Women and financial decision-making: How roles are changing across generations

Results from the Women and Financial Power® study

Key Points

  • Many women of all ages* say they feel good about their financial engagement.
  • Compared to younger women, Baby Boomer women are more likely to be engaged in finances as they enter and near retirement.
  • Generation X women are facing more life challenges than other generations while Millennial women show a high willingness to learn about finances.

Women are engaged in finances

An Ameriprise study reveals that women of all ages are more engaged in financial decision-making than ever before. Here's what that may mean for you and your family.

"The story we uncovered when we talked to three generations of American women was an empowering one," says Marcy Keckler, Ameriprise Financial Vice President, Advice Strategy and Programs. "At the same time, there is still plenty of opportunity for women to be even more engaged in their finances."

The bulk of the study's findings show that women's reasons for making financial decisions, not to mention comfort with making them, differ substantially among generations.

"Boomer women, for instance, are making decisions out of necessity as they near retirement and they feel some anxiety about that responsibility," explains Keckler. "Millennial women, on the other hand, are making these decisions because they like to and they feel they have financial knowledge."

Women's various roles in making financial decisions

Older, wiser and happier?

Baby Boomer women are more engaged with their finances as they prepare for and enter retirement than they have been at any other time in their lives, according to the study.

  • Baby Boomer women are extremely focused on having enough for retirement (77 percent) and preparing for unexpected events (61 percent).

The squeezed generation

Generation X women have more recently faced life's challenges, including divorce, unemployment or a major loss in assets, according to the data. Many may be dealing with the financial strains of aging parents or grown children needing assistance. These challenges can impact how confident Gen X women feel about finances.

  • Gen X women are more likely to face a life challenge (51 percent) than men in their generation (43 percent).
  • When faced with life challenges, 70 percent of all women said they make an effort to spend less money while 27 percent attempt to save and invest more. But, only one in four Generation X women felt "very confident" that they made the right financial decision in their circumstances.

Ready and willing

Millennial women feel well educated about finances and are more likely to feel in control of their financial lives, according to the survey. Many of these respondents haven't yet experienced the financial challenges of Gen X and Boomer women, but a lot are in the midst of several life milestones, such as moving in with a partner, buying a home or having children.

  • Younger women feel strongly that they have received more financial education and are more attuned to financial decisions than their mothers were. They also have access to lots of financial tools and information and know how to use them.
  • Many married Millennial women who are the primary financial decision-makers say they do so because they are more knowledgeable than their partners (66 percent) or because they enjoy making these decisions (49 percent).

"Iā€™m encouraged by how engaged women of all generations are with their finances," says Keckler. "But, there's always room for improvement."

The survey results indicate that Boomer women, for instance, may still need to address specific issues in retirement such as health care and long-term care, explains Keckler. Gen X women, who may be feeling overwhelmed, need to take the time to make a financial plan, she says. The challenge for Millennials may be keeping their optimism intact as they face the financial challenges that may come with age.

All three generations can learn from each other, adds Keckler. Understanding how other women approach financial decision-making can help increase your knowledge and confidence going forward.

Your advisor can help you feel more confident about your financial decisions and how best to plan for life's milestones and challenges.