As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to take a look at the strides women have made in financial independence. For example, did you know 50 years ago a single woman couldn’t get approved for a credit card? Thanks to the work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died in 2020, President Gerald Ford signed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age in credit transactions,” according to Time Magazine.
Until the mid-1970s, banks and other financial institutions denied married women in the U.S. credit cards or loans in their own name, and single women also had trouble getting credit. Today, women can control their own financial decisions and planning. This includes taking out a personal loan, buying a house or building credit.
As part of my work leading our Women in Investing practice at Maxwell Financial, I am committed to helping empower women to make their own financial decisions. This starts with education. I can’t tell you the number of friends, acquaintances and clients I have that don’t know where their money is invested, the amount of life insurance they have or need, or what to do with a 401K when they change jobs.
It’s been a common practice to divide and conquer household responsibilities, with more women shouldering child raising, groceries and laundry than men, according to a recent Gallup poll. While traditionally men have handled the finances and savings, the Gallup findings showed 50% of men and women reported equally making decisions about savings or investments. But, just as Justice Ginsberg bucked the norm 50 years ago, we should be doing this too.
It's not about “having my own money” (although that’s not a bad thing) but more about having a joint role in making decisions that affect you. As women make up 50% of the work force, and the Covid-19 pandemic affected many women’s employment as many left to care for children, there is no off ramp to future planning. Getting involved in financial decisions helps us plan for our future.
The World Economic Forum suggests focusing on the gender finance gap to empower women.
In the report, they recommend:
· Starting financial equity at a young age
· Become more fearless through education and financial literacy
· Surround yourself with female role models
· Look to your employer or other groups to build financial literacy programs
· Connect with other advocates for women
Although research shows while women investors have better returns than men, many women are reluctant to invest. According to a study by Merrill Lynch, 61% of women say they’d rather discuss details about their own death than talk about their money. Forty-one percent said their biggest financial regret was not investing more.
Why don’t more women invest?
Many reasons exist, from assumptions women want a risk-adverse approach so they aren’t given robust options, to the very real gender income gap. As Forbes details if we make less money, we have less to invest. However, improving financial literacy gives women the tools they need to plan effectively.
Anecdotally, I hear from my clients that they don’t feel like they know enough to get started or are fearful of losing money. Simply put, financial independence, which can be gained by investing, helps women in the fight for gender equality.
Although more women are providing for their families, when it comes to preparing for retirement, they may be leaving their future to chance.
Seek out inspiration and advice from one of the many female-focused financial channels that exist. A few of my favorites are Ellevest – a financial company by women for women, Clever Girl Finance - a personal financial platform for women and the Financial Feminist – a financial literary podcast for women. Each has a wealth of suggestions, practical tips and resources for you to save and grow your money.
Honor those who opened the door to financial freedom
Whether you are the breadwinner in your house or have scaled back to focus on caretaking, it’s important to get involved in financial decisions. Take the first step today and find an advisor who understands your concerns and develops a personalized plan based on your needs.
Katy Ufferman (ChFC) is a chartered financial consultant with Maxwell Financial Management and leads the firm’s practice dedicated to helping women with their investments and retirement planning. Read her latest blog at https://www.maxwellfm.com/blog.
The opinions voiced are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
 CNBC.com, January 19, 2017
 TransAmericaCenter.org, 2017