These are women’s top financial regrets

With women living longer than ever, funding that longevity is becoming more and more a woman's responsibility. So what are women most concerned about when it comes to their financial security? Not investing more came out as their top financial regret in a recent report titled "Women and Financial Wellness" from Age Wave and Merrill Lynch.

When those surveyed were asked about the things they wished they had done differently to feel more financially secure, the leading answers were:

  • Investing more of their money (41 percent)
  • Chosing a career with higher pay (35 percent)
  • Not taking on as much credit card debt (34 percent)
  • Living beneath their means (32 percent) 

The Age Wave/Merrill Lynch survey found that women are nearly as confident as men regarding financial tasks, such as paying bills, budgeting, paying off debt and choosing insurance. But when it comes to managing their investments, only 52 percent of women did so with confidence, compared to 68 percent of men. The No. 1 barrier to investing? Sixty percent of the women cited not having sufficient knowledge.

The report attributes women's lack of confidence to common attitudes toward talking about money and finances: 61 percent of the women said they would rather talk about their own death than money. Another challenge is not having viable role models to discuss finances with, cited by 45 percent of women. An additional problem is the perception that the financial industry caters to men, which 71 percent cited.

These responses, however, are ironic in light of other evidence showing that women might actually outperform men when it comes to investing. In 2017, Fidelity issued a report that found that women tend to do better than men in this area because they're more likely to think holistically, take fewer risks, be more patient and more likely to participate in educational programs.

Women can take some encouragement from that Fidelity survey. To further build their investing confidence, action steps include enrolling in financial wellness programs at work, participating in work-based retirement savings plans, reading educational materials from IRA and 401(k) providers and seeking mentors you can trust for insights on investing. 

And men can help the women in their lives by talking more openly about investments, sharing investment plans and strategizing together. Men might even learn a few tips, given the results from the Fidelity study.

The Age Wave/Merrill Lynch report does a thorough job of documenting the challenges women face regarding retirement planning, including living longer than men on average, taking breaks from the workforce to raise children and care for others, and earning less than men over the course of their careers. Still, it's essential that women -- and men -- do what's needed to help build a secure future for themselves. 

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.