Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Women have different financial journeys


A new Merrill Lynch study conducted in partnership with Age Wave, Women and Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line, celebrates the progress made by women while examining the financial challenges women still face throughout their lives and offers potential solutions. The study finds that 70 percent of women believe that men and women have a fundamentally different life journey, reinforcing the need to better understand women’s financial lives.

“Women have come a long way both personally and professionally, but when it comes to their finances, there is still a considerable trail left to blaze,” said Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “As we reach this crucial tipping point, it is even more essential that we support women in their pursuit of achieving financial security for life. This includes encouraging women to invest more of their assets, save earlier for retirement and pursue financial solutions that closely align to their personal values and life paths.”

Navigating a fundamentally—and financially—different journey

The gender pay gap makes headlines, but the gender wealth gap is rarely talked about and even more critical to women’s financial wellness. Women experience a gender wealth gap—the difference between men and women’s financial resources across their lifetimes. Today, the average single woman has three times less wealth than the average single man.1

In addition to the wealth gap, women face rippling financial implications due to:

Superior longevity: Eighty-one percent of centenarians are women.2 And while 64 percent of women say they would like to live to 100, few are financially prepared. Forty-two percent of women are afraid they will run out of money by age 80. One in four women has not planned at all for her financial future.
Confidence in all but investing: The study finds that women are confident in most financial tasks, such as paying bills (90 percent) and budgeting (84 percent). However, when it comes to managing investments, their confidence drops significantly: Only about half (52 percent) of women say they are confident in managing investments versus 68 percent of men.
Temporary interruption, permanent impact: Many women experience lasting effects when they take time away from the workforce to provide care, including for aging parents, their own spouses as well as their own children. One in three mothers who returned to the workforce after caring for children says she took on less demanding work, which resulted in lower pay. Twenty-one percent say they were paid less for the same work they did previously.
Greater lifetime health and long-term care costs: The average woman is likely to have higher health costs than the average man in retirement—paying an additional $195,000 on average3—due to living longer and having to rely on formal long-term care in later years.
Longer life with smaller savings: Currently, for every dollar a man earns, a woman in a similar position earns only 82 cents.4 The pay gap is important, but it’s just the beginning. It only describes what women are now earning relative to men. It fails to demonstrate how the pay gap accumulates over the course of a woman’s life, or how a woman is more likely to take time out along the way. When accounting for the lifelong pay gap in conjunction with common workforce interruptions, a woman at retirement age could have accumulated as much as $1,055,000 less than her male counterparts.5

“Women’s life journeys are not only different than men’s, they’re different than the life journeys of our mothers and grandmothers,” said Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder and senior vice president of Age Wave. “We have more opportunities and choices when it comes to family, education and career, but we’re so busy taking care of other people and other priorities, we often don’t take the time to invest in ourselves and our future financial wellness. If more and more women can actively take control of their financial future all along the way, it would not only benefit them, but also their families and our society overall.”

Doing more to promote financial wellness

This study provides valuable insights into women’s common challenges and perspectives, which we are using to further strengthen our financial wellness program.

Through online tools, seminars, and one-on-one consultations, we help make financial guidance personal and actionable. Talk with your Bank of America Merrill Lynch representative today about the findings from this study and solutions for your workforce.

1 Chang. Women and Wealth, Asset Funders Network, 2015.

2 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates, 2015.

3 Age Wave estimate, based off Yamamoto, D.H, Health Care Costs—From Birth to Death, Health Care Cost Institute Report, 2013, HealthView, Retirement Healthcare Costs Data Report, 2016-2017.

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Women’s Bureau, 2016.

5 Age Wave calculation based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, TED: The Economics Daily, Median usual weekly earnings of women and men who are full-time wage and salary workers, by age 2016 annual averages.

Age Wave is the nation’s foremost thought leader on population aging and its profound business, social, financial, healthcare, workforce, and cultural implications. Under the leadership of Co-Founders Dr. Ken Dychtwald, CEO, and Maddy Dychtwald, Senior Vice President, Age Wave has developed a unique understanding of new generations of maturing consumers and workers and their expectations, attitudes, hopes, and fears regarding their longer lives. Since its inception in 1986, the firm has provided breakthrough research, compelling presentations, award-winning communications, education and training systems, and results-driven marketing and consulting initiatives to over half the Fortune 500. For more information, please visit (Age Wave is not affiliated with Bank of America Corporation.)