Prudential's Study Underlines the Importance of Financial Planning for Women

By Molly Heintzelman* 

Yesterday the Women’s Media Center hosted a media briefing and SheSource Luncheon at the Paley Center for Media highlighting recently published results from the Prudential 2010 Biennial study, Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women. As the study shows, women’s financial needs often differ from men’s. For example, career interruption due to child bearing and child rearing complicates women’s retirement savings as they spend time out of the workforce. Additionally, women tend to live longer than men, resulting in a greater need for retirement savings to live on after exiting the labor force. These factors demonstrate women’s need for financial planning along their lifespan.

Despite their longer lifespans, women are actually working with less than men as they reach retirement. In recent years there has been a noticeable upswing in women’s participation in the workforce and the number of women attending college. Even with these advances, Heidi Hartmann of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research reported that the lifetime earnings of a woman is only 38% of the male average.

Prudential’s study revealed a confidence gap in women when it comes to financial planning. Although 44% of women reported valuing funding their children’s education, only 21% felt confident that they could do so. Less than one fifth of respondents felt “very prepared” to make financial decisions. In fact, one third admitted they needed a lot of help. However, as Joan Cleveland (Vice President of Business Development for Prudential Individual Life Insurance) and Heidi Hartmann pointed out, women have a hard time utilizing the financial help available to them, perhaps due to mistrust.

In fact, 64% of women in Prudential’s study reported seeking financial advice from friends or family rather than a financial advisor. Cringing at these results, Cleveland urged women to form a relationship with an economic advisor who can help them establish a financial plan in a way most friends or family are not equipped to do.

Trish Regan, an Emmy nominated broadcast journalist and anchor for CNBC, closed out the event. She pointed out that even though women are practically “CFOs of their households” (making most of the major financial decisions), only 1 in 10 are planning for their own financial future.

A question raised by Samhita of Feministing revealed that the Prudential study did not provide breakdowns of women by demographic characteristics (ex. race, cultural background, immigrant status). However, as Heidi Hartmann pointed out, financial planning is especially important for low-income women and women of color. IWPR’s research found that while 30% of white women have pension income to draw on when they retire, only 13% of Latina women have pension income.

Women must become comfortable with financial planning—and this means more than just spending less and working longer—in order to secure their own and their families’ future economic well-being. 

*Molly Heintzelman, a rising senior English Major at Quinnipiac University, is a research intern for NCRW. She hopes to pursue a career in International Relations.

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