“You’ve come a long way, baby!” said the 1968 ad, aimed at patting women on the back for their amazing progress in the world. Fortunately, today’s women can look back and laugh at the idea that they had reached their potential in 1968. Women were just getting started back then and have since continued to reinvent their roles in every arena of life. Sometimes by choice but often by necessity, women have taken on a new level of responsibility for their lives and the lives of their families.
Present-day women are becoming powerful decision-makers, bolstered by rising education levels, unprecedented workforce participation, and escalating income and wealth. More and more they are making the financial decisions that determine the family’s well-being, taking an increasingly active role in how families save, spend, invest, and plan for the future. In addition, most women will spend at least part of their lives on their own as sole earners, after divorce, or as widows. Women are working and earning more than ever before, and, because women tend to live long lives, they have a better-than- average chance of inheriting assets or a business at some point.
Women now account for more than half of U.S. college undergraduate and graduate students(1), and they now make up roughly half of the U.S. workforce (2) Their average incomes have increased 91% from 1970 to 2010.(3) More women now out-earn their husbands.(4) These ongoing shifts in education, employment, earning power, and wealth ownership present challenges and opportunities that women must learn to integrate with their hopes, dreams, and goals for themselves and their loved ones. Women are asking themselves tough questions: What do I want? What do I need? How do I feel about the new challenges I’m facing?
A national survey(5) revealed that women consider achieving peace of mind seven times more important than accumulating wealth. Accordingly, they see their financial decisions and investments as a means to protect and support their families. Women are seeking education and information that can empower them as decision-makers. And they like to discuss and collaborate as they approach financial matters. Women connect strongly with the emotional aspects of money. Life and family issues drive their financial decisions, as do their hopes and worries.
What are some of today’s women’s greatest financial worries? Saving for retirement, juggling work and family responsibilities, caring for the immediate family, caring for an elderly parent or relative, and taking care of a family business.
1. U. S. Department of Education
2. U.S. Department of Labor
3. United States Statistical Abstract, 2010
4. PewResearchCenter, “New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives,” Jan. 2010
5. LPL Financial, “Women and Finance White Paper,” 2013.