More Women Report ‘Overwhelming Financial Stress,’ Survey Finds

Almost 30 percent of women have high levels of anxiety about their finances, compared with 17 percent of men, according to a new survey in the U.S.

The results, from a questionnaire filled out by more than 1,000 people in the first quarter this year, also showed that 9 percent of women reported “overwhelming financial stress,” compared with 3 percent of men. That may be because of women’s greater sense of obligation to children and the home, said Gregory Ward, head research analyst at El Segundo, California-based Financial Finesse Inc., which conducted the survey.

“Certainly a part of it is the psychology of how men and women view things,” Ward said.

For both genders, worries about money have lessened since 2009, when the U.S. was emerging from the recession, the survey showed. That year, Financial Finesse found that 97 percent of people questioned said they experienced some level of stress over finances, citing debt and retirement savings, compared with 86 percent in the most recent study.

Of the 438 women surveyed, 28 percent said they had “high” or “overwhelming” financial stress, and 62 percent reported “some,” according to Financial Finesse, which sells financial literacy services to companies, municipalities and credit unions. Among the 618 men, 66 percent acknowledged “some” unease and 17 percent “high” or “overwhelming” levels.

The gap may be because men view the state of their financial affairs differently, Ward said. “Maybe they’re more confident than they should be.”

Worry Gap

In addition, “women feel more distressed than men do if they cannot provide what they want to provide for their children,” said Mary Gresham, an Atlanta-based specialist in financial psychology.

Workers of both sexes between the ages of 30 and 44 were the most likely to worry about their finances, the study found. Those earning $35,000 to $74,999 a year -- what Ward called a “midrange economic level” -- were particularly susceptible to concerns about money, he said.

Financial Finesse found that 14 percent of people characterized themselves as having no financial stress, compared with 3 percent in 2009 and 2010. Among those without worries, 97 percent said they were comfortable with their amount of debt; 89 percent reported having an emergency fund; and all said they paid their monthly bills on time.

In an analysis of the findings, Financial Finesse said women “remain significantly behind men with respect to basic money management skills, which will ultimately compromise their ability to save for longer term financial goals.”

Among those questioned, 64 percent of women stated that they had general knowledge of stocks, bonds and mutual funds, compared with 84 percent of men.

Gresham said there is often also a divide when it comes to doing things to alleviate financial stress.

“There is kind of a gender gap between feeling stressed about money and actually making behavioral changes,” she said. “In general, men tend to be more action-oriented.”

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