt that they have and assistance with caring for a parent. Because employees are going to bring all of these stresses into the workplace, I think it’s important for employers to help them become more financial fit … .”

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(As an aside, financial wellbeing will once again be a major theme at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, which will feature a number of breakouts on the topic and a mainstage panel titled “Tackling the Financial Woes of Your Lower Wage Workers.”)

Other noteworthy findings in the research include …

Latinos placed greater importance on reducing debt, supporting family members and increasing home ownership. Yet even as they did so, 45 percent of them made it a priority to help their children with a down payment for a home, compared to just 30 percent of the general population.

Despite comparable access to workplace retirement plans, LGBTQ respondents are saving less for retirement than their non-LGBTQ counterparts. About two-thirds of both LGBTQ individuals and non-LGBTQ respondents in the survey have access to a workplace retirement-savings plan. Of those who do not, a surprising 62 percent of LGBTQ respondents said they are not currently saving for retirement in any way, compared to 49 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents.

Almost three-quarters of higher-income black Americans—those with household incomes above $60,000 annually—are confident they’d be able to meet their financial goals. So are two-thirds of lower-income black Americans with household income below $60,000. This made them significantly more optimistic than the general population, where only about two-thirds of all higher-income and about half of lower-income members felt the same way. However, significantly fewer higher-income black Americans indicated they are actually on track to meet key financial goals.

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]