Pandemic Hits Financial Confidence of Women and Millennials Harder

A Prudential Financial survey shows that 79% of workers are concerned that rising inflation will spill over to their finances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial gender divide, new survey data show.

The Prudential Financial Pulse survey, summarized in a report titled “Americans Prepare for the Economy’s Next Act,” found that women reported facing greater financial insecurity than men and have fewer financial assets to help with an emergency or unexpected expense.

The survey found that 35% of women have assets in an employer-sponsored retirement plan compared with 41% of men; 45% of women have an emergency savings fund compared with 57% of men; and 27% of men own individual stocks or bonds compared with 13% of women. Men are also twice as likely as women to own mutual funds, exchange-traded funds or index funds (18% versus 9%) and more commonly invest in individual retirement accounts (25% versus 18%), the survey found.    

Women also reported lower financial confidence, according to Prudential. Forty percent of women feel that their personal financial situation has been insecure in the last year compared with 27% of men, the survey found. Whereas 37% of women are confident that they could withstand an unexpected financial event such as a disruption or loss of income, 52% of men said the same. In addition, 46% of women are confident that they would be able to cover an unexpected expense such as a household repair or medical bill versus 61% of men.  

“Rather than facilitating change, women in the post-pandemic era face greater financial insecurity, and have less financial confidence, than their male peers—and a looming recession could widen the financial security gap even further,” the report states. “Overcoming risk aversion with prudent guidance that meets women where they are will be critical during a potential recession to help them make up ground lost over the past few years and re-establish more equal footing with men.”

Retirement plan participants are grappling with twin threats affecting retirement—recession fears and rising prices—that could erode financial gains and financial confidence.

Millennials are perhaps the most vulnerable and pessimistic about their financial futures, according to Prudential data: 49% of Millennials don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire.  

“Millennials are consistently more skeptical than other generations about the likelihood they will accomplish key personal goals,” the report states.

Millennials also trail every other generation when it comes to feeling that they will be able to build personal wealth and own a home—on both counts, 64% reported feeling that way. And, among the survey’s respondents, 45% of Millennials said that it is somewhat or very likely they will be able to retire early, versus 48% of Generation Z, 47% of Generation X and 63% of Baby Boomers.   

“Millennials, who began their careers in the wake of the Great Recession, face new challenges just as they approach their peak earning years and major financial milestones like home ownership and starting families,” the report states. “Younger generations need more tailored advice that meets them where they are and takes into account their unique financial challenges and goals to help them create more secure financial futures.”

The survey also found that 74% of respondents are concerned about a recession or economic downturn in the next two years.

“Our world is changing with unprecedented speed and complexity, and with it come shifts in the unique financial circumstances and challenges Americans face,” said Rob Falzon, Prudential vice chair, in a release. “Prudential’s new Pulse research is helping us to better understand the diverse perspectives and needs of Americans and support our mission to be a global leader in expanding access to investing, insurance and retirement security.”

The Prudential Pulse Survey was conducted by Morning Consult from May 26 to June 3. Responses were from a national sample of 4,000 employed adults age 18 and over. This sample included 1,655 employed adults who worked in a hybrid model at some point during the pandemic, with interviews conducted online.