Financial Surveys Do Women a Disservice

Women and men may have different financial needs, but don't rely on recent studies to explain those differences.

Here are just three puzzling examples of studies from major life insurers about women's attitudes toward personal finance.

Take a recent study by Allianz ( AZ) Life Insurance. The headline of the press release declares: "Allianz Study Finds That Women Are Eager to Strengthen Financial Planning Skills, Despite General Feelings of Insecurity."

Further down in the release, a sub-headline states, "Women Feel Overwhelmed By Materials, Language." Reading on, though, one learns that only 44% of the participants say the information is "overwhelming/too much/hard to sort through" -- and this isn't compared with the overall population including men. Even fewer women say that the information is "complicated or hard to understand" (36%) or that they "don't understand terminology/materials seem foreign" (26%).

This guide from Prudential ( PRU) contains the headline, "Three-quarters of women feel they need help making important financial decisions." That's followed up by a chart entitled, "Level of Preparedness for Making Financial Decisions."

These findings may indeed be results of the survey, but the study leaves the reader wondering whether the same is true of men. The fact that only women's preparedness and amount of help needed is being monitored could lead some to conclude that only women need such help.

Then, there's this take from Northwestern Mutual, which at first seems to be an issue of health and happiness.

The release begins by linking proactive financial management with health and happiness for women. But it goes on to say: "The findings show that about half of women who are actively managing their finances are likely to report 'far too much stress to somewhat too much stress' versus more than three-quarters of women who don't take a proactive approach. But overall, women still report higher levels of stress and symptoms than their male counterparts."

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