More action is needed to bridge the financial wellbeing gender gap

By now the concept of a gender pay gap and the disparity in remuneration between men and women is pretty well understood.

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Statistics abound to highlight the problem. While the gap is gradually closing, Australia’s national gender pay gap as at November 2022 was still 13.3 per cent, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

But how do men and women compare in the broader area of financial wellbeing? While wages play a role in financial wellbeing, more particularly financial wellbeing is roughly defined as having enough money to meet your needs comfortably now and in the future. Lots of decisions and behaviours feed into our financial wellbeing and it can be measured.

Financial wellbeing is not an add-on for ANZ, it is key to our purpose. We are designing banking products with financial wellbeing at the core, encouraging positive saving and spending habits as well as building financial knowledge into longer-term investment risks.

We have conducted research exploring financial capability, literacy, attitudes and behaviours for more than 20 years, our latest report delves deeper into the quantitative findings of the latest ANZ Financial Wellbeing Survey to better understand the gap between men and women’s financial wellbeing.

Despite some progress the report shows women, at every stage of their adult lives, experience lower financial wellbeing than men and we are working to understand why.

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Financial wellbeing, spotlight on Australian women found women have an average financial wellbeing score of 62 (out of 100) while men have an average score of 66 (out of 100).

Concerningly, this disparity starts early in adulthood and continues at all life stages. Some themes influencing women’s financial wellbeing have emerged such as employment and household living arrangements and looking after dependents.

However, what is clear is at different stages in life there are differences – some stark, some subtle – in the factors which drive the financial wellbeing gap.

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Three fifths (62 per cent) of people struggling with their financial wellbeing in Australia were women and 17 per cent of women surveyed did not have any savings at all (as opposed to 10 per cent of men). This is despite women generally having more of a savings mindset than men, with the majority preferring to save than spend.

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While socio-economic factors had the largest impact on financial wellbeing for women, financial behaviours such as saving, spending and investing continue to have a major impact as well.

In all age ranges women were making fewer long-term investments to support their future financial security and financial wellbeing. Men were more likely to make sure they had money available for long-term investment purposes (30 per cent compared with 23 per cent of women).

Perhaps surprisingly this difference was greatest among younger adults with 30 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old men putting money aside compared with 19 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old women. These factors impact long-term growth in wealth for women.

Key to this, financial confidence and understanding of product risks, in particular for long-term investments, also skew against women. Women felt less confident than men in their ability to plan their financial future (64 per cent versus 71 per cent of men) and to make decisions about financial products and services (66 per cent versus 73 per cent of men).

They were also less likely to report understanding the risks associated with investment products.

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Growing financial confidence, behaviours and wellbeing

This is where banks can play a role. ANZ has developed features in its new ANZ Plus platform where savings and transactions are consistently anchored to behaviours of financial wellbeing. The Your Money reporting links to ANZ Financial Wellbeing programs and emphasises savings habits.

On financial knowledge, the bank has worked with the community sector for two decades to deliver the financial capability programs MoneyMinded and Saver Plus. These programs have helped adults build the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their money and save for the future.

In Australia, the majority of participants are women, demonstrating a strong desire to improve their financial situation and seek support through challenging socio-economic circumstances and life events.

Everyone should have an opportunity to improve financial wellbeing if we are to sustain a healthy and inclusive economy.

We all have a role to play in creating opportunities for women to build financial knowledge, particularly in longer-term investment risks and nurturing a workplace culture that supports all people to balance work and caring commitments.

Doing so will foster greater financial confidence, resilience, long-term security and financial wellbeing.

Natalie Paine is ANZ’s Social Impact Research and Reporting Lead.


The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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