Women’s financial health took a hit during the pandemic, and despite a brief rebound, it’s on the decline again, leaving many ill-prepared for a possible recession.
That’s according to a new measure of women’s financial well-being from Ellevest, an investing platform aimed at women.
Ellevest’s Women’s Financial Health Index found that women’s financial health has sunk to its lowest level in five years and is below pre-pandemic levels.
Women left their jobs in record numbers at the height of the pandemic, either because they were more likely to be in jobs that were cut or because they had to take on child care or other domestic duties as daycare centers and schools closed. They regained some of that lost ground as the labor market recovered “and access to paid family leave began to expand,” said Kate Sullivan, Ellevest’s head data scientist, in a statement announcing the study results.
But even so, a woman’s financial health has been “driven further down as high inflation impacts her spending power and the overturning of Roe v. Wade clouds her economic future,” Sullivan said. “No wonder consumer confidence has been falling, even as women return to the workforce.”
To measure financial well-being, the study tracked 12 indicators, including some that only indirectly affect how much money a woman has in her bank account or retirement savings. They included employment, inflation, consumer confidence, the gender pay gap, the gap between women’s and men’s student-loan debt, the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies and access to paid family leave.
In a separate survey, Ellevest polled nearly 2,500 U.S. adults on their feelings about money and their spending habits and found that two-thirds of women said they had cut back on spending.
But that survey also showed that many women are still investing in themselves: 75% of women “who are actively investing for retirement say they’ve continued their contributions despite market volatility — that’s compared to just two-thirds of men,” the survey found.
“The retirement savings crisis is a gender crisis. It’s a woman’s crisis,” Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck said at MarketWatch’s Best New Ideas in Money festival this week. “If we don’t have enough money as a country for retirement — 80% of women die single and … we live six to eight years longer than men do — we are the ones that tend to suffer.”
Money is women’s No. 1 stressor, the Ellevest survey found, with 59% of women reporting that they worry about money at least once a week. And while 30% of men said they felt financially prepared for a recession, only 14% of women felt the same.
The Ellevest research echoes other recent studies suggesting many women are in financially precarious positions. Women are less likely than men to pay all of their bills on time, to report that their debts are manageable or to have rainy-day savings tucked away, according to a survey from the nonprofit Financial Health Network.