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NerdWallet partnered with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to ask over 2,000 Americans about their financial status, needs and knowledge.
The survey revealed stark differences in respondents’ financial confidence and security, along gender and also generational lines.
Intrigued, NerdWallet’s data team took a deeper look at the March 2015 survey to assess how women and men differ across the generations when it comes to personal finances.
Here’s where we focused our analysis
To assess and compare financial confidence, we looked at how respondents in a group graded themselves on financial knowledge and their confidence in recent major financial decisions.
To understand a group’s financial security, we looked at the proportion of individuals with high credit card debt and those with savings accounts.
Age and gender
We focused on the differences between the youngest and oldest Americans surveyed. In these two groups, millennials ages 18 to 34, and the oldest, who were over 65, we found the biggest differences in answers. We also compared women and men to highlight differences in knowledge between the sexes.
Savings, confidence grows. Gaps in savings, confidence and debt between women and men decrease with age, at least among survey respondents. Almost 99 percent of women and men age 65 and older report being at least somewhat confident in their most recent major financial decision.
Millennials lag behind, and the gap is widest for women. While millennial women and men reported lower confidence in their financial decisions when compared with older generations, the survey found that the gap is widest for younger women — only 37 percent reported being very confident in their most recent major financial decision.
Less worry about finances in later years. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed who are 65 and older reported having no budget, although a majority do have an idea of how much they spend on housing, food and entertainment.
Older and wiser. The biggest differences in financial literacy between age groups is unsurprisingly between millennials — ages 18 to 34 — who were the youngest Americans surveyed, and the 65 and older age group. Those in the middle, ages 35 to 64, show gains in financial literacy and are more confident when compared with millennials, but they still fall short of the oldest people polled.
Financial trends among millennials
Millennial men may be more confident when it comes to their financial decisions and knowledge. Among male respondents ages 18 to 34, 47 percent were very confident in their last financial decision, while only 37 percent of women in the same age group felt very confident. Millennial men also gave themselves top grades for personal finance knowledge at a higher rate than women in the same age group: 64 percent of men gave themselves an “A or B,” while only 45 percent of women rated themselves as highly.
However, despite a reported lack of confidence, women may be more willing than men to use do-it-yourself tools for debt reduction. Of young women, 20 percent said they would turn to a tool to help pay down debt, while only 9 percent of men said they would do the same.
Millennial women also lag behind men when it comes to saving money. While 66 percent of men reported having a savings account, only 53 percent of young women said they have a savings account.
Financial trends among older Americans
People 65 and older in the survey were more confident, which isn’t surprising given this group’s life experience. In this poll, 70 percent of older Americans gave themselves an “A or B” to grade their personal finance knowledge, higher than the 54 percent of millennials who graded themselves similarly. This upward trend in confidence among older generations is seen across the genders, with even greater gains for women.
And perhaps older folks have good reason for this confidence, since most in our survey have little credit card debt: 64 percent reported carrying $0 in monthly credit card debt compared with 39 percent of young adults who made the same claim.
The poll of 2,017 U.S. adults was conducted online from March 11 to 13. Harris Poll contacted people who have agreed to participate in surveys for the company.