By default, single women have always taken responsibility for managing household wealth, but the latest in a series of ongoing studies into the attitudes and actions of women around financial topics found that an ever-increasing percentage of married women are taking charge of financial and retirement planning for their families.
Prudential's "Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women 2014-2015" -- which surveyed more than 1,400 women aged 25 to 68 across all income levels and key ethnic groups -- found that currently 27% of married women are in charge of household financial planning -- up from 14% in 2006. Women also continue to contribute heavily to household income, with 44% reporting that they are the primary breadwinners for their families. This number has fluctuated in recent years, likely reflecting the evolving state of the economy.
Lingering Confidence Issues
Even as the economy improves and women step up their involvement in financial decision-making and goal-setting, their confidence in their ability to meet these challenges has remained virtually unchanged over the past 20 years. For instance, this year 75% of women said having enough money to live comfortably in retirement was "very important," but just 14% were "very confident" they would achieve that goal. Similarly, 66% of women said being prepared for rising health care costs was a very important financial goal, but just 9% felt confident in their ability to do so.
Fewer Seeking Professional Help
Despite these realities, the number of women who seek the advice of financial professionals has declined dramatically in recent years. Just under a third (31%) of women interviewed for this study are currently working with a financial advisor -- that's down from 48% in 2008. With retirement fast-approaching Boomer women are most likely to use a financial professional (45%) followed by Generation Xers (31%) and Millennials (15%).
Overall, more than half (53%) of those who use advisors feel on track or even ahead of their plans with regard to saving for retirement, compared with just 23% of women who do not seek professional help.
The trend away from using advisors may be fueled, in part, by advances in technology that make financial information readily available 24/7 via smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Social media is also becoming a go-to resource for women seeking information about financial products and services. But the trend toward using online resources to educate and assist in decision-making is driven largely by age: 34% of Millennial women report using personal online financial management tools "sometimes" or "often" compared with just 18% of Baby Boomers.
What Women Want: Tough Advice for Advisors
When asked why they choose not to work with advisors, the primary reasons cited included not having enough assets to warrant professional guidance and high advisory firm fees. Women also voiced strong opinions about the financial services industry, indicating that firms need to simplify the process, use less jargon, put customers' interests above their own, and exhibit ethical integrity. Among all potential customers -- women and men alike -- just 20% believe that financial services firms truly understand their needs.
Prudential Financial, Inc., ""Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women 2014-2015," June 2014.
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