Women and Finances: Have gains been achieved in 200 years of financial rights?

Women and Finances: Have gains been achieved in 200 years of financial rights?

by A. Scott White, CFP®, ChFC, CLU

Though women may be still struggling with fair pay in the workplace, they expect the same financial rights as men. However, those rights were not always equal, or even an option. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are sharing the history of women and finances and how it may relate to the current state of financial security for women.

Since ancient Egypt, women have been on a financial yoyo of having the right to own and profit on land or not. The Guardian detailed when and where women had financial rights and when they didn’t. Although women weren’t able to own property in their own names here in the U.S. until 1839, thanks first to the state of Mississippi, they have been able to manage and profit from land since the early 1700s – but only if their husband was incapacitated. The 1900s brought financial rights, voting rights and women holding elected offices and gaining financial leverage in the workplace.

And yet, with many years of fighting for equal rights, are women today taking advantage of their financial rights?

Kelleykeehn.com collected several stats on women and finances. The site states that globally, women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. Yet 50% of women said they fear they will lose all their money and become destitute in old age. A staggering 87% of the poverty–stricken are elderly women.

It seems that although women have made gains in income and spending, as a group they still struggle with planning for their futures. In my office, I have to agree. The female clients I have talked with seem to have little investment experience and often struggle determining who they can trust to help them plan for the future.

According to The Iowa Department on Aging, elder women are particularly vulnerable to living in poverty. For some women, money was never discussed when they grew up, and recognizing when and how to ask for help is crucial according to the Iowa Department of Human Rights. They also add that women’s longer lifespan may mean for some that avoiding long term care and/or having financial strategies in place to fund long term care are central concerns.

This is why we begin every client relationship with a comprehensive financial plan. This plan is critical to a successful process. There is no way to plan for the future without knowing:

● What goals you have for retirement

● What your cash needs will be to meet those goals

● If you are properly insured/covered

● How will you pay for unexpected emergencies

● How you will be cared for if you are unable to care for yourself

Once a current assessment is taken, I can start the education of offerings that will best meet that woman’s investment goals.

Though we have seen many women excel in the financial industry in the past few generations, there is still much work that needs to be done to ensure more women in our country feel financially prepared for their futures.