Financial education can be tailored for men's and women's experiences
- According to a new Merrill Lynch study, 70% of women believe men's life journey differs from their own — meaning employers have to take a different tack regarding finances and financial education. Women and Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line notes that women, despite professional achievements, fall short in pursuing lifetime financial security, which entails investing more of their assets, saving earlier for retirement and finding financial solutions that are aligned with their personal values.
- Women tend to look beyond the bottom line; 77% of women say they view money in terms of what it can do for them and their families and two-thirds prefer investing in causes that concern them. Longevity is a particular problem for women, who tend to live longer. While 64% of women said they would like to live to be 100, 44% think they'll run out of money by age 80. And while 90% of women are comfortable with paying bills, just over half say they feel confident enough to manage their own investments.
- To remove barriers to women's long-term financial security, the study recommends helping women invest more of their assets; focusing on wealth disparity, not just income; and opening up discussions about money.
Financial wellness programs have taken off as a benefit in part because more employees are recognizing that they need help reaching their financial goals — but employers can do more to recognize the disparities at play between men and women. A 2017 Prudential study revealed that women's 401k savings are overall one-third lower than men's.
To start, employers ensure women they have the investment information they need. Employers also might think about addressing employees' most common money problems in their financial wellness programs. Budgeting, for example, might be difficult for some workers, and setting aside funds for emergencies might be a problem for others.
But the Merrill Lynch study alludes to the disparity partly created by the motherhood penalty, or the expectation that women take more time off to become caregivers than men, thus lessening their opportunities to make money and save it. Benefits such as paid time off and flexible work arrangements not only help caregivers create a more stable livelihood, but improve engagement and productivity overall.
One in three employees in a report from the Center for Financial Services Innovation cited financial problems as a major distraction at work. The consequences, including stress-induced illnesses, absenteeism and decreases in productivity, may be worth heading off with information and counseling sessions that provide financial education for employees.