Surveys have long noted greater degrees of financial confidence among men than women. This confidence gap closes, however, when women receive financial advice.

So reports TIAA-CREF in its latest annual Advice Matters Survey. Conducted by an independent research firm, the survey polled 1,000 adults nationwide to assess their attitudes, preferences and behaviors toward receiving financial advice.

The following recaps 4 key findings from the survey:

empowerment

Finding 1: Financial advice has a positive impact on women’s financial confidence

Though women are less likely than men to say they feel confident that they have saved enough for retirement (56 percent vs. 63 percent), getting advice makes a significant difference: 63 percent of women who have received advice say that they feel confident, compared to 45 percent of women who haven’t.

Women who have taken advantage of financial advice, the report adds, also are more likely to feel informed about retirement planning and retirement savings (81 percent vs. 63 percent of women who have not received advice).

Finding 2: Women are more likely to take action after receiving financial advice

The TIAA-CREF survey findings reveal that nearly 9 in 10 women (87 percent) take positive steps after receiving advice. Sixty-four percent of women made a change in their spending habits, while 57 percent increased the amount they save each month.

Most women who received financial advice also took these steps:

  • 53 percent established a plan for managing debt.
  • 51 percent set up an emergency fund.
  • 64 percent changed their spending habits.
  • 57 percent increased the amount they save each month.
  • 53 percent established a plan for managing debt; and.
  • 51 percent set up an emergency fund.

“We were very pleased with the actions that women take once they receive advice,” says Sue Fulshaw, managing director of retirement plan product management at TIAA-CREF. “We believe that their increasing financial confidence levels will help women to sustain the goals they’ve put in place with their retirement savings plans.

“Our hope is that they will continue to check in with their advisor, whether it be in-person or via online services, in order to revisit their plans as their financial circumstances change.”

challenges

Finding 3: Getting quality financial advice remains a challenge 

Though one-third (33 percent) of women are interested in receiving financial advice — a marked rise from 24 percent in 2013 — many are still struggling to find the right resources.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of female survey respondents say that finding a source of financial advice they can trust remains difficult. This compares to 48 percent who felt the same in 2013.

How to explain to increase? The survey doesn’t pinpoint a specific reason, but one factor could the growing abundance of advice sources from which to choose.

“While this provides women with flexibility, it can be difficult to differentiate between who is providing objective advice versus who is providing generic guidance and educational rules of thumb that may not be personally relevant,” says Fulshaw. “Counterintuitively, the fact that more women are finding barriers may mean that more are actively engaged enough to want to seek advice.

“And happily, the survey shows that those who find it reap the benefits,” she adds. “For those who have a retirement plan offered through their workplace, they should find out if the plan offers free advice sessions to participants. That’s a great place to begin.”

Women also increasingly report that it is hard to find the time to look for financial advice (39 percent in 2014 vs. 30 percent in 2013) and difficult to know where to start looking (34 percent in 2014 vs. 23 percent in 2013).        

“Professional, personalized financial advice is out there, but women often get sidetracked by a number of barriers,” said Kathie Andrade, executive vice president and head of Individual Advisory Services at TIAA-CREF. “We have found that there are ways to break through these obstacles and help women access relevant advice in ways that are convenient to them.”

Finding 4: A growing number of women rely on financial service providers for advice 

The number of women who say they rely on financial services providers for advice has increased steadily (to 61 percent in 2014 from 51 percent in 2013 and 36 percent in 2012). Women’s use of financial services providers’ websites or online tools is also on the rise (to 41 percent in 2014 from 33 percent in 2013 and 20 percent in 2012.

Fifty-seven percent of women surveyed would like access to tools and calculators that break down complex advice principles. And more than half of women are interested in participating in on-demand webinars (54 percent) or live seminars (52 percent) that cover personally relevant financial topics.

For more information on the survey, read the 2014 TIAA-CREF Advice Matters Executive Summary.