On average, in 2018 working women in the US made 85 cents for every dollar earned by a man. While pay inequality has improved since the 1980s, this appreciable wage gap still exists.
There are a number of reasons. Women continue to be overly represented in lower-paid jobs. In addition, women disproportionately interrupt their work lives to care for children or relatives. There are differences between men and women in education and experience. And, there’s also potential gender discrimination.
All this adds up to women being somewhat worse off financially than men, which is reflected in how they feel when they are choosing benefits.
Our MyChoiceSM Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report looked at people’s financial habits and their state of mind, and found some specific differences between men and women.
Here’s what we learned.
- Women are more risk averse than men. While most employees identify with activities associated with low risk, women take fewer risks than men. Sixty-nine percent of women are risk averse, compared to 61% of men.
- Men are able to save more consistently than women. When answering a question about how frequently they are able to save (sometimes, never or always), men and women are about equal in their ability to put money away from time to time (57% and 58% respectively).
However, more men are always able to save than women ( 30% versus 23%), and more women than men never save (19% compared to 13%).
- Women are less likely than men to have a plan for an unexpected expense. We all face unanticipated costs from time to time, but women may not have as much capacity to absorb them. Women and men are equally as likely to say they would go into debt to cover a large unexpected expense (21% and 20% respectively.) However, more women than men have no plan to deal with such an expense (24% versus 14%).
- Men don’t want to fork over for a large healthcare bill. Most employees find the prospect of a large ER bill panic-inducing. This includes 47% of men and 58% of women. A small minority are both prepared for this possibility and are emotionally prepared for the out-of-pocket spend (11% of men and 6% of women.) However, even when they have the money to cover it, more men than women would prefer to hang onto their savings than use it for such an expense (43% versus 35%).
As employees choose and use their benefits, their financial well-being and their state of mind can impact their choices. It can also factor into how they feel about their coverage. Women tend to be somewhat more risk averse and have additional financial challenges, but both genders could benefit from guidance with benefits decision-making. This helps mitigate the possibility that employees choose too much or too little coverage based on fear of financial loss or a tendency to avoid risk.
And, while women do earn less on average than men, struggles with financial well-being are not dependent on gender, nor are they confined to those at the lower end of the earnings spectrum. Programs, such as savings goal accounts, that help people get a handle on their finances to prepare for planned or unexpected expenses can help address employees’ financial angst.