A lot has happened in the year since we released the results of Ellevest’s first Financial Well-Being Survey last October. Inflation has hit us all hard. The markets have been everywhere. Student debt is finally being forgiven (some of it, anyway). And employment, while looking better on the surface, is still a major problem for women.
Therefore, we wanted to know if and how women’s attitudes and approaches to financial well-being have also changed, especially given the moment you are having in our culture more widely. In addition to expanding our consultation with the first comprehensive measure of women’s financial health in the US (read all about Ellevest’s new Women’s Financial Health Index here), we also brought back the Financial Well-Being Survey from Ellevest, speaking to nearly 2,500 adults across the country about how they think about, and what they do with, money in 2022. What we learned gave us hope, but also showed us how far we still have to go to achieve true financial equality of genre. Let’s dive into it.
The Big News: Women Prioritize Financial Fitness in 2022
Last year, financial well-being wasn’t too high on people’s list of priorities. Most of the women who responded to our survey at the time ranked it as the least important form of well-being, less important than physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. (Only 14% said it was important.) Call it an awakening, but this year, they’re singing a different tune: In that same ranking, women are now three times more likely to view financial well-being as critical; now it’s second only to mental well-being:
Mental well-being: 48% (vs 36% in 2021)
Financial well-being 42% (vs 14% in 2021)
Physical well-being 37% (vs 22% in 2021)
Spiritual well-being 22% (vs 18% in 2021)
They, too, are walking down the path, making moves to practice financial wellness on a regular basis. Two-thirds of women say they have reduced their spending, for instance. (Spending itself isn’t necessarily a problem, sure, but intentionally spending more? That’s a financial wellness win.) And, rest assured, our hearts continue to invest in their retirement portfolios, regardless of the economic storm I’ve been weathering this year. 75% of women who are actively investing for retirement say they have continued their contributions despite market volatility, compared to just two-thirds of men. (So when you see industry-wide reports saying “everyone” is withdrawing their money from the markets “en masse”… now you know what “everyone” really means, no matter what the attached file photo suggests.)
We know from experience, and historical data, that staying the course with investment has been a winning strategy in economic downturns. Also not for nothing: women investors they tend to (a) invest more and (b) earn better returns (up to 40 basis points). So if our survey results are anything to go by, it appears that women are positioning themselves well to weather this tumultuous period and get to the top.
But financial stress is still important for women
Despite this happy news, economic stress continues to dominate women’s daily lives. A whopping 43% of women actively worry about money at least once a day, and 59% do so at least once a week. In both cases, they worry more than men (36% and 55%, respectively).
It is not surprising, however, what Type of the monetary stress women face depends on their age:
Older women (also known as Gen X and Baby Boomers) are more likely to be concerned about pure economic volatility – things like inflation (91% Boomer women vs. 66% Gen Z women), a possible recession (81% of Boomer women vs. 45% of Gen Z women), or having to cut spending (76% of Boomer women vs 55% of Gen Z women).
Younger women (Millennials and Gen Z)in the meantime, they are more likely to worry about how political problems will affect your finances in both the short and long term, things like reproductive rights (63% of Gen Z women vs. 45% of Boomer women), job security (62% of Gen Z women vs. 52% of Gen X women), the cost of child care (42% of Gen Z women vs. 21% of Gen X women), house prices (51% of Gen Z women vs. 45% of Gen X women) and representation in government (54% of Gen Z women vs. 38% of Gen X women).
But they are united on one particular concern: how they feel about their financial readiness. we found that men (30%) were more than twice as likely as women (14%) to say they feel financially prepared for a recession. While we know that women’s financial confidence is a major issue at stake here, it is possible to be in a good situation but still doubt yourself, another problem can be a lack of external support. Nearly 70% of women also say they have never met with a financial advisorcompared to just 41% of men; not surprising, considering how overwhelmingly masculine (read: alienating) is the industry. (I’m just saying: Ellevest’s team of financial advisors is 100% female.)
Women have more immediate financial priorities
Given the nightmarish legal events of the past year, especially the war for reproductive freedoms, it’s no surprise that financial priorities vary dramatically by gender. Men, on the one hand, feel they can prioritize their future: They ranked increasing their retirement savings as their number one financial priority. But Women’s priorities are closer to home: their top financial priority is “providing for the family,” a category that includes “family planning, child care, parental or sibling care, etc.” (“Supporting the family” ranked fourth for men. 😒) The breakdown of women’s priorities:
supporting the family (family planning, child care, parent/sibling care, etc.): 30%
Creation of an emergency fund: 29%
Stick to a budget: 26%
Growing retirement savings: 22%
Pay off credit card debt: 22%
Create a budget/spending plan: 20%
These findings also echo what we’ve seen in the broader conversation about the impact of family obligations on women’s economic and social equality: we know that women in heterosexual marriages are increasingly the main providers of their familieseven though men continue to be seen as the breadwinners of the family, and women profits tend to fall or stagnate after having children, while new parents see no change. We also know that women are take on more household responsibilitiesespecially since the start of the pandemic when jobs went remote.
And that’s all before we consider the bleak new realities facing those who may give birth now around the costs of reproductive health care. This is a key finding to note, as family obligations, in other words the need to prioritize supporting others before saving for one’s future, are probably an important factor in the persistence of the gender pay gap.
Another reason women might be failing to prioritize their retirement savings? For many, the idea of retirement seems like a pipe dream. More than half (54%) of women who prioritize retirement savings simply don’t think they can afford to retire. And the most worrying? Only 36% of women say they are investing in general, compared to 63% of men.
Women put their money where their values are… and they’re ready to walk all over them (even in this economy)
Despite everything, women are committed to their values. 62% of the women we surveyed said they are concerned about climate change, and 53% said the reversal of Roe v. Wade earlier this year affected her financial mindset.
As such, it’s no surprise that they’re also leading the way when it comes to spending and investing ethically and sustainably. 59% of women believe that it is important that the companies in which they invest or spend money take a position in favor of reproductive rights. And a third of Gen Z women (33%) and more than a quarter of millennial women (28%) say impact investing—investing in companies that align with their values—is important to them .
In the same way, women also have high standards for their own employers, both financially and ethically. this is despite everything happening in the labor market: Even though 1 in 2 women (and nearly two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennial women) said they are concerned about their job/job security right now, 44% of women say they are they would leave their current company if the company’s values on reproductive rights did not align with theirs. 55% of women (and 62% of millennial women!) say they are actively looking for a new, higher-paying job.
There is no well-being without financial well-being
Why might so many women be looking for more $$$? Sure, you could chalk it up to “quietly quitting.” Or maybe it is inflation: it has affected us all and median income has not moved to reflect that surge.
But the end result is the same as always: more money is more money. And even if they are worried about their finances, women ask for what they need. When we asked women how having more money makes them feel, their top two emotions were “confident” and “relaxed.” And 35% of women said having more money made them happier and more confident. That certainly bears out in our previous research: We’ve known for years that saving and investing are the main drivers of women’s confidence in their financial future; is one of the main reasons Ellevest’s core mission is to put more money in the hands of women.
It’s also why we’re committed to elevating and championing long-term financial well-being. When it comes to money, knowing what you have, knowing where you are going and taking steps to get there, and feeling good about it are essential components of a better quality of life.
Read more about our financial wellness efforts, especially Ellevest’s new Women’s Financial Health Index, and start your own financial wellness journey This day.