We’re not ones to shy away from important financial conversations — and talking about the unique financial challenges women face is a crucial step in breaking down barriers and leveling the playing field. While progress is being made to close the gender gap, we want to do our part to help women reach their full financial potential.
So, we took the top financial challenges women face and paired them with opportunities and tips to overcome them.
Challenge: Women feeling less than confident about their knowledge of financial investing.
From a young age, women and men are often spoken to and taught differently about money. While parents of girls tend to focus on skills like tracking spending, budgeting, and saving, boys often receive more education on topics like credit cards and credit scores, taxes, and investing. These differences point to holes in financial education on both sides, which can lead to vastly different relationships with money.
In a survey by Mintel of 2,000 U.S. adults, 60% of men said they feel confident in their knowledge of financial services, compared to just 47% of women. And while both men and women might feel about equally confident in basic financial tasks (like paying bills or budgeting), the confidence gap is especially significant regarding investing: Only 52% of women say they’re sure of themselves when managing investments.
For many women, this lack of confidence becomes an obstacle when managing their money, especially when paired with hesitating to ask questions or take the steps to learn more. And, as it turns out, women report the top two barriers that keep them from investing are not having knowledge how to or lacking the confidence.
Opportunity: Financial education is so much more accessible than ever before.
With blogs, YouTube videos, magazines, and social media, there’s never been so many ways to learn about money. While such a wide variety of resources can mean sifting through content to find sound financial advice, it also provides tons of opportunities to take control of your own financial education. And, when it comes to confidence, women who gain financial knowledge on their own (instead of through advice from friends and family or professional guidance from a financial advisor) have the most.
Challenge: The gender wage gap.
On the whole, women are still making less money. On average, a woman makes 79 cents for every dollar a man earns — and that gap widens further when looking specifically at American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic women.
Many women also experience a bigger gap in their wages and overall careers due to what you might call the “mommy” or “motherhood” penalty. This refers to the lost income or missed career opportunities 73% of mothers say they’ve faced as a result of taking time off work to care for children.
Over time, the disparities in pay, as well as time spent out of the office for caregiving, compound. By the time a woman reaches retirement, if she has taken time off to care for her children, parents, and/or spouse, her earnings could be $1 million less than someone who remained in the workforce throughout their career.
This wealth gap becomes even more exacerbated when considering the Pink Tax, or the price markup on products marketed specifically to women. This increase on everything from daily necessities like soap, to services like dry cleaning or haircuts, to jeans and children’s toys can cost the average woman about $1,300 a year.
Opportunity: Women are graduating from college, growing their salaries, and getting jobs at higher rates than men.
These days, more women are earning college and graduate degrees than men, receiving about 57% of bachelor’s degrees. As women continue to bolster their educations, a greater percentage are employed (putting the unemployment rate lower for women than men, as well). And, as they continue to become more dominant in the workforce and increase their economic and spending power, additional opportunities become available for women as a whole — including better and higher paying jobs and the normalization of paid parental leave.
Challenge: Women are saving less for retirement than they should.
Nearly all the difficulties women face regarding finances culminate here. Why? With less confidence surrounding investing, more time spent caring for families and out of work, and a pay gap, many women aren’t building as big of a nest egg. Especially since, on average, women live longer than men. Consider this: According to a study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the estimated median of household retirement savings for women is $23,000 — compared to $76,000 (more than triple!) for men.
Opportunity: It’s never too late to start investing.
Nearly half of women, regardless of race or ethnicity, say their biggest financial regret is not investing more. But while both men and women are often encouraged to begin investing ASAP, it’s never too late to get started. Because, even if you’re in your 30s, 40s, or even 50s, investing is a crucial strategy to grow your wealth.
And the best part? Some might consider women in general to be naturally skilled investors. That’s because women tend to be slightly more risk-averse and focus on the long-term, steady gains. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to take more financial risks and trade more often. Overall, it’s not uncommon for women investors to make slightly better returns than their male counterparts in the long run. The key, of course, is finding the confidence to enter the market and get started.
From stereotypes to salaries, women often face significant financial challenges. But, by recognizing these setbacks and difficulties, as well as the resilience and perseverance this group shows, women can continue to defy what might hold them back and further turn obstacles into opportunities.