Pushing for Women’s Literacy -- in Reading, Writing AND ‘Rithmetic

 

It’s an all too common story: Women’s financial wellness lags behind that of men.

 

There are a number of reasons --

  • First and foremost is financial literacy. According to the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, 29% of working women demonstrated basic financial literacy v. 47% of working men. And though resources may be available, many women still view finance as taboo. As many as 8 in 10 women hold back when it’s time to discuss money with friends, according to Fidelity’s 2015 Money Fit Women study.

  • Then there’s the wage and savings gaps. Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data. Women also save less -- for retirement and in regular savings accounts.

  • Worse still, women spend more -- on equitable products and services. Due to gendered pricing, LearnVest found that women spend almost $1,400 more than men on the same items. And the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study that found that products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.

 

It’s a bleak picture. For non-prime women, or women with credit scores below 700, it’s even worse. Our recently released study of women’s financial health found that non-prime women typically act as the financial decision-makers within their households, yet only 39% feel they have the skills and knowledge to manage their finances well.

 

Other highlights from the survey:

  • Two-thirds of non-prime women live paycheck to paycheck, and only 34% of non-prime women hold salaried jobs.

  • They are 3x more likely to have lost a job in the last year, and 4x more likely to have trouble predicting next month’s income compared to prime women.

  • More than 4 out of 5 non-prime women admit to running out of money at least once a year, and more than one quarter admit it happens every month.

 

Existing global research already illustrates the value of women’s literacy. UNESCO argues that literacy is a human right. And their research finds that education of women begets education and society as a whole benefits. Some worthwhile excerpts:

 

“Literacy may empower learners – especially women – to take individual and collective action in various contexts, such as household, workplace and community.”

 

“[P]arents who themselves are educated...are more likely to send their children to school and more able to help the children in the course of their schooling.”

 

The same can and should be said of women’s financial literacy.

 

Non-prime women are 41% more likely to have children in their home than prime women and are 79% more likely to have elderly parents living under their roof. So when these women act as the CFOs of their families, their financial behavior has a ripple-out effect. This is alarming when you consider the fact that, unlike women with prime credit scores who are twice as likely to have learned about finances from their parents, women with non-prime credit mostly learned through trial and error.

 

By 2020, the Federal Reserve estimates that women will control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth. As we look to create programs that address financial illiteracy in America, we will effect the most societal and sustainable change if these programs better meet the needs of non-prime women specifically.