18 Truths About Women and Money

By Sallie Krawcheck

We’re (finally) in the home stretch of 2020. What a disruptive year for so many women, with the pandemic and “she-cession” revealing some deep truths. In the spirit of end-of-year reflections, here are some of the things we know — and want everyone to know — about women and money:

Money is women’s #1 source of stress. Taking action, like saving and investing, is the #1 driver of our confidence in achieving our future goals.

Money is more than just money. It’s our future, our ability to quit the job we hate, our dreams for our children, the positive way we can impact the world around us, the ability to leave relationships that no longer work for us, the business we want to start, the trip around the world we want to take.

If you don’t control your own money, you don’t control your own life. (Even your grandma had the secret stash of money in the cookie jar.)

When women outsource the management of their money to their partner, 74% have a negative surprise when it comes back to them. 74%. Not 20%, not 40%, not half. Nearly three-quarters. (And for most women, it’s likely that money does come back to them, since 74% of us die single.)

Couples who talk about money are happier than those who don’t. 78% of couples who talk about money every week say they’re happy. That number falls to 60% for couples who only talk money every couple of months. And for couples who rarely talk about their finances? Only 50% are happy.

Gender pay gaps are just the tip of the iceberg. When we talk about getting more money in the hands of women, we tend to center the discussion around getting the raise. We’re all for that. But the gender wealth gap (how much you keep) is much, much worse than the gender pay gap (how much you’re paid).

There is more than one gender wealth gap. Averaged among all women, it is 32 cents to a white man’s dollar. For Black and Latinx women, it’s just one penny.

The messages society sends women and girls around money can be damaging. While “male money media” is all about growing money … and trading … and picking winners (I see you, CNBC and Crain’s), there is no real “female money media.” And articles in broader media written for women about money tend to be overwhelmingly negative or patronizing or guilt-inducing. (“Don’t buy the latte”?? That’s supposed to be financial advice for women? Seriously?)

The messages society sends BIPOC people around money can also be damaging. They blame people for their spending decisions, while ignoring the legacy of discriminatory housing and lending policies, the effects of costly double standards around personal appearance, and bias in the labor market.

“Other countries have social safety nets. The US has women.” This insight, from sociologist Jessica Calarco, captures the insight that It can cost a lot of money to be a woman. And to be a mom. Yes, because kids are expensive. But also because child- and family-care responsibilities fall disproportionately on women. And because mothers are stereotyped as not being as devoted at work, which costs them an estimated $16,000 in lost wages. And all of this has gotten worse with the pandemic.

Dollar for dollar, the single most powerful financial act you can take may be paying down your credit card debt, given the high-interest cost.

A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned, since you don’t have to pay taxes on a dollar saved.

Women don’t only earn less than men, we invest less than men (not just total investments, even investments as a percentage of our net worth). Some women lose as much money over their lives from this gender investing gap as the gender pay gap.

Time in the (stock) market is more meaningful than timing the stock market. Translation: Investing in a diversified investment portfolio and keeping it invested has been more profitable than trading in and out of stocks for the typical investor.

Investing for the long term historically has not been as risky as I’ll bet you think it was.* If you had invested in the stock market on any day since the 1920s and left the money there for 15 years, your chances of a positive return were 99%. (And if you had invested a bit out of every paycheck — as we recommend you do, if you are able to — it was 99%+.)

In contrast, the money that you have in savings has historically been worth less, day after day after day, with inflation reducing the value of your savings.

Physical wellness, emotional wellness, spiritual wellness. All important. Financial wellness is as important — maybe more important — as these other types of wellness, but we talk about it much less. (Remember, money is our #1 source of stress, so financial wellness can form the foundation for these other types of wellness.)

Final thought: Nothing bad happens when women have more money. Nothing.

OK, those are some of our women-and-money truths. What did we miss? Send us an email reply.

*This is no guarantee, or even a forecast, of future returns in the stock market. There is no return without taking some risk, in any type of investment. Or life. In life as well.

Sallie Krawcheck Signature


*This is no guarantee, or even a forecast, of future returns in the stock market. There is no return without taking some risk, in any type of investment. Or life. In life as well.

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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.