America Saves, a national campaign that promotes savings, notes significant differences in savings between men and women. A 2014 survey showed that women displayed a greater interest in savings, but there was no greater savings effort or savings effectiveness compared to men. But just two years later in the same survey, the gender gap leapt off the page. Woman were notably behind across 12 important financial indicators including consumer debt, savings habits, emergency savings, and general savings progress.
As concerns continue to rise over American's often inadequate retirement and emergency savings, it's become clear that the gender disparity can no longer be pushed aside. 2017 has already been dubbed the year of "financial feminism," and the momentum behind understanding and dismantling the financial gender gap has been picking up speed in headlines.
The fight to close this financial gender gap is a marathon, not a sprint, and there's still a great deal of work to be done. The challenges women face are not going to disappear anytime soon, but the financial choices women make in their circumstances can help to shift the tide.
Here are three actions women can take today to better set themselves up for long-term success:
1. Identify your savings goals: Women are outperforming men in the stock market, but the impetus behind their success isn't solely to make money. Successful female investors are successful because they've established long-term goals and savings targets. This practice is by no means limited to investing. In fact, savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully for things like retirement.
Think about what motivates you to save, and create concrete and realistic savings goals around that motivation.
2. Prioritize retirement savings: Enroll in any retirement options offered at your workplace and start making contributions as early and as often as possible. If your employer offers a match and you're not taking advantage of it, you are leaving money on the table.
If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, or a plan that works well for you, you can save for retirement by putting money in an individual retirement account (or IRA) or opening a myRA retirement savings account through the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Compound interest will maximize your savings over time, helping to make retirement comfortable and ultimately combat the expenses of that longer lifespan. Learn more about IRAs and the different types here.
3. Ask for help: Don't miss out on opportunities to dig yourself out of a financial hole or enhance your financial literacy because of shame or unfamiliarity. Whether you are up to your ears in high-interest debt, tackling retirement savings, getting a divorce, or expanding your family, there are local and national resources, like the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) or the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), available to help educate and support you on your unique financial journey. You can also contact American Financial Solutions, a non-profit credit counseling agency for help with debt and credit options.
Tammy G. Bruzon works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.