Women are more stressed about money than men. And due to wealth disparity, they unfortunately have good reason to be.
Salary Finance, a company that helps employers develop financial wellness programs, recently conducted a study of 10,500 employees across income levels throughout the U.S. The study found that more than half of millennial women don’t think they will have enough money to retire, while a third of millennial men hold the same belief about themselves..
Meanwhile, 68 percent of millennial women don’t save money because they are only earning enough to get by, while 58 percent of millennial men have found themselves in the same situation.
“There are massive gender disparities,” said Dan Macklin, CEO of Salary Finance. “Really, a lot of this stems from the fact that women get paid less than men. They’re paid a third less. That drives everything. It’s not the only thing that’s going on here. Women are less likely to be approved for loans. Maternity leave has an impact ... Women are more likely to suffer from panic attacks over financial issues. It’s always more depressing for women.”
The study also covered Generation X, in which 44.8 percent of women said they are worried about money issues most or all of the time, while 36.1 percent of men feel the same way.
Women disproportionately take care of their elderly parents or family members. Of those caring for a dependent, 58 percent of Generation X women have less than $1,000 in checking, savings, deposit accounts in total. Forty-one percent of Generation X men face the same issue.
Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC’s TODAY and CEO of HerMoney.com, said that feeling stressed is only natural given the issues faced specifically by women. The best way to reduce stress is to make a plan.
“These days, when we think of reducing stress, we think of a lot of forms of escapism like yoga, meditation or deep breathing. They don’t work when it comes to finance,” said Chatzky. “You need to come up with a plan to get out of debt, and a plan to increase your savings rate. You can’t deep-breathe your way out of it.”
Chatzky suggested crunching numbers and figuring out the costs of major life events, like having a baby, a wedding, or a divorce.
“What is stressful are life situations that take us by surprise,” said Chatzky. “Numbers are your friend in these instances. Anything that you can prepare for and understand how much it’s likely to cost you is very likely to reduce stress.”
Women are not being negligent, according to Macklin. The study found that women would prefer to save money rather than spend it. They are also increasingly making more financial decisions about buying cars, homes, and groceries.
“Women tend to control the purse strings,” Macklin said. “Increasingly they’re making these decisions but have less money to make.”
Debt is also a major culprit. An alarming Baltimore study found that parents favor boys over girls when saving for college, which may account for why women come out of school with more debt than men, according to Macklin.
Macklin said women can get started on a road to financial wellness by putting together an emergency fund. Automate these savings transactions so you can set it and forget it.
“It’s easier said than done, but having a short term, emergency savings account is a huge thing,” said Macklin. “If you can build that up and have one or two months salary in that, it then gives you that buffer if you hit bumps along the road.”
While job-seeking, women should be on the lookout for companies that offer programs like matching 401ks, access to financial advisors, and low-interest automated debt repayment programs.
“It’s great for [companies] to have happier employees,” Macklin said. “There’s a lot of research that shows that financially stressed people are much less productive at work. They’re five times more likely to be arguing with their colleagues. They lose sick days, they’re less likely to get daily tasks finished. Plus, employees who are really financially stressed are twice as likely to be looking for a new job. That’s a huge cost: hiring, onboarding — it’s massively higher than it should be because people are chasing down slightly higher paychecks.”
Higher salaries can help, said Macklin, but debt repayment aid will nip deeper problems at the bud.
“They could pay everyone more, it can help. But it’s also true that employees are wasting huge amounts of money paying for the debt they already have,” Macklin said. “With credit card debt, the average interest rate is 17 or 18 percent, so they go to a payday lender and they never get out of that debt cycle. Their credit rating plummets. So the fact is, employers can help employees reduce this cost in a major way. It will help them be less stressed.”
Ultimately, it’s up to companies to step up for the financial wellness of their employees, according to Macklin, and many companies are doing so.
“Forty-eight percent of American workers said they were financially stressed. This goes across income. This is not just a low income problem, this is extremely consistent,” Macklin said. “[Companies] have to recognize that this is a fact, and not bury their heads in the sand.”