LOS ANGELES, April 28, 2021 — Throughout history, watershed moments, such as the Great Depression and the Great Recession of 2007-2009, have defined and shaped Americans’ financial philosophies.
New research from Capital Group, home of American Funds, suggests the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe financial disruptions it has caused are a similarly defining moment in history for many Americans, particularly women. The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found the pandemic has had an outsized financial impact on women versus men, particularly millennial women and women of color. The study also reveals that women are engaging with their finances and expanding their networks to build more resilient financial futures.
Additionally, the findings uncover where women are turning to for financial help and guidance as a result of the pandemic’s outsized impact on their finances, presenting an opportunity for the financial services industry, government authorities and educators to adapt how they reach out to and communicate with women.
“The study suggests a long-term shift in financial decision-making, especially among women. This goes well beyond the near-term behaviors one might expect in moments of volatility,” said Heather Lord, senior vice president, strategy and innovation at Capital Group. “This could be due to the pandemic’s outsized impact on women and women’s willingness to talk about money among their networks of family and friends. The data highlights opportunities for financial professionals to meet women where they are and build more inclusive investment and communication systems that help women increase financial resilience.”
COVID-19’s outsized financial impact on women
Stark differences between women's and men's experiences of the pandemic and their approaches to their finances emerged from the survey. While men’s approaches to finances remained relatively unchanged, women’s behaviors toward money have changed markedly since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.
More than a quarter of the women surveyed (28%) say they reduced or stopped contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans during the pandemic, and an equal number expect the events of the past year to delay their retirement. In addition, the survey revealed:
- More than half of women (53%) who hold a full-service taxable brokerage account either stopped contributing or withdrew funds.
- Among women with an employer-sponsored retirement account, 44% reduced or stopped contributions, or withdrew funds.
- Half of women (50%) with a college savings account reduced or stopped contributions, or withdrew funds.
Notably, 4 in 10 women (40%) expect 2020 to have a long-term impact on their finances and nearly 2 in 3 women (64%) express they would have done something differently to prepare for 2020 if they had known what was coming.
This stands in sharp contrast to men, a quarter of whom say they are not concerned about personal finances and who overall were also more likely to feel confident, knowledgeable, satisfied and calm toward their finances over the course of 2020.
Women are focused on creating increased financial security and resiliency post pandemic
The defining and disruptive period driven by the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting women to form and set financial philosophies – focused on increased long-term financial security and resiliency – now.
- Approximately one-third of all surveyed women (32%) say they are spending more time than before the pandemic thinking about their finances.
- If the disruptions they experienced during 2020 continue into the summer of 2021, almost half of women (47%) indicate they expect to increase their savings rate, while almost a third (31%) will spend more time thinking about their investment strategies.
- In addition, 43% of women say they now place more importance than before on saving for retirement.
Where and to whom women turn for financial guidance varies widely – and hinges on their existing networks and resources
Capital Group’s survey revealed that the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic varied widely among women depending on their age, race and wealth levels. The differences in experience are particularly apparent when looking at how women prioritize the most helpful places to seek financial guidance and support.
- White women say their most trusted sources for financial guidance after family members are financial professionals, followed by financial websites, friends and other news sources.
- Women of color, on the other hand, usually turn to social media first, followed by family, financial websites and then friends and financial professionals.
- For Black women, financial resources are most likely to come first from social media, followed by friends, financial professionals, family, and finance websites. This was the only group to rank friends above family as a preferred source of financial information.
The survey revealed that women who were already connected to professional and institutional financial resources tended to experience greater financial stability, and were most likely to say they felt confident, optimistic, knowledgeable, satisfied and calm about their finances in 2020. In comparison, women who turned to friends and family for financial guidance and information often did not, or could not, tap some institutional financial resources.
Women of color and millennial women have been most financially affected by the pandemic
Women of color and millennial women are the groups most likely to have had someone close to them lose a job, be forced into working fewer hours, or have pay reduced, according to the survey. In particular, women of color and millennial women are most likely to turn to social media for financial help and guidance before other sources, and are more likely than other groups surveyed to give and receive financial assistance to and from family and friends.
Women of color are more likely than white women, as well as women overall, to express concern with various aspects of their personal lives including personal finances, health, psychological or emotional health, and their careers. Similarly, women of color are more likely than white women to feel financially anxious about what may happen in the future.
In fact, nearly 1 in 3 women of color (31%) say they would have saved more in an emergency fund, more than one quarter (26%) say they would have spent less on day to day items, and 1 in 5 (20%) say they would have paid off more debt if they could have predicted the events of 2020.
Millennial women had the most nuanced and divergent experiences of all surveyed women, and even among themselves:
- Preferred sources of financial help differ between younger and older millennial women. For example, almost a third of older millennials (31%), now in their 30s, list financial professionals as a top-five source, whereas only 22% of millennials under 30 say they use that resource.
- While many millennial women reported feeling nervous and anxious about their finances in 2020, 45% also say they feel confident about the future.
- Millennial women are more likely than all other women surveyed to say they have now accelerated their timelines for saving as well as for life events such as adopting a pet or moving to a new place, though many millennial women also say that the events of 2020 have caused delays in their savings and life plans.
- Overall, millennial women are more likely than all other women surveyed to believe they’ll have to postpone retirement.
Opportunity to meet women where they are
Capital Group’s research shows how the extraordinary events of 2020 have led an increasing number of women to re-examine and potentially form new financial philosophies. At this defining moment, women are increasingly talking about money and relying on specific preferred sources for financial guidance as they think through how to build financial security and resiliency, presenting an opportunity for the financial services and investment management industries to adapt how, where and when they communicate with women.
The study, part of Capital Group’s Wisdom of Experience investor survey series, polled approximately 2,500 American adults. For additional information and the full report, click here.
About Capital Group
Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2021, Capital Group, home of American Funds, has been singularly focused on delivering superior results for long-term investors using high-conviction portfolios, rigorous research and individual accountability. As of December 31, 2020, Capital Group manages more than $2.3 trillion in equity and fixed income assets for millions of individual and institutional investors around the world.
Capital Group manages equity assets through three investment groups. These groups make investment and proxy voting decisions independently. Fixed income investment professionals provide fixed income research and investment management across the Capital organization; however, for securities with equity characteristics, they act solely on behalf of one of the three equity investment groups.
For more information, visit capitalgroup.com.
The survey was conducted by Escalent, a human behavior and analytics firm, January 11-27, 2021. The research consists of an online quantitative survey of 2,597 American Survey participants required to be 22 years or older and have at least one of the listed account types: full-service taxable brokerage account, self-directed taxable brokerage account, robo-advising account, employer-sponsored retirement account, individual retirement account, or college savings account. The data among females have a margin of error of ±2.19% at the 95% confidence level. The data among males have a margin of error of ±4.08% at the 95% confidence level.