You Go, Girl!

In money matters, the balance of power appears to be shifting toward women.

November 25, 2013

I know an inspiring 15-year-old girl. She is smart, motivated, and “no-nonsense.”

Most inspirational is the degree to which she considers how today’s choices impact tomorrow.

A job teaching swim lessons provides some “fun money,” although she is a good saver and hopes to amass funds to help finance her education.  I am impressed with her consideration of financial goals and priorities as she determines how much of each paycheck she might spend.

She is already thinking about the possibility of student loans, and knows she does not want burdensome debt.

She considers vocations as college looms. What are her academic strengths? What jobs might be lucrative—but still enjoyable? Might she have a family someday and, if so, how will career impact that life choice?

I observe that this ambitious young lady feels empowered—even at 15—with thoughts about money, objectives, and how to achieve her dreams.

Consider how finances affect my young female friend and others like her—and how women impact our overall economy and perhaps your outreach. This week, findings focus on women’s financial choices, the influence women wield in household money management, and their perceptions about money matters. Do you relate?

‘Fortune befriends the bold.’—Emily Dickinson

“Despite their rising workforce participation and escalating income, it appears that American women still have major gaps and unmet needs when it comes to achieving comfort and confidence with money,” says “The Allianz Women, Money, and Power Study: Empowered and Underserved.”

One of the study’s most dramatic findings is that, in economic matters, the balance of power appears to be shifting toward women: “Today, 57% of all women say they have more earning power than ever before, and almost two-thirds (60%) of women say they are the primary breadwinner in their households.”

With this earning power comes financial decision-making responsibility, and 49% of women indicate they have a “great deal” of this responsibility. More than half of respondents indicate they are “primary decision makers.”

Another interesting discovery is “Almost half of all women… say they “often” or “sometimes” fear losing all their money and becoming homeless.” Such sentiments prevail among all income levels.

Further insight is “women are being underserved by the financial industry” and 54% of women think this industry “is geared to men.” Nearly two-thirds (62%) of women do not work with a financial professional.

Meanwhile, learn “How Women Can Claim Their Financial Power” according to ABC News. “Many women haven’t yet purged their minds of the traditional social view that they aren’t wired for financial matters…Until they evolve out of this mindset, they will lack real financial power.”

Ways for women to stake their financial claims include:

“Women earn the majority of advanced degrees, but these dramatic gains have not translated into money and influence,” notes a SmartBlog Leadership post providing suggestions for women to get ahead in their careers. “Over a lifetime of work, women with a bachelor’s degree will earn a third less (some $700,000) than a man with the same degree.”

To enact change, women must defy stereotypes, insist upon equal treatment in the workplace, and “challenge the idea that all the gender battles have been won.”

What, exactly, are women earning on the job? See “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2012,” a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. “In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81% of the median earnings of male full-time wage and salary workers ($854).”

Data presented provides a detailed glimpse of women in the workforce, including demographic analysis of variables such as educational attainment, age, and occupation—along with comparisons to their male counterparts.

‘Opposites may attract, but I wouldn’t put my money on a relationship of financial opposites.’—Suze Orman

Two items of note this week on women’s financial perspective as part of a couple...

Couples Disagree on Money, Retirement Plans,” says MarketWatch.

“While 92% of couples said they communicate well about money and 80% describe themselves as one financial entity, 39% admitted they fight about money occasionally or often, and 14%... said they never resolved those arguments.”

Only 43% of survey participants believe they are “equal partners” in consideration of savings for retirement while 45% believe they are “joint decision makers” with regard to daily money choices.

This survey also notes an increasing number of women hold the purse strings, reporting about one-fourth of women manage the money, though most believe “their husband or significant other is better at handling money—and their husbands agree.”

Women must “take the time to understand just the basics of financial investing and planning so they can gain confidence,” according to an investment professional.

Differences in financial opinions between couples can be a recipe for disaster, according to “Financially Mismatched Couples at Risk,” a Boston College post. Federal Reserve researchers say “credit scores are a proxy for financial behavior and also can measure trustworthiness. The link between poor financial matches and household dissolution… was ‘quite strong.’”

Suggestions are provided for new couples to successfully merge finances for happy endings; and include honesty about earnings and expenditures, awareness of joint accounting, and a spirit of togetherness in handling financial chores.

My young friend has a good start to successful management of her career and finances because she is self-aware and has a sense of personal accountability. Her attitude fosters the beginnings of a fiscally responsible life plan.

A further lesson to impart to her might be that those financial choices will extend beyond college. We all make decisions and experience circumstances throughout life that direct—or redirect—personal fiscal realities.

We all need to remain ever-vigilant and conscious of important money matters.

How will your credit union be a helpful resource?






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.