Financial and Monetary Systems

How boosting women’s financial literacy could help you live a long, fulfilling life 

Boosting women's financial literacy is an economic must for our ageing society.

Boosting women's financial literacy is an economic must for our ageing society. Image: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Morgan Camp
Coordinator, Financial and Monetary Systems, World Economic Forum
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Financial and Monetary Systems

  • People are living longer, but women tend to accumulate less wealth than men, leaving them with less financial freedom and security in retirement.
  • The World Economic Forum’s recent Longevity Economy Principles report shows how effective financial ecosystems promote individual freedom in decision-making. Women's financial literacy is key to this decision-making ability.
  • A policy push for access to financial education, as well as industry investment in services and economic opportunities specifically for women, could help relieve deep systemic inequalities such as the gender wealth gap.

In 2100, I will be 100 - and likely still alive. If I retire at 62, the average retirement age for women in the United States, where I live, I will have 38 post-career years to fund – only two less than the years I’ll spend working full-time. That’s an entire additional life.

Of course, I may not actually retire at 62. In fact, most of us will probably continue working long after this age if permitted by government policy and workplace support. However, even if we retire at 72 or 82 or 92, women will still struggle to be financially secure.

Globally, women earn 23% less than men on average, lose $399,600 in lifetime wealth accumulation and disproportionately need to take time off work due to unpaid caregiving responsibilities. These figures will only grow in countries like the US, where the 65+ age group is set to reach nearly a quarter of the total population by 2050, while the working population that supports them shrinks.

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Women's financial literacy

The idea of living an extra life should be exciting. But if we don’t have the tools and education to fund our lives while working, we can’t structure our longer lives properly to make the extra time purposeful. Boosting women’s financial literacy could be the first step towards achieving the necessary financial freedom to be excited about living a longer life.

The World Economic Forum's recent Longevity Economy Principles report demonstrates how effective and inclusive financial ecosystems promote individual freedom to make decisions while providing supportive system guardrails. Women's financial literacy is key to this decision-making ability.

Since April is Financial Literacy Month in the States, here are three things you need to know about women’s financial literacy:

1) The freedom to restructure our 100-year lives starts with financial literacy

Only 33% of the global population is deemed financially literate, and rates for women are disproportionately lower than for men in almost every country and every age group in the world. This literacy lacuna, among other factors, is causing people worldwide to outlive their retirement savings by up to 20 years, which impacts women the most.

Women live longer in retirement and accumulate less lifetime wealth. We experience more career interruptions due to unpaid caregiving coupled with lower career growth opportunities. Moreover, women with low financial literacy spend an average of 16 hours per week dealing with financial issues and are five times more likely to struggle to meet basic needs now, let alone after they retire.

The global centenarian population is expected to grow to 4 million by 2054, with the number of Americans aged 100 and over quadrupling during this time, for example. So there is no question that we are living longer. To live a purposeful 100 years, however, we need the freedom to restructure our lives. That freedom starts with financial literacy and access to financial tools and services – all of this will help us learn how to invest in our 100-year lives. Access to education has always been a potent prerequisite to empowerment.

2) 77 reasons why the burden of creating change shouldn’t fall entirely on learners' shoulders

In a world where women have only 77% of the legal rights of men and make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, policymakers and the financial services industry must prioritise women's financial literacy.

Women aged 65 or older receive 26% less retirement income than men. More than half of women in the workforce—up to 90% in developing countries—can only find opportunities in the unstable informal economy, which doesn't typically offer a pension plan.

As these startling inequalities of opportunity compound across generations, women are trapped in financial insecurity, which prevents them from enjoying the full benefits of longevity. Deep, systemic inequalities like these require a policy push for access to financial education and services, as well as industry investment in women’s economic opportunities.

3) Women’s financial literacy benefits everyone

On a positive note, more women are now in the workforce than ever before, and more wealth is being transferred into their hands. By 2030, women will control 66% of America’s wealth—double the estimates made in 2020.

Increased access to financial education and services can help women harness the power of this wealth transfer. But these services must not perpetuate gender disparities by only offering generic financial products that don’t suit women’s needs.

Closing gender employment gaps could boost GDP per capita by 20%. So, if policymakers and the financial services industry prioritize women’s financial literacy, the societal benefits will be felt throughout every 100-year-long life.

Have you read?

Living to 100

I will be 100 in 2100. However, whether I'm a fulfilled 100-year-old could depend almost entirely on my access to financial education and services now.

An entire extra life can be possible and purposeful if the public and private sectors prioritize women’s financial literacy. Only then can we find the financial freedom to sustain our century. What could your 100-year-long life look like?

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Related topics:
Financial and Monetary SystemsEquity, Diversity and InclusionEducation and Skills
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