It’s Women’s History Month and a great time to recognize the accomplishments of women today and those who have come before. Exciting changes are afoot and for the first time in history, women are increasing the size of their paychecks, securing more advanced degrees and making their mark in significant ways across almost every field. In fact, women have become a driving force of the global economy and now control 60% of the wealth in the U.S. alone, and that number is only expected to grow.1 The developing “she-conomy” is groundbreaking, but as we’re all aware, glass ceilings persist and hinder equality on many fronts, with the foremost being financial. Let’s drill down to the financial gaps that still need closing:
The gender wage gap lies at the epicenter of financial inequality, and its impact is far-reaching. Based on current trends, women aren’t expected to attain global gender parity until more than 200 years from now due in large part to the third-world status of large portions of the world’s population.2 This continues to translate into less money during a woman’s working years and in retirement.
More and more women are serving as the breadwinners of their families and are more likely to bear the weight of their family’s financial and investing success. An interesting trend that’s occurring for women investors is that they’re not investing at all or not early enough. Women keep a reported 68% of their portfolio in cash compared to 59% by men.3 While stock-piling cash means taking no risk in the present, it also means giving up the growth potential associated with long-term investing and can actually put women at risk for falling short of money during retirement.
According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. has closed its gender gap in educational attainment. Compared to men; women are more likely to graduate and obtain advanced degrees.4 The flipside of this landmark statistic is that the price of education isn’t exactly cheap, and many of our nation’s women are leaving school and entering the workforce with higher debt than men—nearly two-thirds of outstanding student loan debt in the amount of $800 billion total is owed by women.5 Burdened with excess debt and the usual responsibilities of everyday life, many of today’s younger women are missing out on the critical early investing years since they’re unable to free up enough resources.
The three areas above come full circle in retirement, presenting financial planning challenges that are unique to women. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that women tend to work fewer years than men (roughly 25% less) to raise a family or provide care for a loved one.6 This translates into less time and earning power to fund the traditional 3-legged stool of retirement income: individual savings, retirement plans and Social Security benefits. Furthermore, women’s retirement dollars need to last longer as women tend to outlive men by 5 – 8 years on average.7
Bridging the Gender Gap
Our Founder, Mary Harris, recognized the financial challenges of women early on through her struggles as a single mom of two young daughters in the mid-80s, which inspired her to begin Harris Financial a few years later. Our firm’s legacy is deeply rooted in serving women investors for which we have been recognized in AdvisoryHQ’s Top 10 Financial Advisors in Los Angeles.
“We’ve built a practice around serving women, particularly women in transition, and to be recognized for that work is gratifying, but it’s really just icing on the cake,” says President Stewart Darrell. “I’m inspired daily as I learn firsthand how women have built their own paths to success and have the privilege of helping so many accomplished individuals forge the futures they envision.”
Darrell concludes, “After working with women for the past 25 years, we know how powerful and transformative it can be to attain confidence in one’s financial situation and future. Though there are still significant challenges for women investors, we are committed to ensuring that they’re met and overcome. All women can start by understanding the gaps above and then partner with an experienced professional to carefully craft their unique financial plan and investment strategy. We are here to help.”