Woman looking into wallet with dismay (Photo: Shutterstock)

Women have been struggling to make progress with financial confidence and decision making this decade, and the trend is downward in several ways, Allianz Life reported this week.

At the same time, fewer women today work with a financial professional than in recent years.

In a new survey, 38% of women identified as the breadwinner in their household, compared with 47% in 2016 and 60% in 2013 who did so. Only 42% reported having more earning power than ever before, vs. 50% in 2016 and 57% in 2013. And slightly less than half said they were their household’s chief financial officer, compared with slightly more than half in the two previous periods.

Not only that, but just 27% of women in the survey said they had asked for a raise or promotion at work, compared with 44% in 2016, and 62% of women this year said they felt financially secure, vs. 68% three years ago.

“These findings were quite surprising because women have come a long way when it comes to our roles in work and family, yet we don’t feel prepared financially,” Aimee Lynn Johnson, Allianz Life’s vice president of financial planning strategies, said in a statement.

The Allianz Life Women, Money and Power Study was based on an online survey conducted in April among a nationally representative sample of 900 women, ages 25 to 75, with annual household income of at least $30,000. Some questions were resurveyed from 2013 and 2016 studies.

Confidence Gap

Why are women not feeling more empowered about their financial future?

“Women might be feeling worried about what they see happening in the markets, since nearly half of women say volatility in the market is making them anxious,” Johnson said.

“Despite women doing well in many other areas of their lives, this could be weighing heavily on them and translating to how they feel about their own finances.”

Angst these days about market volatility is rattling many investors and their advisors, according to a recent study.

Allianz Life’s survey also found that 57% of women wished they were more confident in their financial decision making.

Johnson noted that a spotlight has shone on female empowerment and the accomplishments women were making in recent years, including college graduation rates and the narrowing of the wage gap.

“But the disconnect between these accomplishments and the lack of financial confidence suggests perhaps those conversations need to refocus on female financial empowerment,” she said.

In contrast to the generally bleak picture captured in the survey, one bright spot stood out. Ninety percent of women said they were taking on more responsibility for managing household long-term savings and finances, up from 86% in 2016.

Millennial Women Take Charge

Not all women lack certainty around finances, according to the survey. It found that millennials were playing a more active role in their finances.

They were likelier than other generations to have asked for a promotion or raise, and more than half of younger women said they had more earning power than ever before.

In addition, 49% of millennial women said they were comfortable with current market conditions and were ready to invest now, compared with 37% of baby boomers and 29% of Gen Xers.

Confidence was also on the rise among divorced women, with 65% saying they felt more financially secure, vs. 50% in 2016. Moreover, divorced women reported feeling increasingly on track financially the longer they had been divorced.

Women in the survey who exited marriage more than 10 years ago said they had a better understanding of financial products they own, were better about setting and achieving financial goals, and were better about saving for long-term goals, compared with women who were more recently divorced.

The Right Financial Professional

Only a quarter of women in the study said they currently worked a financial professional, down from 30% in the 2016 study.

Of those who were doing so, 60% said their financial professional treated their spouse/partner as the decision maker. Unsurprisingly, 81% of women in 2019 said they felt independent, versus 87% in 2016, and 83% felt confident this year, versus 91% three years ago, as a result of working with a financial professional.

“Women need to be empowered in all aspects of their lives, especially when it comes to finances,” Johnson said.

She said they could educate themselves more on financial topics and products, not be afraid to broach the supposedly taboo topic of money and look for a financial professional who understands the financial challenges women today face.

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