This summer, a financial force swept the nation so powerfully it arguably saved the US economy from a recession. That force? Women. Considering that stats show women are more negatively affected than men when markets are volatile, it felt extra good to read all the headlines about women flexing our financial power in uniquely feminist ways. Very “She’s Barbie. He’s just Ken.”
We wanted to hear directly from you, the Ellevest community, to better understand how you feel about bold money moves made by women, for women. The results of our 2023 Fall Financial Power Survey, were exciting — the events of this summer set up so many of you to feel strong, in control, and liberated.* But the survey responses were also sobering. After all, we’re not in Barbieland.
Here are some very common themes and responses we heard from you about stepping into your financial power — and how doing it alongside (or guided by) other women seems to have, well, the potential power to make more women feel confident about their financial futures.
Despite the very real gender investing gap — basically Ellevest’s archnemesis — those women who are investing seem to be reaping more than tangible financial benefits (like compounding). The act of investing itself seems to strengthen your personal money mindset:
Based on your responses, “power” can mean a lot: security, peace of mind, options, self-care. To many of you, “power” equals “control” — that exact word pops up 36 times in your responses. You talk about having control over money or your financial situation, and a general sense of feeling “in control.” But overwhelmingly, you share how investing helps you feel like you have control over your future. The word "future" appears 89 times in your responses — often "future me" and "future self." One thing’s clear: You’re investing for you.
All this +1ed our previous research showing that women feel in charge of their futures when they take positive action (like investing) with their money — and more good news: that the satisfaction women get from investing, saving, and meeting money goals gets stronger as they get older. Because, as we like to say, money can be the power to live the lives we want. Now, in your words:
“I love knowing I’m in control of my own future and taking steps to set myself up for success. It’s my version of self-care.”
“The security / peace of mind it brings allows me to enjoy each day of my life to the fullest.”
But let’s not drop the confetti just yet. We asked those who disagree with the statement “investing makes me feel powerful” (14%) to tell us why — and their reasons largely echo the ones our Ellevest financial planners hear a lot.
“It makes me nervous.”
“I started late.”
“It’s difficult to understand if I’m doing it right.”
These concerns are all valid considering the societal, cultural, and economic factors that disproportionately hold women back from investing. Women make less and pay more — we don’t have as much disposable income to invest as men do. Women are made to believe we’re “bad with money” and aren’t encouraged to invest like men are. And women have to be “in the perfect position” to invest when, in our opinion, the best time to invest for anyone at almost any financial stage was yesterday (but today’s good, too). Now, read the reasons women disagree with the statement “investing makes me feel powerful” again. It all checks.
What has the financial industry historically done about this? *Crickets.* Let’s just say, wherever its attempts have been, of the women who took our survey:
95% of women strongly agree or agree that the financial services industry wasn't built with women in mind. 0% disagree.
5% of survey participants feel neutral.
But check out how your opinions shift when we posed some hypotheticals about a financial industry built with women in mind:
Even if survey participants aren’t currently working with a woman financial planner, their women-supporting-women attitudes were reflected in other ways. Whether they grabbed tickets to Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, or Barbie (or all of the above), it was undeniably the summer of women causing economic earthquakes. According to you, it felt pretty seismic:
75% of women say they felt good about how they used their financial power this summer.
18% of survey participants feel neutral and 8% disagree.
This was, interestingly, also the summer of girl math, when women were (once again) shamed for their spending habits. This messaging — meme or not — is a part of the larger collection of “money lies” told to (and about) women. And, after an entire lifetime of hearing this toxic messaging, we can come to believe it:
49% of women say they feel like they have to justify their purchases / money decisions.
51% of survey participants feel neutral or disagreed.
A narrow margin isn’t enough: All women deserve to flex their economic power without feeling stigmatized.
To move further and further away from this conditioning, we can keep up this summer’s momentum by continuing to practice both spending and investing intentionally — understanding what and who we’re supporting with our dollars and the broader social impact our contribution makes. This should come easy, since most of you say it’s important to invest in other women:
86% of women say it’s important to make investments that positively impact women or women-owned / -led companies. 33% ranked it as most important.
And most of you say you invest in yourselves, too, by spending on things that help you step into your own power through challenging times — a crappy job, a bad relationship, a negative financial surprise:
Whether you refer to it as “revenge money” or not, it’s financial self-care at its best: a stress-reducing, well-being-boosting act that helps you prioritize the things and people you value. Like you.
We asked you to share your motivations behind your “revenge money” buys in our survey, and your answers genuinely moved us. They’re raw, they’re inspiring, they’re everything. Here’s some of them:
“I used my first paycheck to buy a new mattress to reclaim space after an abusive relationship. It was worth every penny.”
“My ex-husband didn’t believe in investing and I did. When we divorced I took half the money and put a down payment on a house (that I love) and the other half I invested in the market for both me and my daughter. So I'll teach her about compound interest young and never let a man tell her she doesn’t understand money.”
“I quit a job where I felt like I was being overworked and undervalued and took six months completely off work, with one of those months being spent in Sicily.”
“When I was 25 and estranged from my toxic parents who were obsessed with me buying ‘only new cars,’ I used my savings to purchase a used Subaru THAT I LOVE (and still own and make monthly payments on). It was an act of rebellion and self-care.”
“I once got stood up for a first date and bought a skateboard after. Did I ever use it? No. But I did donate it and all the damn good vibes that came with it.”
Many of these survey results seem like obvious wins for one of our favorite sayings, “Nothing bad happens when women have more money.” But they also shine a light on what happens when conversations about money and power center women: It can make women feel stronger.
Women are rarely exposed to stories of other women using their dollars for good (and good fun). This summer, they surrounded us. And when women talk about money, we break financial taboos, demand more, and pursue more. We can promise you this: The conversation about women and money will absolutely not end here.
What do we think you can do to advance or step into your financial power now?
Start investing. Never done it before? It’s OK. We recommend starting small, and starting now.
Make a fall finance checklist. We have you covered — these are the three money moves to make, according to our financial planning team.
Schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with an Ellevest financial planner. Think of what you can accomplish with a woman CFP® professional by your side. You’ll get guidance and resources to help you start making progress right away.
The 2023 Fall Financial Power Survey (the “Survey”) was sent to all subscribers to Ellevest’s What the Elle newsletter on September 6, September 8, and shared on Instagram on September 7, and LinkedIn on September 7, 2023. 247 people responded to the online survey. The majority of respondents were aged 25-34, with 85% aged 35-44. Not all questions were answered by survey participants. Survey participants were entered for a chance to win a complimentary 30-minute session with an Ellevest CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
© 2023 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All opinions and views expressed by Ellevest are current as of the date of this writing, are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute or imply an endorsement of any third party’s products or services.
Information was obtained from third-party sources, which we believe to be reliable but are not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.
The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities, and should not be considered specific legal, investment, or tax advice.
The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific person.
Investing entails risk, including the possible loss of principal, and past performance is not predictive of future results.
Ellevest, Inc. is a SEC registered investment adviser. Ellevest fees and additional information can be found at www.ellevest.com.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and CFP® (with plaque design) in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.