Women need financial wellness more than ever, Bank of America survey finds

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Employees want help becoming financially resilient during the pandemic — especially women.

Bank of America’s 10th annual Workplace Benefits Report found that less than half of employees reported feeling financially secure this year, down from 55% in 2019. The financial concerns brought on by the pandemic have more severely impacted women: only 41% of women reported feeling financially stable, compared to 58% of men.

“Women have inherently different financial journeys than men, creating a clear need for employers to target financial wellness solutions by both age and gender,” said Kevin Crain, head of workplace solutions integration for Bank of America. “These programs can be more critical today as the pandemic creates new challenges to maintaining financial wellness.”

READ MORE: How employee financial stress increases healthcare costs

Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate has been consistently higher for women than men, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September alone, 8% of women and 7.7% of men were unemployed. Bank of America’s study also found that women are much more likely to be in debt than men; women have more credit card debt (56% women vs. 43% men) and student loans (30% women vs. 11% of men). Women are also nearly twice as unlikely to have disposable income after paying off monthly expenses (47% of women to 27% of men).

In addition to these financial burdens, women still make less than men, a gap that is only expected to increase as more women leave the workplace due to childcare responsibilities.

“The longer women are out of the workforce, the harder it is to actually get back in,” says Jennifer Reynolds, a former investment banker and CEO of Toronto Finance International. “Every month and year you're out of the workforce contributes to increasing the wage gap between others who have been in the workforce.”

Bank executives say employers must shift financial wellness programs away from a one-size-fits-all model.

“A focus on debt can also help employers address the needs of women in the workplace as they are more likely to hold credit card debt, are much more likely to have student loan debts and are less likely to have a mortgage than their male counterparts,” according to the Bank of America report.

Employers are taking responsibility for their role in promoting financial wellness within their workforce, the report found. Sixty-two percent of employers reported feeling very or extremely responsible for addressing their employees’ financial security; 80% felt that includes focusing on retirement savings and healthcare costs, according to the survey.

While financial wellness is important, employers should address how the pandemic is affecting employees’ mental and physical health as well in order to get their financial house in order.

“While this growth is essential and encouraging, the pandemic has brought the topic of holistic well-being into sharper focus,” said Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America. “Employees are facing greater stress and demands on their time, straining their overall sense of wellness. More needs to be done to ensure employees feel supported at work — financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.”

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