At a time when young women are making greater educational gains than their male counterparts and closing the gender pay gap, a 2015 survey finds that millennial women are no less likely to rely on their partner than previous generations when it comes to financial decision making.
Specifically, just 11% of millennial women in couples are fully engaged in financial decision making.
Which means that 89% of millennial women in couples are NOT fully engaged in their financial lives.
Despite impressive educational and career gains, when it comes to their financial futures, millennial women still seem to be subscribing (consciously or subconsciously) to the troubling notion that a ‘man is a financial plan’.
Women Need To Be Involved In Their Finances
Single, married or somewhere in between, there is almost no scenario in which it makes sense for a woman not to be fully engaged with her finances. According to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research, 9 out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives.
If women opt out of financial decision making when they couple up, not only do they relinquish the freedom to craft their futures on their terms, they put their long-term financial well-being at risk by leaving it in someone else’s hands.
By disengaging and letting someone else take over – be it a parent, a partner or anyone else – women are more likely to feel that can’t take care of themselves if and when they someday must.
Let's Talk About Confidence
This isn’t so much a problem of competence as much as it is a problem of confidence.
A 2015 study found that women are 14% more likely to participate in their workplace savings plan than men. And that once enrolled, they save at higher rates than men at all income levels.
But when it comes to confidence in their financial future, just 42% of women seem to have it, compared to 71% of men.
And while women may be better than men at making contributions to their 401ks, nearly half report that they are not actively involved in investing otherwise. (And women have been outperforming male investors for a while now).
For women, who live longer and typically serve as primary caretakers, the stakes are too high to let a lack of confidence or an attitude of ‘my man is my financial plan’ stand in the way of full financial engagement.
While the financial services industry traditionally hasn’t been very female friendly, there are a number of services and communities that embrace the unique financial needs of female savers and investors. From new robo-adviser platforms like Ellevest, created for women, by women, to smaller, more intimate communities built around personal blogs, giving women the opportunity to connect to specific people and stories that resonate with them. But at the core of all of them, full financial engagement still boils down to a few universal fundamentals…
It's Always About The Fundamentals
Budgets that need to be balanced, debts that need to be repaid, savings that need to be set aside, and investments that need to be diversified. There is no part of this process that women, with a little bit of support from Google, a financial tool or two, and maybe even a financial advisor, are not equipped to do.
And let’s not overlook the value of a simple, honest and open financial dialogue either. When it comes to talking about money with someone they’re close to, 4 in 5 women say they avoid it. But couples who talk about money more frequently, report higher levels of happiness with their significant other.
Ultimately, money is a tool for building a lifestyle around your values and priorities. If anything, having those kinds of discussions with your partner can bring you closer together.
Monthly money dates for example, offer a regular opportunity to discuss goals, values and evolving circumstances, and determine how they fit into your financial plan as a couple. Annual events like the holidays or even the upcoming tax season can serve as milestones to engage in additional financial check-ins and track progress from year to year.
Fostering a regular dialogue around money can foster the confidence that can in turn foster the engagement that women, single or coupled, need to succeed in their financial futures.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the money anyway. It’s about the freedom and choices that money affords you. And when you give up your financial independence in a romantic relationship, it leaves you with less freedom and fewer choices – which isn’t good, no matter what your marital status.
After all, we’re better positioned to love our lives and everyone in them when we can fully take care of ourselves.
Stefanie O’Connell is a personal finance expert, author and creator of the free Cash Confidence Challenge, helping women take ownership of their finances to afford a life they love! Follow along @stefanieoconnell