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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Well-Off Women Gain Investing Prowess, Relish Making Money

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As their wealth increases, the vast majority of affluent American women in a new Wells Fargo survey said they “enjoy making and accumulating money,” and more than half believed that money helped buy happiness.

Most women in the survey said they felt proud about their earning power.

Versta Research conducted the survey with a nationally representative sample of 1,872 affluent women in the U.S. between Sept. 3 and Sept. 15. Qualified respondents were ages 40 to 79, had household investable assets of at least $250,000 and all were working women either currently or for at least 15 years before leaving the work force.

Eighty-two percent of affluent women surveyed said they managed the household budget and purchase decisions, 79% managed the household cash flow and 75% paid the bills.

However, only 46% of these women were taking primary responsibility for choosing and managing investment accounts, and this rate fell to 34% among married women. Affluent women in their 40s bucked this trend, with 56% choosing and managing investment accounts.

As their wealth has increased, 43% of affluent women said they had become more competent at handling investments, while 53% had stayed the same and 4% had become less competent.

Similarly, 36% of respondents said they had become more involved in financial decision making, while 58% said their involvement in financial decision making had stayed the same and 6% had become less involved.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a study where women so overwhelmingly express joy at earning money and pride in their capacity to do so,” Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “And, they credit the stock market for increasing their wealth.”

Fewer women, however, managed their investments, but that seems to be changing, according to Wimbish.

“The good news is more younger women in the workplace are taking on the role of investing for their households,” she said. “If you are making money and you think the market is helping your money to grow, then it makes sense to be more directly involved in investment decisions.”

Credit the Stock Market

Although 94% of affluent women surveyed felt they had worked hard to create their wealth, 68% acknowledged that most of it had been generated by investments and growth in the stock market.

Seventy-eight percent of affluent women said the stock market was the best way to grow savings over the long term. In fact, 64% said it was more exciting to watch assets grow through good investments in the stock market, while 36% liked to watch assets grow through earning and saving.   Given the stock market’s growth over the last five years, 37% of respondents said they were “more eager to put money into the market right now,” while 23% were “more reluctant” to do so now.  Forty percent admitted to a lack of interest in the stock market.

Interestingly, according to researchers, 73% of respondents disagreed that the stock market was too risky for them, while only 27% agreed. Still, 54% worried about losing money in the stock market.

The Role of Work

Affluent women in the survey valued a working life. Three-quarters of respondents said having a job or career was important to them even if they did not need the money.

Two-thirds of affluent working women said they were fairly compensated at work today. Yet, 59% did not think women would achieve pay equality in the workplace in the next 10 years.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed believed that women could “have it all” when it came to balancing their career and family. However, only 38% said “having it all” was their goal — of whom 81% felt they were succeeding at it.

Sixty-five percent of affluent women believed fathers should be more proactive about staying home to help raise children. Even if “having it all” was not the goal of many respondents, 58% said they were struggling with work-life balance.

Given an opportunity for a promotion at work that offered a significant step up from their current role and level of responsibilities, 66% of respondents said they would accept it: 31% of these would be “excited, eager, and ready for it,” 35% would “accept it, but with reservations” and 34% would decline it.

Of the “accept it, but with reservations” group, 53% worried about managing work-life balance, 30% worried about whether they were ready and had the skills to succeed, 16% were not sure whether their current career path was what they really wanted and 23% cited other reasons.

Financial Knowledge

Most affluent women surveyed felt their parents had taught them well about managing and saving money, but some two-thirds said no one had taught them how to invest in the stock market.

Ninety-eight percent of respondents said it was important for women to feel confident about investing, but only 71% actually did. Twenty-one percent strongly regretted not having learned more about money and finance.

Although 30% of affluent women thought men were more interested in finances and investing, 89% did not think men were better at it, and half thought men were overconfident when investing.  

“It is interesting to see that affluent women credit their wealth to the stock market even though most say that no one taught them how to invest in the market,” said Wimbish. “These are successful women that should have the confidence and interest in making investment decisions for their future.” Saving for Retirement

Affluent women are well-positioned for retirement, according to the survey. The financial crisis did not affect the financial well-being for a majority of respondents, but it did influence their savings behavior. Fifty-four percent said it had made them “more aggressive about saving money.”

Only 48% of non-retired affluent women had an annual savings goal; the median annual goal was $20,000. Non-retirees had saved a median of $600,000, and had a median goal of $1 million. They planned to retire at the average age of 64.

Three out of four affluent women agreed that they needed at least $1 million to “feel wealthy,” while 42% thought they would need $2 million or more.

“It’s crucial to have a savings goal so you know if you are on track,” Wimbish said. “These women have the means and are disciplined savers, but having a financial plan with an investment strategy can put them on an even better path.”

The affluent women surveyed exuded confidence about having enough money, according to the survey. Eighty-two percent of non-retirees felt confident they would have enough money to live the kind of retirement they wanted, and 95% of retired affluent women felt they would have enough money in retirement.

Seventy-two percent of non-retirees valued their assets and wealth more for the lifestyle and security it would afford them in retirement, while 28% appreciated the lifestyle and security these gave them at present.

The top three things that scared affluent women about retirement were losing their health (55%), losing their mental abilities (52%) and running out of money (29%).

Successful Retirement

The survey found that 55% of affluent women defined a successful retirement as having enough money for their preferred lifestyle. Twenty-three percent said it was being healthy; 13% said it was spending time with family and friends.

Sixty-four percent of non-retirees said that in retirement, they looked forward to spending more time with family, 63% to focusing on physical fitness and 58% to becoming more charitable with their time.

Fifty-two percent of non-retirees anticipated that their expectations and goals would change once they had retired. This was supported by the reports of affluent women already in retirement.

Fifty-eight percent of these said they had not had a realistic picture of what life in retirement would be like until they were in their 60s and beyond. And 43% of retired women said their retirement years were different from what they had imagined.

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