Today, women have the opportunity to earn more than ever. Historically, women have less to do with financial management than men, but that is changing. Still, there is a gender gap in financial literacy. Credit unions can help by reaching out to this underserved group and can help them become more financially engaged.
A number's game
Though women become more powerful drivers of the U.S. economy every day, financial stress is still an issue. According to a study done by financial education company Financial Finesse, middle- and low-income mothers reported the greatest financial stress among people of all different ages, gender and income levels.
Despite societal advances, when it comes to finance there is still a gender gap. Fifty-five percent of women ages 30 to 55, with minor children and household incomes of less than $60,000 a year, reported "high" or "overwhelming" levels of financial stress. That is 40 percent more than similarly aged male parents in the same income group. In fact, 26 percent of men under 30 reported they have no financial stress at all.
So where's the gap?
At the end of 2012, 58 percent of women in America were working. Though that is a substantial increase in comparison to the 44 percent employed in 1972, there are still many women who are unemployed or who choose to stay at home. Yet, there are a number of factors that put women at a significant disadvantage when planning and maintaining their finances.
On average, women still make less money than men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They generally take off more time at their jobs for childcare, which can result in lower income, personal savings and Social Security benefits. The responsibility of raising a family often falls to women either by choice or necessity, which can take them out of the workplace. Traditionally, women live longer than men, making it more likely for the burden of financial management to land on them after the death of their partner. On the investment front, the Financial Finesse study suggests that women lack confidence with investing, and that translates to less money in retirement. All these situations and more can contribute to the widespread lack of female financial literacy.
Bridging the gap
The unique circumstances that women may experience can leave them with a low level of financial literary, and make them less qualified loan applicants. A credit union's awareness of the financial challenges faced by women is essential. For anyone just beginning to learn about managing their finances, credit unions can provide the education and support they need. Most credit unions offer the same services and products as a bank. However, they stand apart from traditional banks because they generally have less stringent loan requirements, lower fees, lower balance requirements and lower interest rates. Credit unions can be helpful to all people, especially those who consider themselves less qualified or not educated in finance.
It is also reported that credit unions have a much higher percentage of women in executive leadership positions than most industries in the United States. According to CUNA, 57 percent of credit union CEOs are women. With credit union businesses armed with female staff, it is likely they may gear their counseling toward women. This can allow for women to develop a deeper financial knowledge and help credit unions to flourish in today's market.