Matters of Financial Security: Do Women Worry More?

by Raksha Arora, Finance and Commerce Editor

Over the years, Gallup Poll data have shown that in general, women tend to express their concerns and anxieties on a variety of issues more than men do. An aggregated set of responses to Gallup questions about financial security, asked between April 2002 and April 2004*, confirms this notion. The results suggest that among those with annual household incomes under $75,000 per year, women are significantly less likely than men to say they feel financially secure, but women in more affluent households are no more likely than men at that income level to worry.

Current Financial Situation

Gallup asked respondents how worried they currently are about seven different financial matters. On most issues, women express greater concern than men do. While 29% of female respondents told Gallup that they are "very worried" about not having enough money for retirement, only 20% of male respondents expressed this much concern. Twenty-eight percent of women are very worried that they will not be able to pay the costs for a serious medical incident, compared with 21% of men. Similar differences hold for paying the costs of normal healthcare, maintaining one's current living standard, and paying monthly bills. However, the gender gap shrinks when it comes to worries about making mortgage payments and minimum monthly credit card payments -- men and women express similar levels of worry about these issues.

Looking at these data, it is tempting to simply invoke an old gender-based stereotype that all women are worriers. But the responses of women with high annual household incomes cast doubt on that explanation. While women in general worry more than men about financial issues, the same gaps do not exist between affluent women and affluent men. With one exception, women and men with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more express equally low levels of worry about the issues included in the survey.

Women in the $75,000+ income group worry a bit more than their male counterparts do about just one area: retirement. While 17% of females in the highest income category are very worried about not having enough money for retirement, only 11% of men in that income group feel this way.

What could explain these differing opinions on retirement between affluent men and women? It has been well documented that women are more financially vulnerable in retirement than men are, given factors such as women's higher life expectancies, lower 401(k) savings, and smaller pension benefit incomes.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 3,035 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in April 2002, April 2003, and April 2004. For results based on interviews with 1,447 men and 1,588 women, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±3 percentage points.

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