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A gender gap exists in financial literacy, and older women express a keen interest in education tailored to their specific needs.

Daily, families across the U.S. grapple with challenging decisions related to budgeting, spending, insurance, investments, savings, retirement, and more. When confronted with such choices, having financial literacy – the ability to make informed decisions about money – becomes crucial. However, recent research indicates a general lack of financial literacy among Americans, with women appearing to be less financially literate than men, irrespective of their educational background, income, or marital status.

As a social scientist specializing in aging and the social safety net, I participated in an extensive analysis of financial literacy among older women. Our findings revealed that, on average, men scored 25% higher in financial literacy than women, despite both groups displaying similar math skills and overall cognitive abilities. Moreover, Black and Hispanic women exhibited an even wider gender gap in financial literacy, with scores ranging from 40% to 45% lower than those of white, non-Hispanic men.

The financial literacy gap poses a significant challenge, particularly as women approach later stages of life. Given their longer life expectancy, approximately six years more than men according to recent data, and earlier exit from the workforce, women encounter extended retirement periods. Upon reaching retirement age, women frequently find themselves with insufficient savings, partly due to career interruptions related to family responsibilities and a concentration in lower-paying occupations.

For instance, in 2020, women working full time earned a median of $891 per week, compared to men’s $1,082. The combination of career breaks, lower income, and premature retirements results in female Social Security recipients receiving only 80% of the benefits allocated to men.

While financial education cannot eliminate the impacts of decades of structural inequality, empirical evidence indicates that it can play a role in empowering women to make more informed decisions about their financial future.

 

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