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Women and Money: Taking Control of Your Future

There’s no question that in recent decades, women have made tremendous strides toward achieving economic equality with men. Today, women represent the majority of college graduates, make up nearly half the labor force, and are the primary breadwinners in many families. By some estimates, women now control as much as three-quarters of this country’s financial resources.

Why, then, do so many women face an uphill climb to financial security? In spite of the progress we’ve made, women still encounter more obstacles than men:

  • We earn less. In 2011, women working full time in the US earned 23% less than men, according to a recent study by the American Association of University Women. The “pay gap” has narrowed, but it's still a real issue for women of all ages. The AAUW study found that one year after graduating from college, women earn 5% less than men, and the gap is wider for older women.
  • We work fewer years. Women are far more likely than men to leave employment to care for children or parents, spending on average 11 more years than men outside the paid workforce.
  • We live longer. Women outlive men by as long as seven years on average. Unfortunately, women also typically retire with less money saved.
  • We’re less confident about financial decisions. Although many women manage their own or their family’s day-to-day finances, they may feel at a disadvantage in terms of their knowledge and experience about other financial matters, such as investing.

While some of the above factors are either difficult to overcome or out of your control altogether, there are steps you can take as a woman to enhance your money management skills and financial security. If you haven't paid attention to some areas of your personal finances, start focusing on them now. Talk to your spouse or partner, children or other family members as financial issues arise and decisions must be made. Be a part of conversations you might have avoided in the past – discussions with investment advisors, financial planners, tax preparers and mortgage lenders are great opportunities to become better informed. Start reading articles or books or take part in workshops or webinars about personal finance and investing. Take on a financial task that intimidates you, such as preparing a budget or organizing your financial documents. You might be surprised to find how much control you do have over your financial well-being.

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