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Wells Fargo: Younger Women Are Increasingly Earning the Title of “Breadwinner”


Nearly one-third of millennial and Generation X women reported being the primary breadwinner — one and a half times higher than older generations

Yet anxiety during this financially uncertain time is keeping them up at night

Women’s contributions to their family’s finances are growing, according to a new Wells Fargo study released today in conjunction with International Women’s Day.

Wells Fargo Recognizes International Women’s Day (Photo: Wells Fargo)

Wells Fargo Recognizes International Women’s Day (Photo: Wells Fargo)

The study polled 2,195 women in households with $250,000 or more in assets or $100,000 or more in income about how they are feeling, responding to, and leading through uncertainty and change. Despite the challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s contributions to the family pocketbook are growing.

Over half (54%) of all partnered women reported greater or equal earnings to their spouse. And nearly one-third (32%) of millennial and Gen X women reported being the primary breadwinner — one and a half times higher than women from the boomer and traditionalists (20%). Additionally, half of millennial and Gen X women (51%) stated they lead the household finances as compared to only 40% of women in the baby boomer and traditionalists.

“The economic recovery from COVID-19 will be heavily influenced by women as the next generation continues to increase their earnings potential,” said Veronica Willis, investment strategy analyst with the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Still, younger women cite increased barriers to developing financial skills

Women in younger generations see more barriers in developing their financial skills. More than a third of millennial and Gen X women said they find financial concepts intimidating (39%) and did not learn enough about finances while growing up (34%). While one-in-five millennial and Gen X women (21%) said they do not have enough time to devote to building financial skills, as compared to only 6% of baby boomer and traditionalists women.

Two-thirds (68%) of millennial and Gen X women said they get extremely anxious when there is a lot of uncertainty, as compared to only 49% of baby boomer and traditionalists women. For almost a third of millennial and Gen X women, financial uncertainty has kept them up at night according to the survey.

“The financial anxiety experienced by the younger generation during times of economic uncertainty is likely a direct reflection of their relative inexperience getting through financial hardship,” said Nancy Amick, senior family dynamics consultant with the Advice Center within Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management. “Prior generations have the benefit of past experience. Many of these women have weathered turbulent markets and uncertain economic environments.”

Financial advisors need to talk about more than just the numbers

Despite the increased barriers cited by younger women, most are open and eager to learn and grow. Nearly half, (47%) of millennial and Gen X women report needing financial advice now more than ever. In fact, three-quarters believe it would be valuable to talk through their financial concerns with a financial advisor — a view shared among the older generations.

However, millennial and Gen X women want a conversation with their financial advisor beyond the numbers. They want to talk about work (78%), family (71%), and health (60%), a sentiment not as highly ranked among the older generations.

“There is a clear message to financial advisors in this data. Women expect advisors to converse with them about the totality of their lives, as context for providing financial advice,” said Heather Hunt-Ruddy, head of business development and growth for Wells Fargo Advisors.

Educating the next generation

The change in the way young women wish to approach personal finance extends beyond their own financial acumen and experience. Many are prioritizing the financial education of the next generation. In fact, three out of four millennial and Gen X women (77%) say they take charge when it comes to the financial education of their children.

“Helping to develop strong financial acumen in their children is a high priority for young women because they cite that very concept as an inhibitor to their own financial success,” said Beth Renner, head of the Advice Center for Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management. “Women learn from experience and are paying it forward.”

International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge

Wells Fargo has a long history of supporting women — as an employer and a provider of financial services, as well as through our engagement with organizations that address issues important to women communities, customers, and employees.

Wells Fargo's support for women is part of our broader commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion — to serve diverse customers; to hire, develop, and retain diverse employees worldwide; and to encourage employees to value and respect each other for their differences. Wells Fargo & Company was recently named a 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index member for the third straight year.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we are proud to share the stories of some of the many wonderful women who make up our communities:

Millennial (born 1981-1996)
Gen X (born 1965-1980)
Baby boomer (born 1946-1964)
Traditionalists (born 1928-1945)

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Wells Fargo Investment Institute, Inc. is a registered investment adviser and wholly-owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

About the survey

Versta Research conducted an online national survey of 2,195 women on behalf of Wells Fargo from Jan. 4 to Jan. 18, 2021. It included 1,680 women with household assets of $250,000 or more, and 515 women, ages 25 to 40 who have fewer assets but who have a household income of $100,000 or more. The survey also included a comparison group of 1,035 men, plus a comparison group of 1,084 Americans in households with less assets and income. Sampling was stratified by assets and income, and weighted to population estimates from the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. Assuming no sample bias, the maximum margin of sampling error for the full sample of 2,195 women cited is ±2%.

About Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management

Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company and is one of the largest wealth managers in the U.S., with nearly $2 trillion in client assets. WIM serves clients through the following businesses: Wells Fargo Private Bank serves high-net-worth individuals and families; Abbot Downing serves ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families; Wells Fargo Advisors provides advice and guidance to help clients maximize all aspects of their financial lives; and Wells Fargo Asset Management brings together a strategic balance of investment capabilities to serve the investment needs of institutions, financial advisors, and individuals worldwide. Through Wells Fargo Private Bank and Abbot Downing, WIM is also a leading provider of trust, investment, and fiduciary services, including personal trust services and a number of specialized wealth services designed to meet the diverse needs of high-net-worth clients.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets and proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of all middle market companies in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending; Commercial Banking; Corporate and Investment Banking; and Wealth and Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 30 on Fortune’s 2020 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health and a low-carbon economy. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

Additional information may be found at | Twitter: @WellsFargo.


News Release Category: WF-ERS

Julie Andrews, 704-914-7770

Desari Mueller, 314-327-9615

Source: Wells Fargo & Company

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