Many Women Take the Reins on Finances

Women are feeling confident and many are taking the lead in making household financial decisions, according to a new study by Ameriprise Financial.

The “Women and Financial Power” study shows more than four in 10 (41%) women surveyed are making financial decisions alone. While a majority of these women are either unmarried or divorced (63%), the rest are in long-term relationships and making financial decisions for the household, Ameriprise says.

Many of the women (42%) surveyed say they are in the role of “primary financial decision maker” because they view themselves as the most financially savvy individual in their household. Some say that they enjoy making these types of decisions (28%) and despite busy schedules, many are setting aside time to make financial decisions because they want control over their financial future (31%). The research shows more than half (56%) of women surveyed state they are sharing equally in financial decisions with a spouse or partner—and only 4% say they are uninvolved in financial matters.

“Women are more financially empowered now than ever before and this is reflected in the Women and Financial Power study,” says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. “It’s promising that women ages 55 to 70 are the most likely to feel in control of their finances, have a financial plan and value financial security. And based on what we are seeing, other generations of women are following suit.”

As de Baca suggests, the study finds that Baby Boomer women are feeling more confident and more in control of their finances than Millennials or Generation X. Women ages 55 to 70 are more likely than younger women to say they feel it is their responsibility to understand their financial situation (91% compared with 82% of younger women). They are also more likely to say they have a financial plan they feel comfortable with (76% versus 55% of younger women).

The survey suggests that having a plan appears to help Boomer women feel more in control. Three-quarters (76%) of Boomers say they feel confident that their careful planning will pay off in the future, 13% more than the younger groups. Further, 62% of Boomer women say they feel a strong sense of control when it comes to saving and investing. This sense of confidence may be tied to their level of involvement in financial decisions, Ameriprise says.  

In fact, about 90% of women age 55 to 70 say they are primarily or jointly responsible for long-term saving and investment decisions in their households. Overall, Boomer women who share jointly in financial decisions were more likely to say they are involved in all five types of financial decisions the study asked about—budgeting, saving, investing, insurance and estate planning—than their younger cohorts.

The survey found that Gen Xers face a number of hurdles and challenges. More than two in five (42%) women ages 35 to 54 have experienced a divorce, unemployment, are supporting a child’s college education or have seen a significant decrease in assets in the last five years, compared with 29% of older women and 24% of younger women.

These women are feeling the financial pressures that come with the many milestones and unexpected events that occur during this life stage, Ameriprise says. More than half (56%) say that “being able to save money while paying bills” is one of the most important descriptors of financial success in their lives today. Yet only 19% say they value “making informed financial decisions” as a successful personal finance tactic. The two seemingly go hand in hand, Ameriprise says, so seeking financial advice may be just what these women need. However, almost half (49%) of these women are neutral or disagree with the statement, “I seek advice about financial issues.”

The most concerning part of the Gen X situation is that they are the least likely to be taking action financially, Ameriprise says. Nearly two-thirds (62%) say they’re afraid they aren’t saving enough for future financial needs and 30% don’t feel in control of their finances. Two-fifths (41%) of women in this age group also don’t have a financial plan—about the same number as younger women but significantly more than older women who lack a financial plan (25%).

More than six in 10 (62%) women ages 25 to 34 say that they have learned about finances from one or both parents. This may have instilled a sense of confidence that is reflected in their financial attitudes and actions, Ameriprise says. One in four (26%) Millennial women says that making informed financial decisions defines success in their current lives, compared with 19% of Gen X. They’re also more likely to say a life milestone or challenge with financial implications caused them to tweak their financial strategy to save more (53% reacted this way to an event compared with 26% of older women).

Many younger women are still relying on their parents for financial guidance, Ameriprise says. In fact, 30% of Millennial women surveyed say they currently rely on their mother and/or father for financial advice. In turn, a strong majority (85%) of Millennial women with children over age five say they have “done a good job” of teaching their children about money (85%) and 33% rate themselves as “excellent” at doing this—many more than other generations of mothers.

Millennial women are also likely to feel stretched financially; of all three generations, they’re the most likely to say they find it difficult to balance the need to spend time managing money with other responsibilities, Ameriprise says. They also tend to be more driven by the present than the future when it comes to financial decisions.

“Our research has shown that there are countless circumstances that can influence a woman’s perspective about money and her feelings about the financial future,” de Baca explains. “It also demonstrated that women are resilient, and eager to roll up their sleeves and tackle obstacles.”

More information about the study is available at the Women and Financial Power research page.