It has become increasingly clear in recent years that most women think about money and finance differently than most men. One of the corollaries of this fact is that financial stress affects women differently than men. This truth came home again during the pandemic, and, according to a recent nationwide survey by Bankrate.com, it’s more true now than ever.
According to a 2021 survey by Fidelity, 79% of women felt burdened by money concerns, which was up from 67% during the same period in 2020. Reasons why so many more women were feeling stressed at that time include the fact that women lost about 5.1 million jobs during the first year of the pandemic, or 53.5% of total jobs lost. In addition to bearing the majority of job losses, women also reported stepping away from work to care for children (remember all the kids who couldn’t go to school?) and other relatives. They also said they were sleeping less and more concerned about having enough money for retirement (72%).
A 2022 survey by financial website Bankrate.com indicates that financial worries for women are still in the forefront and also indicates some of the reasons. According to the study, 46% of women—compared with 38% of men—say that money issues have prompted various emotional and physical health issues, including anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and stress. Women are also concerned about handling emergency expenses and having enough for everyday costs of living (about 60%, vs. 53% for men). This tracks with the ongoing gender pay gap; according to latest US Census data, women’s median salary nationally is $43,394, compared with $53,544 for men. Men are also statistically more likely than women to say they have stock market–related investments (50% for men, vs. 37% for women).
Much of the difference can likely be traced to the much higher incidence of women as caregivers, a responsibility that has historically mitigated against women’s ability to earn and save as much as their male counterparts. In the Bankrate survey, women in marriages or other domestic partnerships who had children in the home were more likely to say they were experiencing financial stress (51%) than women in the same relationship category who had no children at home (42%). And naturally, single moms indicate financial stress at higher rates (57%) when compared to single women with no children (49%).
What’s to be done? For many women, the two biggest barriers to progress toward greater financial wellbeing are shame (an internal concern for what others think) and fear (an emotional response to perceived danger). Women feel shame because they believe they should know and understand more about finance and investing, and that uncertainty can prevent them from seeking the assistance and advice they need. Fortunately, there are free or low-cost online resources like Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org), ElleVest.com, HerMoney.com, and others that specialize in helping women learn what they need to know to take charge of their financial futures. As for conquering fear, few things are more effective than “putting it on paper”: writing down your monthly bills and other obligations, your monthly income, and your budgetary goals. By getting the worries “out of your head” and into a tangible form that you can review, you can often start to eliminate those shadowy doubts and fears that keep you in financial paralysis. Making those first steps—even if they’re small—can be truly liberating.
Empyrion Wealth Management is a fiduciary financial and wealth manager that specializes in helping women in transition and other individuals build smart financial strategies for a more secure future. To learn more, click here to read our recent article, “Women Investing in Women: Why It Matters.”