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Bag-Lady Specter Haunts Even Savvy Women’s Retirement

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Despite the fact that more women have significantly boosted their financial savvy and become “women of influence” since the financial crisis, they still worry at similar rates to other women that they’ll run out of money in retirement and become bag ladies, according to a just-released survey by Allianz Life.

The 2013 Women, Money & Power Study, conducted with more than 2,000 women ages 25 to 75 with a minimum household income of $30,000 a year, found that one in five women polled fit the woman of influence profile based on a number of criteria, including activity in major investment decisions, good understanding of financial products and interest in learning about financial matters.

But despite higher earning power and greater financial engagement, the woman of influence still shares concerns about running out of money in retirement, with 46% of these women noting that they sometimes worry about losing all of their money and becoming a “bag lady” — only slightly below the response from all women (49%).

But the other news for these women is much better. The survey found that the woman of influence is more likely to feel financially secure — 79% said they did, versus 62% of all women surveyed — and more likely to feel confident in her ability to spend, save and invest wisely than the average woman — 87% agreed versus 69% of all women surveyed.

Their increased financial savvy has also made more women dub themselves the CFO of their household. The survey found that 57% of the women polled say they have more earning power than ever before, and six in 10 say they are the primary breadwinner in their household.

More than half (54%) of all women polled described themselves as CFO of their household, with 75% of them saying that they can’t rely on their husbands to handle the investing.

Katie Libbe, vice president of Consumer Insights for Allianz Life, said in a statement that “the compelling thing about the woman of influence is she doesn’t necessarily fit the typical ‘power woman’ profile of someone with a six-figure salary and an MBA.” While some of the women “are that, the woman of influence can just as easily be a stay-at-home mom who is fully engaged in household finances and committed to actively managing her family’s financial future.”

Women of influence may also exude more confidence because they tend to have a higher level of involvement with financial professionals. More than half of these women (52%) say they work with financial professionals versus 38% of all women surveyed. They are also more likely to view their professional as a go-to source for information on how to save, spend and invest, with 45% agreed versus 31% of all women surveyed.

This increased engagement with a financial professional has been beneficial for the woman of influence across a variety of topics. Due to their relationship with a financial professional, they are more likely:

  • To feel confident and prepared for their financial future (86% agreed versus 77% of all women surveyed);
  • To feel they earn a better return on their money (83% agreed versus 75% of all women surveyed);
  • To say they understand financial terminology and issues better (80% agreed versus 65% of all women surveyed);
  • To be active in financial planning (85% agreed versus 68% of all women surveyed).

The study also found that women of influence tend to have more earning power — an average of $57,000 per year versus $48,000 per year for all women surveyed — and more postgraduate education; 26% have completed a graduate degree versus 20% for all women surveyed. These women also have more success in the workplace, as they are 50% more likely to be a business owner and 80% more likely to be at the director or VP level within their company than the average woman.

The study found that the women of influence also have “a much better idea about their financial future, including their prospects for retirement.” For instance, 47% of these began saving while in their 20s, with only 1% these women saying they have not begun saving versus 12% of all women surveyed.

Check out Advisors vs. the Bag Lady Nightmare: 4 Women Talk Money With Terry Savage on ThinkAdvisor.