Business Forum: Minnesota women must take charge of their finances

  • Article by: WALTER WHITE
  • Updated: April 27, 2014 - 1:07 PM

Survey shows that women in Minnesota are more likely to let their marriage partners manage family financial decisions.

Minnesota women stand out from the crowd. They’re educated, leaders in their families and highly engaged in their communities. As a state, we have a higher rate of women in the workforce than the national average.

But when it comes to managing personal and family finances, Minnesota women often fall behind their peers across the nation. How do we know this? In 2013, Allianz Life conducted a comprehensive survey called the “Women, Money & Power Study” that probed women’s views on their roles and attitudes toward finances.

As part of that survey, we took a deeper look at Minnesota women specifically and found some surprising results:

• Minnesota women are twice as likely as their counterparts in other states (17 percent vs. 8 percent) to relinquish control of family financial decisions to their husbands or partners and are more likely to let their spouses or partners select a financial professional (23 percent vs. 14 percent respectively).

• Minnesota women are less interested in learning about financial planning, retirement and investments. Twenty-three percent said the reason is that their spouse or partner takes care of these things, compared with 12 percent of women in other states.

• While 54 percent of women nationwide call themselves the “CFO of their household,” only 45 percent of Minnesota women say the same thing.

This less-engaged approach, however, has not led to greater anxiety or fear about the future. On the contrary, Minnesota women are more likely to feel financially secure — 73 percent vs. 63 percent for all U.S. women. And Minnesota women hold fewer fears than their national peers about job loss and running out of money. For example, only 16 percent of Minnesota women said the thought of losing of a job keeps them awake at night, while 44 percent of women from other states cited this fear.

What are the lessons for Minnesota women?

First, it can be dangerous to not take charge or at least be engaged and informed about family financial matters. Women generally live longer than men, and combined with a lack of financial savvy, this can lead to greater risk of poverty for women in old age.

The Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notes that more than 70 percent of all elderly people with incomes below the poverty level are women. HHS also indicates that a widow’s primary source of income will be Social Security. Also, women represent three out of four persons over age 65 on Supplemental Security Income, a U.S. government program that provides stipends to low-income people.

Minnesota women can take some simple steps to become better prepared:

• Start small and seek independence. Don’t solely rely on someone else for your long-term financial security. Learn about money management, investing and, specifically, your current financial situation.

• Build on what you’re already doing well. Our survey found that 98 percent of Minnesota women view themselves as “smart shoppers,” while 93 percent held this view nationally. Minnesota women also say they have a better understanding about what affects their credit rating (94 percent vs. 90 percent nationally), and feel confident that they are spending, saving and investing wisely (76 percent vs. 69 percent nationally).

• Grow your savings. Minnesota women are already ahead of their peers nationally when it comes to having some form of savings such as a 401(k), an IRA, annuity, or a savings account. Minnesota women need to leverage and grow these assets.

• Set goals. Whether they pertain to spending, saving or educating yourself on ­investing, financial goals are key to helping you achieve success.

• Embrace technology and risk. Many women tend to be risk-averse. However, a certain level of risk is important to grow assets for retirement. Technology, education and hands-on experience can help you overcome risk aversion. A wealth of online tools and ­education options exist to help you navigate the financial planning landscape. Take advantage of them.

Being under-informed and overconfident can be a dangerous combination when it comes to financial matters. Minnesota women would do well to take some simple steps to become national leaders in understanding and managing their personal and family finances.

And in doing so, they’ll help to secure their own financial future.

About the author: Walter White is president and CEO of Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America, which sells deferred annuities and other insurance products.

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