So much has happened in the year since the results of the first Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey were released last October. Inflation has hit us all hard. Markets were everywhere. Student debt is finally being forgiven (at least in part). While employment looks better on the surface, it remains an important issue for women.
So we wanted to know if and how women’s attitudes and approaches to financial wellbeing have changed as well – especially given the moment it has in our culture more broadly. In addition to expanding our query to include the first-ever comprehensive measurement of women’s financial health in the US (read all about the brand new Ellevest Women’s Financial Health Index here), we also brought back the Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey, which polled nearly 2,500 people Adults across the country on how they think about money — and what they do with it — in 2022. What we learned gave us hope, but it also showed us how far we still have to go to achieve true financial equality reach genders. Let’s dive in.
The big news: Women are prioritizing financial well-being in 2022
Last year, financial well-being wasn’t very high on people’s priority lists. Most women who took part in our survey at the time ranked it as the least important form of well-being – less important than physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. (Just 14% said it was important.) Call it an awakening, but this year they’re singing a different tune: In the same ranking, women are now three times as likely to view financial well-being as critical — now it’s only secondary to mental well-being :
Mental well-being: 48% (up from 36% in 2021)
Financial wellbeing 42% (up from 14% in 2021)
Physical well-being 37% (vs. 22% in 2021)
Spiritual wellbeing 22% (up from 18% in 2021)
They also walk the path and take steps to practice financial well-being on a regular basis. Two-thirds of women say they have cut back on spending, for example. (Spending in itself isn’t necessarily a problem, mind you; but spending more on purpose? That’s a financial wellness win.) And — hush, our hearts — they continue to invest in their retirement portfolios, regardless of the economic storm we’re about to face to have. weathered this year. 75% of women who are actively investing in retirement say they have continued to make contributions despite market volatility – compared to just two-thirds of men. (So when you see reports from across the industry of “everyone” pulling their money out of the markets “en masse”… now you know what “everyone” actually means, regardless of what the accompanying stock photo might suggest. )
From experience – and historical data – we know that staying on course when investing has been a winning strategy during economic downturns. Not for nothing either: female investors tend to (a) invest more and (b) earn better returns (by up to 40 basis points). So if our poll results are any indication, it looks like women are positioning themselves well to weather this turbulent time and stay ahead.
But financial stress is still high for women
Despite this good news, money stress still dominates the everyday life of women. A whopping 43% of women actively worry about money at least once a day, and 59% do so at least once a week. In both cases, they are men who are not worried (36% and 55% respectively).
Unsurprisingly what kind of the money stress women face depends on their age:
Older Women (aka Gen X and Baby Boomers) are more concerned about pure economic volatility – Things like inflation (91% of Boomer women versus 66% of Gen Z women). recession (81% of Boomer women versus 45% of Gen Z women) or must reduce expenses (76% of Boomer women vs. 55% of Gen Z women).
Younger women (Millennials and Gen Z)meanwhile, are more worried about how political problems will affect their finances in both the short and long term – things like reproductive rights (63% of Gen Z women vs 45% of Boomer women), job security (62% of Gen Z women versus 52% of Gen X) who childcare costs (42% of Gen Z women vs. 21% of Gen X women), apartment prices (51% of Gen Z women vs. 45% of Gen X women) and women representation in government (54% of Gen Z women vs 38% of Gen X women).
But they do agree on one particular concern: how they feel about their financial readiness. We found this Men (30%) were more than twice as likely as women (14%) to say they felt financially prepared for a recession. While we know that women’s financial confidence is an important issue here – it’s possible to be in a good situation but still doubt yourself – another issue can be the lack of external support. Also, almost 70% of women say they have never met with a financial advisor, compared to just 41% of men — no surprise given how predominantly male (read: alienating) the industry is. (Just saying: Ellevest’s financial advisory team is 100% women.)
Women have more immediate financial priorities
Given the nightmarish legal events of the past year — most notably the war on reproductive liberties — it’s not surprising that financial priorities vary dramatically by gender. On the one hand, men feel they can prioritize their future – they rank increasing their retirement savings as their #1 financial priority. but Women’s priorities are closer to home: their number one financial priority is “supporting the family”, a category that includes “family planning, child care, parent or sibling care, etc.” (“Supportive family” came fourth for men. 😒) The breakdown by women’s priorities:
support family (Family planning, child care, care of parents/siblings etc.): 30%
Building an emergency fund: 29%
Staying on budget: 26%
Growing retirement savings: 22%
Pay off credit card debt: 22%
Creating a budget/spending plan: 20%
Again, these results reflect what we have seen in the broader discussion of the impact of family responsibilities on women’s economic and social equality: we know that women in heterosexual marriages are increasingly the main breadwinners for their families, just as men continue to be are seen as breadwinners and that women’s income tends to fall or stagnate after having children, while new fathers see no change. We also know that women are taking on more household responsibilities, especially since the pandemic began when jobs have been remotely shifted.
And that’s all before considering the grim new realities that people who are now able to give birth face in terms of reproductive health care costs. This is an important finding to keep in mind, as family commitments – in other words, prioritizing helping others before saving for your own future – is likely to be a big factor in perpetuating the gender pay gap.
Another reason women deprioritize their retirement plans? The thought of retiring at all is a pipe dream for many. More than half (54%) of women who prioritize retirement simply don’t think they can afford to retire. And most worrying? Only 36% of women say they invest in general, versus 63% of men.
Women put their money where their values are… and they’re willing to walk over it (even in this economy)
Despite everything, women are committed to their values. 62% of the women we surveyed said they were concerned about climate change, and 53% said the reversal of Roe v. Wade influenced her financial mindset earlier this year.
So it’s not surprising that they are also leaders when it comes to ethical and sustainable spending and investing. 59% of women think it is important that the companies they invest in or spend money with support reproductive rights. And a third of Gen Z women (33%) and more than a quarter of Millennial women (28%) say impact investing – investing in companies that align with their values – is important to them.
In the same way, women also have high expectations of their own employers, both financially and ethically. And that’s despite what’s going on in the job market: Although 1 in 2 women (and nearly two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennial women) said they were currently concerned about their job security/employment, 44% of women say who do so would leave their current company if the company’s values regarding reproductive rights were not aligned with their own. 55% of women (and 62% of millennial women!) say they are actively looking for a new job with better pay.
There is no wellbeing without financial wellbeing
Why are so many women looking for more $$$? Sure, you could call it a “silent quitting.” Or maybe it’s about inflation – it’s hit us all hard, and median income hasn’t moved to reflect that increase.
But the conclusion is as always: More money is more money. And even when they’re worried about their finances, women are asking for what they need. When we asked women how they would feel if they had more money, their top two feelings were “safe” and “relaxed”. And 35% of women said more money makes them happier and more confident. This is certainly confirmed in our previous research: we have known for years that saving and investing are the most important drivers of women’s confidence in their financial future; That’s a big reason why Ellevest’s core mission is to put more money into the hands of women.
For this reason, we are also committed to promoting and promoting financial well-being over the long term. When it comes to money, knowing what you have, knowing where you are going, taking steps to get there, and feeling good about it are all integral parts of a better quality of life.
Read more about our financial wellbeing efforts, especially the new Ellevest Women’s Financial Health Index, and start your own financial wellbeing journey today.