Women’s Financial Struggles Go Beyond Just Pay Gap

Survey: Day-to-day living, long-term saving more challenging for women than men
A business woman walks up a set of stairs

Much attention has been given to the fact that, on average, women make less money than men. However, a new survey shows women’s financial challenges go way beyond pay equality, as they trail behind men in several key indicators.

Employee financial platform Salary Finance worked with a Yale researcher to survey more than 10,000 U.S. employees about their money concerns. Though survey respondents represented 26 different industries, women, overall, reported average annual earnings of $58,027—significantly less than the $79,517 in average yearly earnings reported by men.

With less money to work with, women are more likely than men to have trouble managing their daily living expenses. For example, 34% of women are likely to run out of cash before payday, compared to 25% of men. If household emergencies crop up, women are less able to handle them since 41% of women said they have less than $500 in the bank, compared to 18% of men.

Saving for the future is also more difficult for women, the survey found. In fact, 63% of women said they don’t make enough money to save regularly compared to 51% of men. With so many women believing they can’t afford to save, it’s not surprising that nearly 70% of women think they don’t have enough for retirement. Among men, only 50% feel unprepared for retirement.

Making matters worse, women tend to have higher rates of student and medical debt than men, so in many cases, women are trying to dig themselves out of a larger hole, the survey found. Yet when it comes to new loan prospects, women are a third more likely than men to have their applications rejected.

Many women also face financial implications due to motherhood. Of the 63% of female workers surveyed who had taken maternity leave at some point, 59% said it affected their ability to pay their bills, and 53% said they incurred additional debt while caring for their newborn.

Financial knowledge is another area in which women seem to lag behind men, with 66% of women respondents saying they understood how a 401(k) plan works, compared to 76% of men. Women were also less likely to have a 401(k) plan in the first place, with 56% having an account against 62% of the men surveyed.

As women struggle to get ahead financially, more than half (56%) reported being stressed about money, while only 41% of men felt that way. Yet women are taking whatever measures they can to improve their plight. In fact, 37% of women said they would choose to save their money rather than spend it, compared to 32% of men.

When it comes to finances, knowledge is power. While women often have a steeper financial mountain to climb, there are steps women can take to improve their odds of succeeding.

One proactive step is researching where the gender pay gap is shrinking the fastest. Although moving house isn’t always a realistic option, women who can do so easily might earn more money by relocating. Likewise, women should educate themselves about savings and investment vehicles such as 401(k) plans so they can make the most of the money they do earn.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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